Tag Archives: language


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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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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Seven reasons why you should learn a second language

One of the best things you can learn at any age is a new language – we should all set aside time to learn something new, to better ourselves.

The alternative to betterment is holding yourself back – a survey by language learning app Babbel found that over a quarter of Americans feel that a lack of language skills has held them back professionally. If they really, really need motivation after that, they should consider these 7 ways learning a language can help.

Better Employability
As companies continue to expand internationally in today’s globalized economy, many employers are hiring skilled multilingual individuals, who are capable of conducting business in different languages and different countries. Speaking the local dialect helps develop an understanding of the local culture and the intricacies of doing business in a new country. This valuable skill creates stronger relationships that support positive, long-term business partnerships.

Better Confidence
Learning a new language is a great confidence booster – it can help you become more outgoing, meet new people and drive you to travel to places you never thought you’d go to before. When you begin to actual use what you’ve learned in a real-life conversation, and have someone respond back to you, there is an irrefutable sense of accomplishment. Confidence exudes from within when you’re able to speak a new language like you’ve always wanted to.

Better Decisions
Learning a second language has great advantages for both your decision-making skills, as well as your ability to multi-task. A study by Penn State University found that learning and speaking a new language improved the overall functionality of the brain, as it becomes more adept at seeking out meaning and reasoning in unfamiliar words. Similarly, switching from one language to another was found to improve our ability to multitask.

Better Memory
Just like our muscles improve and grow stronger with exercise, our brains function better the more we use them. Studies have found that language learning techniques like memorizing vocabulary helps to exercise the brain, improving its ability to memorize and retain information. In fact, it was found that bilinguals were more likely to remember names, shopping lists and directions than individuals who only spoke one language. If you have trouble, remembering shopping lists, just go to ReviewTap to make things easier on yourself.

Better Perception
A 2012 study by Pompeu Fabra found that multilinguals were better at noticing false information and filtering it out as irrelevant. They were also better aware of their surroundings, allowing them to glaze over distractions and better focus on the tasks at hand. 

Better English
Interestingly, learning and speaking a second language can actually improve your English. Focusing on the mechanics of a new language will make you pay more attention to the way you speak and write your own, and develop new ways of expressing yourself.

Better Travel
Being able to speak another language, even if you aren’t fluent, can often set you aside from other tourists. Rather than stick to English tours and tourist traps, knowing the local language will empower you to venture out on your own and experience a new city like a local.

Miriam Plieninger is Director of Didactics and part of the Management Team at Babbel, the language-learning app that empowers users to speak from the beginning. In language learning nothing is more rewarding than a real conversation — and 73% of surveyed customers feel that they’d be able to hold one within five hours of using the app.

This post was contributed as part of American Education Week is an annual event that not only celebrates teachers and their contributions to our lives, but also encourages us, whether we are children or adults

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