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Best Foreign Films To Watch To Improve Your Language Skills

Nov 2018

Language ,

Looking for the best way to learn a language? We suggest putting your language skills to the test through the joys of world cinema.

Using foreign films to improve your linguistic skills makes the process fun and relaxed.

Immersing yourself in a foreign film allows you to get a feel for the rhythm and pace at which native speakers speak. You can pause and rewind too.

Film themes often revolve around issues a country faces, helping you develop a deeper understanding of the cultural and social landscape.

However, you can’t zone out, expecting the language to soak into your brain. Here’s our tips to make the most of it:

  • ACTIVELY watch the film. Don’t let your eyes glaze over!
  • Watch it WITHOUT ENGLISH SUBTITLES. Use native language subtitles so you can match pronunciation with spellings.
  • Don’t watch the film in one go. BREAK IT DOWN into segments, watching 10 minute slots at a time, making sure you fully understand everything.
  • SPEAK ALONG with the characters so you can remember the phrases better.
  • If you’re watching A FILM YOU ALREADY KNOW, say a Disney classic, you’ll have an advantage and already understand a lot of it.

Now on to our list of the best foreign films to help you boost your linguistic skills!




“Volver” (Return, 2006)

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Starring: Penelope Cruz


This quirky yet dark film follows 3 generations of women in a family in Madrid: Penelope Cruz, her 14 year old daughter, and her mother… who has returned from the dead.

The story centres on the reactions of the characters to the death of Cruz’s abusive husband and the news of her aunt’s terminal cancer diagnosis. These events spur Cruz’s mother to return from the dead to put right issues left unresolved while she was alive.

Why Is It Good?

This film contains handy cultural references. It gives you a great insight into everyday Spanish life – despite the eccentricities of the plot – and the informal dialogue helps you to learn conversational Spanish, which will come in useful if you strike a conversation with a local!




“Les Choristes” (The Chorus, 2004)

Director: Christophe Barratier

Starring: Gerard Jugnot and jean-Baptiste Maunier


It’s a heartwarming film (for the most part) following Clement Mathieu, a music teacher who takes a position at a boarding school for difficult boys.

He brings some structure to his classroom and forges a closer bond with his pupils by starting a choir. Some of the boys realise they have unrealised musical talents.

Why Is It Good?

The music is outstanding. The boys’ singing is crisp, making it easy to pick up the words, and in song form, they are simpler to remember. Set in a school, you’re exposed to colloquial terms and taunts of schoolboys, which may be convenient if you find yourself working in a school!




“La Vita e Bella” (Life is Beautiful, 1997)

Director: Roberto Benigni

Starring: Roberto Benigni


Set in the 1930s, the film depicts the story of a Jewish father who tries to protect his son from the harsh reality of life in a concentration camp by pretending that it is all an elaborate game of hide and seek, for which the winner will be gifted an army tank.

Why Is It Good?

Benigni’s character talks constantly, at a rapid pace, using animated hand gestures. Whilst talking quickly, he does repeat himself, so it’s easy to remember much of the vocabulary and catchphrases. Count how many times you hear “Buongiorno Principessa!”.

The language is fairly modern Italian so it can be easily transferred to normal conversations.




“Good Bye Lenin!” (2003)

Director: Wolfgang Becker

Starring: Daniel Brühl


After “La Vita e Bella”, you might be looking for something more lighthearted in the form of the comedy, “Good Bye Lenin!” It follows Alex, whose Socialist Unity Party of East Germany-supporting mother has awoken from a heart attack-induced coma shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Warned that she may not survive another trauma, he decides to pretend that the wall is still in place.

Why Is It Good?

The film is often used in school German lessons so it’s a well-tested resource, providing good insight into the post-WWII Germany cultural transformations. Daniel Bruhl has a clear speaking voice too.




“Cidade de Deus” (City of God, 2002)

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund

Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues


A popular Brazilian film shot through the eyes of an aspiring photographer in 1960s Rio de Janeiro. He observes the violence and corruption rife in the city, centring on the rise and fall of Rio de Janeiro’s notorious criminal bosses.

Why Is It Good?

The film exposes you to the Carioca dialect of Portuguese spoken in Rio de Janeiro and surrounding areas, so is particularly useful if you venture to this popular region. The characters speak differently depending on their social backgrounds which is useful for gaining insight into the social makeup of the community.



Open Your Opens To The Best Foreign Films On Offer!

Improving your language skills takes a deal of effort but the process can run more smoothly through the joy of world cinema. And it’ll be a lot more fun than reading foreign literature and listening to recordings!

Learning language through films complements traditional tuition-based learning. Global Language Services offers language tuition services, one-on-one or for corporate groups. For more details, contact us directly.

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