My trick for learning vocabulary in a second language

TLDR: watch things in your native tongue with subtitles in the target language

So here’s a trick I picked up with a bit of luck. I did my undergrad at a university that was half Japanese students, half everyone else (it’s a good uni called IPU in Palmerston North), and I had a few Japanese friends. One of my friends had the Japanese version of Prison Break, meaning it had Japanese subtitles and wasn’t overdubbed.

Well, when you’re watching something in your own language, of course you understand what’s going on, which means you can follow it without it being too hard to comprehend or without getting bored. That is an extremely important point. It can be very mentally challenging to stay motivated enough to watch things in your second language, especially at the start. Plus the subtitles shorten things into bite-sized summaries of what’s being said, so the translation is never too long either.

If your aim is general learning of another language, rather than listening specifically, turn on the subtitles in your target language, and just watch Tv normally.

I now almost exclusively have Japanese subtitles on my Netflix, so I can always pick up new things, or see how things can be expressed in Japanese. It’s especially fun if you’re watching a specific genre to pick up the jargon there too, like Breaking Bad or something similar.

Try it, it works! (But you do have to keep reminding yourself to look at the titles).



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