Learning Portuguese with Films
Every Portuguese language learner already knows that films are excellent for listening to native speakers and observing how Portuguese sounds in real contexts. Films also help increase your cultural understanding and appreciation of the Portuguese speaking world, you will discover fascinating and unusual movies that will give you an insight into another way of life.
There is a long-going debate about whether watching a film with subtittles actually helps the learner to understand or learn new words or expressions. My position is that being exposed to real language is always positive, be it with or without the aid of written words in the form of subttitles. Everything depends on the learner's level and how he or she actively uses the film to enhance a particular feature of language acquisition, as you see below:
2. Exploring the cultural and social aspects of communication
You can use films to explore cultural and social aspects of the use of language, for instance: is there any difference in the language spoken by people from different economic levels? How formal or informal people sound compared to your native language? How do people greet each other when they first meet? How do they express sympathy, revolt, anger, love or plain commands? How do their bodies move as they express affection, curiosity, anger? Do they raise their voices in situations when you, in your culture, wouldn't? How do male and female characters interact?
These are just some examples of the cultural and social aspects of language that the learner can explore when watching a Portuguese film and as you can see, the use of subttitles makes no harm to this experience.
3. Dubbed films
Yes, I know dubbed films are a bit odd, I was never a huge fan of this type of resource, however if you are an intermediate or advanced learner, dubbed films can be a real treat to your listening skills: you can watch the usual Hollywood blockbuster and have Will Smith speaking in Portuguese!
Watching a movie that you’re already familiar with, dubbed in the language you’re learning, can also be useful. Because you know the story, you can more easily connect the plot with what’s being said. At our classroom library we have 4 American films dubbed in Portuguese - speak to your teacher if you would like to give them a try.
4. Break your viewing time in 3 parts
If you would like to work on different aspects of the language, then breaking the viewing times in 2 or 3 parts can help you concetrate in one aspect at a time. Moreover, as films run usually for 2 hours, breaking the film in parts will enable you to better allocate your study time. You can use these different viewing days to work on cultural or social aspects, then on expressions, then on body language, you could also separate some minutes of the film to observe the urban/rural aspects of the settings: how different cities look like when compared to your hometown? Ask your teacher to suggest some activities related to the film you chose to watch, try to go beyond the language itself, use the film as a way to explore this unlimited source of cultural information.
5. Don't try to understand every word spoken.
This tip may seem obvious but I still meet learners that give up on film watching because they feel frustrated for not being able to understand every single word spoken by the characters.
The subtitles usually express a summary of what the actors are saying, so the viewer can get the gist of it, therefore it is not rare to see the actors speaking long sentences while the subtitles only offer a line or two. Another important aspect to take into account is that not always Portuguese and English expressions match, if the actor said, for instance, "Está chovendo canivetes", the subtittles will bring something like: "It is rainning a lot". Keep this in mind when you come across translations that don't match what is being said word for word.
6. Listen to a line, pause, repeat, and go back a few times.
After you watched the film, choose a specific scene of no more than 30 seconds and, if available, turn on the "Portuguese of the hearing impared" option of the menu (most modern films now offer this option). Check the sentences spoken in the fragment chosen and then rewind and play the scene over until you are able to speak the sentences in the same pace and intonation of the actors. "Parotting" the actors might be just the secret to get closer to the original pronunciation and intonation of Portuguese.
7. Don’t feel like you “have to” watch a movie you dislike.
Speak to your teacher about what you like to watch, our library has many different types of film genres, from documentaries and independent productions to award-winning Brazilian and Portuguese films, such as Central Station and Mysteries of Lisbon. However, I would definetely recommend the learner to try and discover new film styles.