Wondering how to learn English with Netflix? Let’s make this quick: yes, you can learn English with Netflix because you can learn English with anything.
If you want to improve your English, the n°1 thing you need is daily contact with the language. That could be through podcasts, Netflix, books or whatever it is you’re addicted to.
If you do that, then you’re already ten steps ahead of the people who show up at a class once a week expecting the teacher to get the language in their brain. Language learning doesn’t work like that unfortunately!
So yes, English learning and improvement with Netflix is possible. But if you’ve tried to learn with Netflix, you know it can be frustrating: the actors speak fast and use words and cultural references you don’t know.
So what can you do to learn English with movies? Especially on streaming platforms like Netflix.
So you put on the subtitles. And then you spend the whole episode reading them and ruin what should be a fun English immersion experience. What is an English learner and Netflix lover to do? Well, I have something to help you.
Keep scrolling to read the blog post or hit play on the video below to watch the video version of the post.
#1 Choose The Right Movie Or TV Series On Netflix For You
I hate telling people which TV series or movie to watch in English because I don’t know. I don’t know what your level is, I don’t know which genre you prefer and I don’t know why you’re learning English. That’s why I prefer to give you reflection questions so you can decide which Netflix option is right for you.
Be willing to experiment with different TV series and movies when you log into Netflix. You can browse according to genre so start there. But also consider your English learning goals and needs. If you need to understand a particular type of English, maybe you can find a show to help you with that like a hospital drama or a detective series.
At the same time, be mindful of your English level. If you’re watching “Peaky Blinders” and the accents are too hard, be gentle on yourself and choose something easier. You’ll find plenty of series with contemporary British English that will be useful for you.
Finally, consider your interests too. You don’t have to follow the crowd and watch “The Crown” if you have no interest in the British monarchy – I certainly don’t! Also, if you don’t like costume dramas then you don’t have to watch “Bridgerton”. You have full permission to follow your interests and preferences.
The big bonus of using Netflix or any other streaming service is that the algorithm will suggest shows and movies for you, based on your viewing history. That’s probably the best way to get suggestions of what to watch.
#2 If You Want To Learn English On Netflix, Don’t Just Watch
So there’s a big difference between watching Netflix in your native language and watching it in English. In your native language, you can come home tired and switch on the TV and you don’t have to make much effort to pay attention or understand.
But in English, just watching or just immersing yourself in the series isn’t enough. For starters, you won’t understand much. Secondly you want to learn English with Netflix right? So you will have to make a little bit of effort.
This doesn’t have to be scary. You can do things to help you prepare for watching a TV series in English on Netflix such as reading a summary of the show before you watch or reading a review. You can also watch the trailer. This will help you understand some basics about the show such as where and when it takes place and also the names of the main characters.
You can also use the subtitles to support your viewing. But be flexible about this. You don’t need to have them on all the time. You could leave them off until you get to a difficult scene. Or you could experiment with switching them off for 5 minutes and then switching them back on again.
#3 Have A Notebook By Your Side As You Watch Netflix In English
Having a notebook next to you will help to break any passive listening habits. You can use this notebook to write down any new words and expressions you learn from TV series or movies.
You don’t need all of the new words. Just pick the ones that seem useful and interesting for you, that you think you could use in your speaking or writing after watching. It’s not useful to fill a notebook with 100s of words that you’ll never use! Aim to learn a particular number of words so you don’t go crazy. Perhaps 3 in a TV series episode, and 5-7 in a movie.
If you’d like to learn English on Netflix and you need some help breaking those passive listening habits, then check out the Active Listening Workbook.
#4 Talk In English About What You’re Watching On Netflix
So you’ve learned some new words and phrases and now you need to use them. What you can do now is find someone to discuss the TV series or movie with. This could be a fellow student or a teacher who is also watching the same things on Netflix. For more on how to organise this, check out this interview with Annemarie from Speak Confident English about finding a podcast partner.
The great thing about this tactic is it means that you’ve used what you’ve learned in the episode in real life when speaking or writing. This is how you can really use Netflix to learn English. If you’d prefer to work on your writing skills, then you can find online forums where people are discussing particular Netflix shows. This could be in Facebook groups or on website forums like Reddit or other specialist sites.
If you’d like to talk about one of Netflix’s most famous shows, join me for a Movie Night – one episode of a hit Netflix series, a guide so that this time you get the most of it, and a one-on-one conversation that dares to go beyond small talk.
#5 Understand Fast Spoken English So You Can Get Rid Of The Subtitles
One problem you might have when you try to learn English on Netflix is not understanding what people are saying because they speak too fast!
It’s true that movies and TV shows can be hard to understand, sometimes harder than real life. But at least when you watch Netflix you can switch the subtitles on. The problem is that in real life people don’t come with subtitles. So what can you do?
Well, the best thing you can do is learn why people talk so fast and how to understand them. In my free guide, Understand Movies in English, you’ll learn about how sounds and words change when people talk fast.
My top technique for learning how to understand fast-talking native speakers is doing dictations. You can easily add this listening and writing technique to your Netflix viewing routine. After you’ve watched something, you can go back to a scene you found difficult and try to write what you hear. Use a short section, a few seconds is enough, and then check your work with the subtitles.
#6 Use A Browser Extension
You can now find several handy browser extensions for Chrome that help language learners who want to learn English on Netflix.
The most famous one is Language Learning with Netflix which adds some cool language learning tools to your Netflix viewing experience.
- You can see subtitles are shown in two languages, which lets you compare the original audio and text with a translation in your language.
- You can also listen to subtitles one at a time, and change the playback speed. Although be wary about listening to slow audio in English.
- There’s a pop-up dictionary, and the extension suggests the most important words for you to learn. This could be handy for vocabulary building.
If you want, you can also set up ‘Pro’ Mode so you can save words and phrases. Pretty cool right?
How To Learn English With Netflix: Do Something!
Watching movies and TV series in English on Netflix is great. But it won’t teach you the language. The only person who can learn the language is you.
Whether or not you learn depends a lot on what you do, not which teacher you have or which tool, resource or method you use. The most magical method in the world (if it existed!) won’t do anything if you don’t apply it and use it.
So, if you want to learn English with Netflix, now you know what to do. The idea of immersion is tempting, but you can’t just sit there and absorb it all. Become an active viewer and listener who takes responsibility for choosing the right show for them and for using it to improve your vocab and listening skills.
And if you really want to learn English on Netflix, then you’ll need to get out there and start applying what you’ve learned. Learning through the rich context of a movie or TV series is great. But if you never use the language, you’ll just forget it.
So go find fellow Netflix viewers and talk to them, whether online, in person or by chatting on forums. And if you can’t find anyone, then I’ve got something that can help.
Need Some Help To Learn English On Netflix?
Movie Night is an individual session that will get you started watching and discussing series in English. You’ll arrive confident and ready to talk about an episode of a hit Netflix series, and the deeper questions it asks us about life. You’ll get to experience the joy of being able to understand a series without the subtitles. And you’ll learn plenty of authentic expressions native speakers use in the series, so you can use them in real life. Find out more and book your Movie Night.
Tell me in the comments – what are your favourite Netflix TV shows or movies? What do you do to help you learn English with Netflix? Now that you’ve read this post, is there anything you’re going to start doing or stop doing? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!