Tag Archives: language learning


The films and TV series to help English speakers learn a foreign language

We all know that book-learning can only take you so far when it comes to learning a language. The real challenge (and even fun!) comes when you start applying it to real life scenarios. One way to ease yourself into applying all your hard-earned language skills is by watching foreign films and TV series.

By virtue of being something that you can pause and rewind, both films and series are great for helping both new and experienced language learners alike ‘get their ear in’ to the different tones and speeds of language, as well as helping you learn a little slang and cultural knowledge along the way!


  1. Skam (TV Series) – This is a great watch for those who want easy and everyday conversations. Based on the daily lives of Norwegian teenagers, watching this TV series is a great way to pick up slang and other cultural insights.
  1. Frikjent (TV Series) – If you’ve picked up on the Nordic Noir obsession, then this is the one for you. Centred around a businessman who returns to his Norwegian hometown, this intrigue-fuelled crime drama is great for language learners as the characters often repeat the crime and mystery at hand to different members within their community. If at first you don’t succeed, this TV series lets you try and try again!
  1. Askeladden – I Dovregubbens hall – This film is based on a well-known Norwegian folk tale, so perfect for those who want to learn a little more about the culture. It follows the story of a poor farmer’s boy who goes on a quest to save a princess and defeat a vile troll. With an easy to digest plotline, this film allows the language learner to focus on the language and not need to understand every word to keep up with the story.


  1. Millennium Trilogy – From a country famous for its crime dramas, the original Swedish version of this trilogy is one of the most successful franchises to come from Sweden for nationals and non-nationals alike. Beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the entire series of films is great if you want a mix of everyday conversation and the thrill of a gripping plot line.
  1. Anything based on the books of Astrid Lindgren – A popular topic of small-talk in Sweden, this author wrote books for children that have now been turned into films that are great for adults and children alike. Titles such as Pippi Långstrump and Barnen i Bullerbyn are perfect for those who want to pick up Swedish, as they use a lot of language that you might hear every day and include a lot of repetition.
  1. En man som hete Ove – This Oscar nominated feature film is centred around an old man who becomes friends with his neighbours of varying ages, so great for anyone that is keen to learn more about Swedish culture! This feel-good comedy also includes a lot of short conversations, so it’s perfect for helping language learners pick up new vocabulary.

See also: Why, and how, do we swear?


  1. El laberinto del fauno – This award-winning film is a fairy tale for adults that mixes the stark reality of a post-civil war Spain, with a romantically grim mythical world of a young girl. As well as being a must-see film, the vocabulary that can be picked up from this film cuts to the core of Spanish history and mythology.
  1. El secreto de sus ojos – Another blockbuster hit is this Argentinian film, which is great to learn more about Spanish speaking countries outside of Spain. Based on a court case, this film is filled with useful vocabulary around crime, justice, and society.
  1. Las chicas del cable (TV series) – If you like watching series and learning in short bursts then this entertaining TV program is great to picking up everyday vocabulary. Though it is set in 1920s Spain, the themes of love, friendship and work provide some great insights into Spanish culture.

See also: Five reasons why you need languages, not muscles if you want to find love


  1. Alles is liefde – This romantic comedy was inspired by Love Actually and even won several Dutch film awards. Language learners will be able to immerse themselves in the fun-loving film and pick up vocabulary for everyday conversations, as well as some Dutch culture. The title song was recorded by BLØF – a famous Dutch band!
  1. Ja zuster, nee zuster – Originally a successful series from the 1960s, this film was updated for a 2002 audience, and turned into a great musical film. Great for music lovers, this film uses lots of repetition in the songs and the everyday vocabulary used is easy to understand.
  1. Gooische vroouwen – One of the most successful films of all time, this movie is centred around the lives of four female friends. Set in the Netherlands, language learners will be able to spot some stunning pieces of Dutch architecture, as well as get a feel for the everyday vocabulary used by the characters.


  1. Que horas ela volta? – Sundance Film Festival award-winner, this film is perfect for those who want to learn more about Brazilian society. The plot follows a mother who works as a housekeeper in a wealthy family home, and how tensions rise when her daughter comes to live in the family’s house. The conversations had in the film are a highlight for Portuguese learners, as they are easy to follow but also highlight some key differences in language and grammar between Portuguese from Portugal, and the Brazilian variety.
  1. 3% (Netflix series) – For Portuguese learners who like their content on the go, this TV series is a must-watch. It’s great for picking up the odd word of Brazilian slang (and even the occasional swear word!).
  1. O outro lado da rua – A romantic thriller, this film takes place in Copacabana in Brazil and follows the story of an elderly and lonely woman turned investigator. Portuguese learners are bound to appreciate the slow dialogue in this film, as well as giving them a view into one of the most well-known neighbourhoods in Brazil.

Miriam Plieninger is Director of Didactics and part of the Management Team at Babbel, where, if you’re hooked by international film, and want to learn more, their language courses in 14 different languages are here to help!

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Video: How language learning may be simpler than you think

We’ve talked before about how we should all set aside a little time to improve ourselves, and language learning is one of the best ways to do that. And for more reasons than you might think.
Now, many of us may look to find the easiest option and learn the languages that are easiest to succeed in, or at least avoid the hardest…
But it might all be a little simpler than we think. These characters in this TEDx video may not be the most charismatic, but they took on the ambitious challenge of learning four foreign languages in a year, while many of us struggle with just one, ever. The secret to success as it turns out is simpler than you think. This is worth a watch if you harbour the forlorn hope of being fluent, one day…
Scott Young is a blogger, speaker and author. He previously spoke at TEDx EastsidePrep about his project “The MIT Challenge” to self-test MIT’s undergraduate computer science curriculum in one year, using their freely available information. His most recent project was with Vat Jaiswal, traveling to four countries, learning languages, with the goal of not speaking English for an entire year. He writes about learning and self-education at his website.
Vat Jaiswal is a graduate student, aspiring architect and filmmaker. His most recent project was with Scott Young on The Year Without English, where he traveled through Spain, Brazil, China, Taiwan and Korea creating four short documentaries on language learning and cultural immersion. His website seems to have collapsed through not renewing his domain, but you can follow him on Twitter.

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Five reasons why you need language learning, not muscles, if you want to find love

There may be more to language learning than you first realised…

2018 brings the opportunity to make new resolutions and set personal goals and for many of us, finding romance is high on the list. However, if you have been trying to hit the gym in an effort to improve your appearance, get ready for some good news – making yourself attractive might be easier than you think. A new global study by language learning app Babbel and dating site EliteSingles, has found that 93% of Americans surveyed, would prefer to date a partner who has foreign language skills, than one who has a six pack.

With 61% of Americans willing to learn a language in order to improve their love lives, let’s see just why language skills can make you more attractive than muscles, when it comes to finding love:

Demonstrates intelligence
A reason given by 23% of those who were surveyed, as to why they would prefer a partner with language skills rather than a six-pack, is intelligence. Put simply, learning a language is sexy because it indicates to a potential partner that you are smart. The great thing about this is that they aren’t wrong; speaking a foreign language can actually improve your intelligence! Not only does it improve the functionality of your brain, but research from Northwestern University found that learning a new language can make you better at tuning out distractions, while research from Lund University, suggests that learning a language can actually lead to brain growth, as well as helping keep it in great condition.

Makes you better at decision-making
Speaking more than one language may also make you far more adept at decision-making, a quality valued by many when it comes to relationships. Couples often complain about their partner’s lack of decision-making skills and their indecisiveness over every day issues. According to a study by the University of Chicago, bilinguals tend be better decision makers than the rest of us. Not only is this a great skill to have for yourself, but it can be a positive one when it comes to dating, because you will be more likely to appear self-assured and confident in your own skin, much more impressive than possessing muscles!

Makes you a great communicator
As Julie Hansen, CEO US of Babbel says, “being able to communicate is fundamental to human interaction”. Speaking a second language not only opens up the opportunity for you to communicate with people you may not otherwise have been able to talk to, it can also make you a better communicator in your mother tongue. Learning the grammar and mechanics behind a second language can make you more aware of your first language and more skilled when it comes to using it. Your use of your first language can become more advanced and you might become more aware of the nuances of the language that you may not otherwise have noticed. This will likely provide you with the skills to be a better communicator, as you are equipped with a good understanding and use of vocabulary, which can be used to better express emotions and thoughts to your partner. This can be very important when it comes to dating, as Sophie Watson, spokesperson for EliteSingles, points out; “connection and great communication are vital parts of a first date – especially if you want to land a second one”.

It sets you apart from others
While many people possess muscles, the majority of the population in the US only speaks one language; English. This means that if you take the decision to learn a second language this year, you will be setting yourself apart from a large majority of your competition when it comes to finding love. It also provides you with the opportunity to land many jobs which are not accessible to others, such as a flight attendant, journalist, an English teacher abroad and many more. Not only could these jobs make you seem seriously impressive, but who knows who you might meet as a result of these opportunities.

Makes you more interesting
In an age where the majority of us have serious aspirations to travel and learn about other cultures, speaking more than one language makes you far more interesting than someone who has a six-pack. Whether you have lived in another country, or simply learnt another language out of curiosity, it adds a new layer to your personality, which is bound to be of interest to a potential partner. Of the 93% who said they would prefer to date a partner who has language skills rather than a six pack, 42% said this was because they find other cultures interesting, meaning that your language skills will likely provide you with a great topic of conversation, whether that is talking about the country you have lived in or visited, or the reasons why you decided to learn a certain language.

Christian Hillemeyer is director of communications at Babbel.

Seven reasons why you should learn a second language

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The best and worst states for language learning – and how you can learn wherever you are

A report published in June by the American Councils for International Education revealed the percentage of K-12 students enrolled in a foreign language learning classes in the United States. And the results vary widely from state to state, ranging from over half to less than 10% of the student population learning a language:

States With Highest Language Enrolment

5. Vermont
Foreign language enrolment: 35.03%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Latin

4. Maryland
Foreign language enrolment: 35.23%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

3. Wisconsin
Foreign language enrolment: 36.29%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, German

2. Washington, D.C.
Foreign language enrolment: 47.17%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese (but Russian was a close 4th)

1. New Jersey
Foreign language enrolment: 51.18%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

States With Lowest Language Enrollment

46. Oregon
Foreign language enrolment: 10.83%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

47. Montana
Foreign language enrolment: 10.11%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

48. Arkansas
Foreign language enrolment: 9.09%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, German

49. Arizona
Foreign language enrolment: 9.08%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

50. New Mexico
Foreign language enrolment: 8.50%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

No matter where you live, language learning is a hugely valuable skill. So if you’re in a state where the provision isn’t so great – or even if it’s fabulous, the tips from the linguists at language learning app Babbel can help you get speaking a new language in weeks:

1. Make Learning A Daily Routine
Did you know you can form a new habit in as few as 21 days? Developing a daily routine of practicing your language helps you to more effectively build and retain that knowledge for the long term. And if you think you don’t have the time to pick up a new habit, think again. Having a language-learning app (like Babbel!) you can use for just 10-15 minutes each day means you can build your new habit into your current routine — learn on your commute, on your lunch break at work, or in any of these 50 situations, in which you’re likely wasting time.

2. Absorb The Culture
One of the most exciting parts about learning a new language is opening the door to a new universe of literature, film, and food. In addition to helping you practice your language skills and broaden your vocabulary, foreign books and films give you a deeper understanding of another culture. You can experience so much without buying a plane ticket — all you need is an internet connection to stream foreign language films, listen to music, or discover new book recommendations.

3. Infuse Language Learning Into Daily Life
Whatever it is that you like to do with your spare time, try incorporating your newfound language skills. If you enjoy cooking, learn all the ingredient names and cooking terms in your new language. When you’re out shopping or at a restaurant, narrate the transactions and conversations you’d need to know in your new language. The more you can contextualize the language in things you enjoy and already do — instead of memorizing useless expressions (like asking where the disco is) — the more likely you’ll retain it.

4. Personalize Your Learning
Why would you spend time reciting conjugations of a verb you already know? Or learning expressions you’ll never use? Personalizing your learning experience ensures you are learning effectively. Using an app like Babbel also means you can learn at your own pace — you can take as much or as little time as you need to master a concept before moving on to the next one.

5. Visualize Your Success
Success doesn’t happen by accident. Visualizing the reasons why you are learning a language in the first place will keep you motivated to learn. Maybe you’ll be using your newly acquired language skills on an upcoming trip, connecting with extended family from another country, or simply keeping your mind sharp — imagining the kind of person you’ll become and the experiences you’ll have with a new language can be a powerful tool to keep you motivated when the initial novelty of learning wears off.

6. Just Do It!
Sometimes, self-doubt or nerves can take over when you think about trying something new. If you promise yourself to spend just 5 minutes practicing each day, chances are high you’ll get through your entire 10-15 minute language lesson without even realizing it.


The Babbel app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.

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What are the 9 easiest languages for English speakers to learn?

The ubiquity of the English language can make its native speakers a little lazy in learning other languages, but it can be done…

To mark International Mother Language Day, introduced by UNESCO in 2008, as a way to celebrate multiculturalism and acknowledge language as a powerful instrument in furthering our heritage. Your mother language can also help discover new cultures. In honor of the internationally recognized event, the linguists at language learning app Babbel (which uses the mother tongue as a foundation to unlock a new language) have put together a list of the  9 easiest languages to learn for English speakers:

This may come as a surprise, but Norwegian is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, primarily because both languages are members of the Germanic family of languages. Not only do they share a fair amount of vocabulary, such as vinter and sommer, but the grammar is also very straightforward. Norwegian verbs only have one verb form for each tense, while the word order is also very similar to English, for example kan du hjelpe meg? translates to ‘can you help me?’ Lastly, due to the vast number of accents in Norway, there is more than one correct way of pronouncing something.

Another member of the Germanic family of languages, Swedish is another language that is not as  difficult for English speakers to learn. The two languages have a large number of cognates. Cognates are words in different languages that stem from the same language, or sound similar to one another. Similarly, English speakers have had a lot of subtle exposure to the Swedish language thanks to IKEA. For example, IKEA Lack tables are named after the Swedish word for ‘varnish’, while the children’s items in the furniture catalogue are named after animals.

Many English-speakers are adept at learning Spanish. Derived from Latin, this romantic language shares a lot of cognates with English. Spanish likely comes as less of a surprise, given it is such a popular choice for English-speakers to learn, due to its wide reach and practicality. Additionally, the Spanish pronunciation is fairly straightforward as it’s a phonetic language, meaning that it is pronounced as it is spelt. Lastly, Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world, meaning that you are likely to already be familiar with a lot of the words, even if you don’t know it yet.

Yet another Germanic language, Dutch is spoken across the Netherlands, as well as part of Belgium and Germany. Interestingly, Dutch has a lot of words that are spelled exactly the same as they are in English (more so than any other language), however, they are often pronounced differently. For example, ‘rat’ has the same spelling and meaning as the English, but it is pronounced like the English ‘rot’.

Another member of the Romance language family, Portuguese is spoken across Portugal and Brazil. Similar to Spanish, it shares a lot of vocabulary with English, which makes it easier to learn. However, look out for false cognates, for example ‘pasta’ in Portuguese means ‘folder’.

Another surprising addition to the list, Indonesian is a good pick for English speakers for a number of reasons. First of all, it is a language spoken by a massive 23 million people, while also being one of the few Asian languages which uses the Latin alphabet. Indonesian is also a phonetic language, making the pronunciation aspect incredibly easy. The grammar is very different to the English, but the lack of rules make it easy and exciting to learn.

Another Romance language, which has an impressive 63 million speakers. Due to its Latin roots, it shares a lot of cognates with English, such as future (future) and lotteria (lottery). The best thing about learning Italian is that you can learn with food. Italian cuisine is such a staple in Western countries, that a number of the words are already part of the English vocabulary.

The last of the Romance languages on the list, French is often a favorite amongst English speakers. Although it isn’t as easy as some of the other languages, it is spoken in many corners of the world, from France to Canada to Madagascar. One of the benefits of learning French is its shared vocabulary, as English speakers are familiar with words such as avant-garde and a la carte.

The least easy of the easy languages, it is slightly less conventional than the eight languages listed above. Swahili is spoken across a number of countries in south-eastern Africa, usually as a lingua franca. It is said to be the easiest of the African languages for English speakers, as the pronunciation is relatively easy to manage, while a lot of the words like penseli means ‘pencil’ and mashine meaning ‘machine’ are derived from English.

See also: Seven apps to learn seven new skills

The Babbel app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.

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