When To Start Watching Movies/Series In Your Target Language?

Hello as the title suggests when would be a good time to start watching Movies/Series in your target language? I am thinking of starting this when I have reached in between 3000-5000 known words as I will be watching Spanish content with Spanish Subtitles so I can read along and slowly but surely improve my listening skills along with continuing to improve my read and increasing my vocab of course.

Many Thanks!

It’s really up to you. You can start at any time. Just be ready to get lost quite often.
However, if what you ask is at what level you may realistically expect to follow the story, then 5000 words is way too low.
My estimation is that you’ll be able to engage effectively in most conversations after you reach 10000 words but you won’t understand media content with any ease until the 20000 word mark.
Learning a language takes patience, as Steve keeps reminding

thanks I know I will not be able to understand all of it, it is just listening practise to hopefully overtime improve and get better!

Yes, it’s good practice. When I begin to listen for content, I try to just pick up single words, later I go for whole sentences and afterwards for “exchanges”, such as question-answer or statement-reaction from two different characters

and I bet as the more known words you accumulate the easier it gets that is my theory anyway

If you’re watching movies with subtitles, you can and should start on day one – and realistically you probably already did that before you started learning. It’s a good exercise at any stage.

But watching movies, unassisted, without any subtitles, is actually the hardest exercise in listening comprehension, and is often the last frontier to conquer in language learning in my opinion. Movie dialog is not only native level, but it’s faster, more colloquial, and more slang ridden than any other form or content you’ll encounter. You’ll need not only a large vocab, but a LOT of listening and reading before you can fully understand the average movie.

TV series are usually easier to comprehend – they’re cleaner and less complex by the nature of the two mediums.

This is not meant to discourage you, and you should by all means watch movies with or without subtitles, you’ll always learn from them. But you’ll probably be semi fluent in the language before you can fully understand them.


Yes, definitely!
And I completely agree with @t_harangi in this issue

Yeah sure I understand where you are coming from, I am doing a lot of listening and reading well I only study on Lingq I do not study anywhere else, and once I have reached a certain amount of words I would like to start tackling some Spanish Content with subtitles so I can still read along while listening and when I read a word for example like “Hola” I known super basic but when I hear it and I can read the meaning “I will be like ah! thats what that word sounds like” and just slowly but surely building my listening skills, I do not think it will be very benefitical for myself to just listen to spanish as I need to be able to understand what they are saying (through reading subtitiles) and then gradually getting to the point of turning them off :slight_smile: give me 6 months I like to think I would be at a good level!

A very good way to start watching movies and series in your target language even if your level is still quite low, is to watch series and movies you already know! You already know what’s happening so it’s much easier to catch the words, even with no subtitles. For example when I started watching Friends in English, I already knew it in French and Spanish, so I could learn a lot of new English words even without looking for a translation. I did the same with italian: I started watching series I already knew, even if they were not Italian but American, that helped me understand spoken italian and learn a lot of new vocabulary and then I started to watchs series, movies I didn’t now at all.

If you use Netflix for example, you can look for the series and movies with Spanish audio available. Of course it’s better to watch actual Spanish series and movies, but even if they are not originally in SPanish that helps so much!


thanks for your reply I plan on doing it when I have a good number of known words!

I started listening to Hindi/Urdu movies before I was even learning Urdu. (Bollywood movies are marketed as Hindi but it isn’t much different from Urdu as the language used in them isn’t overly complex or technical). I watched them because I really enjoyed them. After watching several I began to pick out the odd word (and this was without lessons). Now I am trying to be serious about studying Urdu it helps to have a regular contact with the language watching these movies. That said I’ve never seen a German movie and I have about an intermediate level in German. I guess I’d like to watch a German movie but I don’t really have the same urge to do so. With Bollywood I got familiar with the actors/actresses, and I just love the farcical way masala movies play out. I think whatever your level in a language watching movies/series is only going to help you. As a beginner, you do have to be kind to yourself and take pleasure in the fact you might only be able to pick out the odd word.

I think one of the really positive things about watching movies in your target language is it simulates a similar way we acquired our first language. We watched, we listened to the world around us and became familiar with the sounds of speech before we really knew what was going on or what anything meant. Of course, it is a bit different when we have subtitles running along the bottom of the screen but I think there is definitely something in just observing a language that goes a long way to learning it.

Never wait. Do what you like. The ‘there’s always tomorrow’ people always wait til tomorrow and then when tomorrow comes say the same thing. The sooner you dive in, the sooner the fog will lift.

Most of what is posted here is a good advice. And of course, do what you like to/are motivated to do.

However, I would say 20-25,000 is a good benchmark. I am watching a lot of Spanish TV on Netflix, with Spanish subtitles. There’s about 10 words or less per 40 minutes of episode. Understanding is never impaired. Most of the time I write them down and put them into LingQ afterward. Most of the time they are yellow words I already have encountered, but I just have learned.

the reason I am watching so much is so I can cranked up my listening time because that is still where I can lag. Any conversation, dialogue, even news at times, I can understand 100% or just shy of that–IF the it’s “slow enough.” I know the words, my ear just isn’t used to hearing it as much as I would like. I have about 400 hours now of listening.

Because I am just doing this for listening purposes, and I know “all” the words, I can do this. However, for actual “learning” purposes, ie vocab acquisition, I believe movies, shows, etc. are not very productive. There aren’t as many words as a book or article, and they can’t be read or watched in LingQ.

In my opinion, these media are really only useful as motivators, a reward of doing well at your learning, improve listening for words you already know, and of course, pure entertainment.

do you think that something like an audio book would perhaps be better? and you would be able to follow along with Lingq and any new words would be highlighted blue and any words you are currently reviewing would be yellow? in my head this sounds a lot better but I have not tried it with Lingq yet so I am unsure as to what it would be like.


Yes, this is exactly what I mean.

To understand what you are listening to, you need to read what you are listening to in order to associate the sounds with the words.

However, in order to read, you need to know what the words mean, and that “requires” LingQ so you can see the meaning of the words in context while you are reading.

To do this, you first open a new lesson from the lingq library or import your own. You will see blue, yellow, and white words. Go through the blue words and “clear” them by adding them to your know words if you already know them, turning them into yellow lingqs if you don’t, and ignoring them if they are a name, number, etc. Now, when you go to read the text, you just tap or click the lingq and up comes the definition right there.

You can’t do this with a movie or TV show because you are going to see A LOT of words in the subtitles that you don’t know, and you won’t be able to remind yourself right there in the context. Further, you won’t be able to add the words you do know into your known words count. The only way you could theoretically do this is by importing the subtitles or show script into lingq and then read it in lingq while listening to the show, which would defeat the whole purpose. And to top it all off, there won’t be a lot of words in generally in 30-50 minute episode. This is why I, personally, at 31,000 words, am doing the telenovela thing. I can get credit for listening and I can read (the subtitles) at the same time. There are very few words that I don’t know immediately. Granted, I usually look them up afterward, but I really don’t have to because not knowing them doesn’t interfere with the story. I can understand 100% of what they are talking about, doing, etc.

So, for you, just starting out, I think you will be much more productive to do this with a book, story, or other text that you find in the lingq library or import yourself. “Who is She?” is a pretty good story. There are others too.


PS: Once I get a new iPad or iPhone (LingQ apps don’t work anymore for some reason), I’ll go back to my reading in LingQ to covert more of my yellow lingqs to white known words and push myself to 33,200 (Advanced 4), or 35,000 known words to make it even. After I reach that and 1,200 study hours, I’ll move to another language.

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Another fantastic reply that decides it then, I will have to get myself an audio book of interest something like happy potter for example that I can listen to and you Lingq to read and look up meaning as I am listening this will help me understand the means of the words without having to look them up! many thanks best of luck with your next language I am sure you will not need it!

That’s a pretty impressive dedication. I have already started learning French even though my German is still quite far from being perfect. I don’t think I have even spent 500hours, so 1200 will be quite impressive. I still read on my kindle about 30min per day, and listen to news/scientific podcast sometimes but my focus I completely on French now.

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Thanks to both of you. The 1200 hours comes from the FSI rankings of the difficulty of languages. For languages closest to English, they suggest 575-600 “class hours.” I believe that any time with the langauge, whether in class or not, counts toward this. However, the students there spend as much time studying OUTSIDE of class as they do in it, so the FSI numbers always seemed to be half as much as they actually are. Nevertheless, Steve has said it took him about 2,000 or so total hours to “learn” Mandarin when he was preparing for his diplomat test. That would imply the “class” hours are the TOTAL number of hours required. Similarly, I have currently 7-900 total learning hours of Spanish; or 3-500 hours short of my goal of 1200 hours. Yet, I believe I have been “Fluent” for some time, even though there are some things that have caused me difficulty on the listening/understanding front (as I’ve mentioned), and that fact that I’ve “only” spoken around 50-60 hours. And I think if I moved to Spain for a little while, or took an extended trip, my “fluency” would shoot way up.

We will see!


Also, I suggest Steve’s Linguist book. It’s still one of my favorites.