Learning a language from TV series

Coming across the Youtube comment above I immediately thought of my 20 year old cousin who is fond of Korean TV series just like me.  The difference between us is she can watch the fresh episodes in Korean right after the release, while I usually chase after her trying to persuade her to interpret for me.  Interestingly, she can’t speak Korean, but understands most of the dialogues in TV series. In fact, she neither learned Korean nor spoke to a Korean native speaker in her entire life.  All she did is watching subtitled Korean TV shows and series incessantly from her childhood.  Her experience tells us that watching TV series in a foreign language with subtitles for a prolonged period of time might help you to acquire the language incidentally, and can be more beneficial in language learning than two-hour films.  

In British council’s site Kieran Donaghy explains the benefits of learning a language through films as follows: 1) it is enjoyable and motivating; 2) it provides authentic and varied language; 3) it gives you a visual context; 4) it brings variety and flexibility to language classrooms. Sharing all those leverages, subtitled TV series can be even more helpful in terms of language learning since you do it regularly, and they are full of repeated words. According to Webb& Rodgers, watching television regularly may significantly affect the learner’s vocabulary size since lots of studies demonstrate that increasing the frequency of the words within a context improves the possibilities of vocabulary learning (as cited in Webb & Rodgers, 2010). This means that having constant characters that talk in a certain style using specific expressions and words again and again, TV series might certainly facilitate the vocabulary acquisition.

To conclude, watching TV series in a foreign language might trigger incidental language learning as it contains plethora of repeated words.  Moreover, being fun and enjoyable activity it serves as an excellent supplement to formal learning. So, next time when you desire to watch your favorite subtitled TV series in a foreign language you might justify yourself by telling that it can be helpful in learning new foreign expressions and words and improving your language knowledge.


Webb, S. (2010). Using glossaries to increase the lexical coverage of television programs, 22(1), 201–221.

Screenshot taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMmOLN5zBLY&t=1s

5 thoughts on “Learning a language from TV series

  1. Great work, Ariya (5/5). Good use of academic vocabulary, clear and interesting topic, and effective organization and development of your ideas. Keep it up!


  2. Thank you, Ariya for your interesting blog post.
    As one of the fan of the Korean and Turkish TV series, I am really excited with your topic.
    In fact, before this year I watched all TV series with subtitles or in translation but this year I realized that I can mix pleasure with beneficial activities such as watching films in original language. However, if you are not familiar with language and don’t know anything about it will be hard to understand in the beginning and you can lose interest for it. For instance, I don’t know Korean language but love Korean films therefore now I am watching them with subtitles and I have learnt several phrases in Korean.
    Regarding the Turkish TV series, as Turkish language is similiar to Kazakh language there is no problem with understanding their speech without subtitles. I hope that in half or one year I can communicate in Turkish fluently.
    Do you use TV series for language learning? If yes, Is it beneficial for you?


  3. Dear Ariya,

    Thank you for the raised theme! I enjoyed reading this post and found myself in your piece of writing. Actually, I learned the Korean language through soap operas, films, and music as well. The great point is that I heard previous week. A native Korean woman told me that I have a good pronunciation in the Korean language, and I understood her Korean clearly. However, I learned it unintentionally. While listening to conversations in any language could help improve listening skills, pronunciation, and add new vocabulary to the repertoire.


  4. Learning through TV series is indeed effective. Real life situation, intonation, gestures and everything make learning so smooth and pleasant. When you are reading it somewhere it is so plain and tasteless but when you see the situation and the people involved all the world from books come to have a meaning!

    Thank you for your post, Ariya!


  5. Dear Ariya,

    Thank you for your interesting post! For some period of time, I was a fan of a Turkish tv series. Through different tv shows, I learned how to pronounce words correctly. I learned some phrases. I even bought a dictionary to continue with learning this language. It helped me a lot. While visiting Turkey, I understood that all the things I did to learn a language were the beginning to bear fruit. I do not watch tv series in the Turkish language regularly now, however, I can surely admit that learning languages through tv series is 100% possible.

    thanks again!


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