Always watch the original version
When we watch movies or TV in another language, it’s tempting to just get the dubbed version. We can sit back, turn the volume up and enjoy without any effort, as if it were made specifically for us in the first place. But is this the right thing to do? Here are a few reasons why you should always watch things in the original language, particularly if it’s a language that you’re learning.
It’s good for your vocabulary.
When we learn a language, there are two ways that we get new words – actively and passively. ‘Active’ learning is what we do when we study in class or for homework, for example with vocabulary lists or verb tables. ‘Passive’ learning is everything else, and is actually how we learn most of the words we know. When we read or watch something, we recognise new words, particularly if they appear a lot. Without having to write them out or put them on a flash card, we somehow manage to put them in our brains and, hopefully, pull them out again when we need them. Being exposed to a language in a show or movie is a good way to build our vocabularies without having to sit down at your desk.
You can hear the different ways people speak.
When I was living in Spain and learning Spanish, I thought that I was doing pretty well. I could understand what was going on, and could have basic conversations with people. Then I met someone from Andalusia. Every language has differences in the way people speak – someone from Seattle and someone from Manchester both speak English, but the way they sound varies a lot. Watching the original version of shows and movies exposes us to the different ways people speak, so you’ll be better prepared when you go on a holiday to Edinburgh!
You can see how words are spelt.
I always encourage my students to watch English shows with English subtitles as soon as they can. In fact, if you’re in an intermediate class, you’re already good enough to watch things entirely in the language you’re learning. Many people find reading to be easier than listening, so you might be surprised how much you’ll be able to follow. This also allows us to see how words are spelt, and hear how they’re pronounced – this is particularly important in English, with its notorious spelling rules (or the apparent lack thereof). Watching the original version will help you with your reading and listening comprehension.
The dub is rarely as good as the original.
This is more of a subjective point, but hear me out. The way we move impacts the way we speak, and vice versa. Think about what your body did the last time you got angry – you might have started pacing around quickly, perhaps your hands were going up and down and your eyes got wider. And how about your voice? Maybe you got louder, and your tone became harsher. We’re they seperate things, or did they influence one another? Research shows us that the way our bodies are has a direct impact on our voice – in fact, someone can tell if you’re smiling over the phone, just from the sound of your voice. So in a movie, how could someone making a recording in a studio be as convincing as the person who originally acted it out? I don’t think they can! Feel free to challenge me on this point though, and, like everything, there are some exceptions.
Sometimes you just want to turn your brain off and watch something easy, and of course maybe a dubbed version could help you to unwind. But the more you expose yourself to the language you’re learning, the quicker you’ll feel more comfortable in hearing and understanding it – and hopefully you’ll be able to switch your brain off too! That’s why I always recommend watching things in the original version, because it’ll help you learn that much quicker.
I'm an English teacher from Australia, with two years experience teaching in Europe. I'm currently offering classes online to reach you when and where you'd like. The focus in our class will be on your ..