Today, we’re talking about one of my favorite topics, and a website that we know you spend too much time on… Netflix! If you’re not familiar with it, Netflix is a paid video streaming service. We’ve put together some tips for how to learn English with Netflix, but if you are a Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBO Go subscriber, lots of this will be useful to you, too.
If you’re learning English, videos can be a great learning resource. You’ll obviously improve your listening comprehension. But you’ll also pick up new vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, sentence structures, and Anglo culture tidbits, too! Here’s how we recommend learning English with Netflix. (Psst! Scroll down to the end if you’d rather watch this article in video form!)
Set Up Your Account with Language Preferences
Here’s our first top tip: if you already have a Netflix account, create a separate profile just for English practice. It’s free and easy to do. You can add up to five profiles to your account by selecting “Manage Profiles” from the menu in the Netflix app or on the website. There are several advantages to doing this:
- You won’t have to worry about constantly switching the language of your audio and/or subtitles.
- You’ll get better suggestions based on English content you’ve already watched.
- Once you create the profile, you’ll have the option to pick what language the interface and menus will be in. Pick English for extra practice, of course!
Little changes like this add to your immersion experience and can make a big difference!
Since your profile is now in English, all of the show descriptions will also appear in English. Before you even start watching the show and working on your listening skills, you’ll get to practice your reading skills! Beware: this also means that some of the show titles you’re used to may have changed. If you want to watch a particular show, and you can’t find it, you may need to look up the original title and search for it. Speaking of choosing shows…
Choose the Best Shows to Learn English with Netflix
Short and Sweet
Now that your profile is set up, the next step to learn English with Netflix is to settle in and pick a TV series or movie. For beginner and low-intermediate learners, choosing a short TV show to start is the best option. It takes a lot of effort to concentrate on listening comprehension, so you’re less likely to get exhausted or overwhelmed by a short show. Look for a series that has 20- to 30-minute long episodes. Movies are more challenging, and are usually appropriate for high-intermediate and advanced learners, since you’ll have less time to get used to the accents and understand specialized vocabulary that is key to the plot. That said, if you are an advanced learner, we have a great list of the best movies to help you learn English with Netflix or other streaming sites.
If you don’t like the suggestions on your home page, you can search for a show, theme, or category. I recommend choosing a realistic show, or sit-com, since these are usually easier to understand. The characters use common vocabulary that you might already know, and that will be useful to you in real life. If you’re struggling to choose, here are some popular and easy-to-understand American shows that are great starting points:
- That 70s Show
- Grace & Frankie
- New Girl
- The Good Place
- The Office
However, if you’re more interested in sci-fi or fantasy, watch that! If you really want to learn English with Netflix, it’s best to pick something you’ll enjoy instead of torturing yourself for the sake of learning English. If an activity isn’t fun, you aren’t very likely to stick with it. Remember that every country has different Netflix content, and it’s always changing, so check back often to see what’s new.
Start Out with Subtitles
Once you’ve chosen a show, it’s time to get to work. If you can call watching TV “work.” (I sure don’t!) For high-intermediate and advanced learners, I recommend watching movies and TV series with no subtitles at all. It’s OK if you only understand 70-80% of what you hear, that’s completely normal. This exercise will help you improve your ability to use context to fill in the blanks. But if it’s still too difficult, you can turn on the subtitles in English for the first few episodes (if it’s a TV series).
The situation is pretty different if you are a beginner or low-intermediate student, because not using subtitles might be too challenging. Again, if you’re completely lost and can’t even follow the basic plot, you won’t enjoy it, and you’ll be more likely to give up. As Luca explained in another video we published on our channel, you can start with subtitles in your native language. But as soon as you can, you should switch to subtitles in English (and eventually, turn them off completely).
Make the Most of Netflix for Learning a Language
Finally, to make the most of learning a language with Netflix, here are some activities that are great for beginners:
- Watch the first few minutes of the first episode without any subtitles and then assess your comprehension.
- While you’re watching, you can note down some important words. If you can’t guess what they mean from context, go ahead and look them up. But wait to do so until the end of the show, otherwise you’ll end up getting bored and frustrated if you’re constantly pressing pause.
- If you were totally lost and understood less than half of what you watched, I recommend reading a summary of the episode (in English) or watching the episode with English subtitles.
- Then memorize some of the key vocabulary from the episode, and watch it again without subtitles.
- If you understood more than half but not 100%, and you still enjoyed it, continue watching without subtitles, memorize the important vocab you learned, and watch it again to see how much more you understood.
- If you understood everything, great job, but you’re probably not challenging yourself enough. Try a movie next time.
Learn English and Other Languages with Netflix
If you’re a native English speaker, or simply not interested in learning English, you’ll be happy to know that you can use Netflix to learn other languages, too! Although when it was first launched, most Netflix shows were produced in English, they are really stepping up their game when it comes to foreign-language content. A few Netflix originals that I highly recommend if you’re learning other languages include Dark (German), Plan Coeur (French), and La Casa de Papel (Spanish).
Speaking of Spanish, have you read our article on the best Spanish movies on Netflix? If you’ve graduated from TV series to movies, it’s a great list to get you started!
Video Recap, How to Learn English with Netflix
If you’re reading this article, you probably prefer watching to reading. So, I made a handy video of tips and tricks on how to learn English with Netflix or other sites. Watch the video below, or head to our YouTube channel. The video is in English, but if you need to you can turn on the subtitles in English or one of five other languages.
One last thing before I go: a little homework assignment. But I bet you’re going to enjoy this one… Your assignment is to go and learn English with Netflix! Of course, as I said these tips also work for other video platforms like Amazon Prime and HBO Go, and any platform with good content for language learners. Browse through your favorite category of English TV shows and go for it. Learn English, and have fun!
If you want to learn more about our method that can help you enjoy learning a language while you watch foreign-language movies and TV shows, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow our Instagram and Facebook pages.
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