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If we can learn English by watching English movies and listening to English songs?

If they work,which type of movies should we watch and which type of songs should we listen?  Thank you



For me, it depends on the level of English skill you got. I always believe that even if you are already an adult learning a new language, you still have to have a mindset of a baby/kid learning their first language. If you are a beginner, it's always good to start with children's tv shows or music. Once you think you can understand most of it, then it's time to move up another level. You always have to start from the bottom to the top ^^



Hi Jane:


     It is difficult to explain the kinds of songs, because arguably, in some context and at a certain time, I can use almost any song to  teach English language and its contexts  including   songs like "Gangnam Style" and  Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance.   But for new students, I offer slow ballads, usually love songs, to be encouraging to  the beginner. This makes the beginner less nervous and they  enjoy practice in reading the words. (No singing is required).


  As to Movies, I prefer  Musicals like "Oliver!"    The British accents are not a problem.

Over time, I use songs with faster beat; but I always choose songs for their words which have conversational phrases.  Carole King songs  are very good, as are  many Country-Western songs. The slow melodies  make practices for students a simple and understandable thing.


 For conversation then,  I will discuss word meanings with students, and this is where the student enjoys talking to me freely.  This leads to discussion of all kinds of idea and cultural differences.


  I never start out with any student, using some complicated, wordy essay such as might be found in College Level Writings.  Neither do I use texts from novels or non-fiction books, where strange idiomatic expressions   appear in great numbers.









"Learning English" is too broad of a term, so answering your question is tricky. Having a good command of English usually means you can read, write, listen to and speak English. But each of these skill sets is very broad by themselves. You can read technical reports well, write poems well, do well in TOEFL listening tests, or speak to native speakers comfortably. Depending on your purpose, you have to train your English in specific ways.


Watching moves and songs in English gives you good knowledge of American popular cultures, but will not help you do well in tests or school.


I think you should rethink your strategy to learn English. Ask yourself: "Why am I learning English?" If you have an answer to this question, I will have a great answer to your original question.




Tom: With all due respect, all that does is presume that Jane's question, is not what she asked, but an entirely different question.

Moreover, it presupposes that Jane must answer, in some vague context, all questions about the entirety of the English learning, prior to learning anything by the study of a simple song or studying the dialogue of any movie.

Jane doesn't have to do that and neither does any other student. Neither does any student any student of any real necessity, have to know WHY they want to learn English. Just plain fun is sufficient justification to do anything.

What you are doing is basically, imposing a kind of Paralysis---By---Analysis upon the student, when all the student is doing is asking about the use of Songs and Movies to practice English. I use these means as instruction with all of my student, and my student advance in all areas, whether it is preparation for IELTS or TOEFEL or CET instruction, or Academic Compositions, School Language Tests, or practicing dialogue with a Native English Speaker as myself.

For all practical purpose, your counsel is tantamount to saying that the student, must be knowledgeable about all aspects of English Language Study, prior to engaging in any English Study whatsoever. There is no objective evidence which supports such a conclusion.

If what you use here for logic, were true, it would also be true that American Children do not even learn English in their own home, because they never ask themselves complex questions about WHY they should learn English.

Americans learn their own language without even knowing WHY they are learning it all the time. That's how I learned it, and I can teach it also this simple and straightforward way.


thank you for your answer,i have benefited a lot.

Bruce: Now that I re-read what I wrote, it does come off very harsh and more of criticizing than helpful advice. I agree with you on serveral things: students don't need to know all aspects of English before learning any English - that's not even possible, isn't it?

I am not assuming that Jane's question is not really what she is asking. Her question is too broad for me to give a good answer. I think you used your experience working with students to give your answer.  I agree that it's a good answer, but you are also using your assumptions to give that answer. Wouldn't you agree that with a little more information about why she is asking which movies and songs to watch, you can give her even better answer?


I don't agree with your logic about American children never questioning why they learn English but are still able to use it perfectly. The simple answer why it worked for them and not for foreigners is that American children from the moment they were born, they have been exposed to English, and not anything else. All non-English speakers has been exposed to their native tounge and then English. I'll use pronunciation for example. You may already know  there are many sounds that exist in English, but don't in Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese Mandarin. Take the letter "r" for example, the American R sound doesn't exists in these languages. A lot of times when Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese learn to pronounce the American R, they use their knowledge of how to produce sounds in their language to pronounce the American R. This results in not deep enough or not rolling enough Rs. Trying to be open-minded like a baby doesn't help either because of this thinking process happens voluntarily. Please watch this video about the McGurk effect, and you will see my point:


I usually advice against using songs and movies to learn English. The biggest benefit of using songs in English to study English is that songs can be catchy and provide lots of motivation for students to learn. There are several downsides to this method: 1) the McGurk effect I mentioned above. 2) Grammar in songs is usually not correct. The more modern the song is, the less likely its grammar is gonna help you anywhere. 3) The special sound effects make it difficult to identify how the natural way of saying things should be.

We are here to give Jane's helpful advice, right? So if I have to assume that she wants to improve her listening skills, listen to Discovery channel, Animal Planet channel, and History channel is way better than any song. If she wants to improve her pronunciation skills, English Pronunciation Workshop by Paul Gruber is a great place to start. If she wants to improve her grammar, Kaplan grammar books are simple and very practical...

Jane, the reason I ask you the why question really is to help you to getter more specific advice from other. Remember conversation between Alice and the Cheshire cat (from Alice in Wonderland):

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where —' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat




"...listen to Discovery channel, Animal Planet channel, and History channel is way better than any song. If she wants to improve her pronunciation skills,....etc."----Tom Tran


   There are reasons why I would propose that    the Television  shows you recommend  are not

 "way better"  than songs.  


 (A)  Songs in video format are convenient for repeated playing.


(B)  Songs are conversational  English, whereas the vocabulary in documentaryies is expository English, rather than conversation. (Most students  indicate that they have trouble with Spoken English.)


 (C) Songs   reduce English study to brief, easily understood units.


  (D) The vocabulary studied in  TV Documentaries is massive, employing,  arguably,

 THOUSANDS of Words.  Few students of English master the use of THOUSANDS of words at a time.


 (E) Unless you  have recorded the TV documentary, there is no way the student has access to watching and listening to the documentary again.


  (F) A song can be memorized  or written or printed and repeated many times during a day, making the phrases accessible to memory.


  (G)  Television  Narration  changes constantly.  When different persons are cited,  the student must adjust to a differrent voice.


   Do you know of any students who can repeat,  verbatim, the 1 hour  Narrative of a TV documentary?



Bruce and Tom thank you for your help.
Actually,I am a student and my teacher will teach me in English,so,I want to improve my listening skill but my vocabulary is very few.

You can learn some words but you cant be fluent especially when it comes to grammar. I learn lots of Japanese words and sentences by just watching anime with English subtitle.

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