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For when your thoughts are drifting to things not so movie, or if you're feeling trivially inclined.

Learning Foreign Language through Foreign films
Topic by: woozy
Posted: March 1, 2006 - 1:06 PM PST
Last Reply: April 9, 2006 - 5:15 PM PDT

author topic: Learning Foreign Language through Foreign films
post #1  on March 1, 2006 - 1:06 PM PST  
Any of you non-linguist types ever try to supplement your attempts to learn a foreign language by watching foreign films? How'd it work for you? Any notable experiences? Amusing stories? Are some films harder or easier than others? Do you find films have a different "language" than conversation?

I was kind of lousy at languages in high school and I remember I couldn't follow any movie worth a damn, but was once impressed with my ability to follow "Nosferatu" (the 79 version) in German with French Subtitles (although my German was much better than my French, my reading comprehension in both languages was much better than my listening comprehension).

Despite being lousy at languages when I was a teen, I'm being lull into a false sense of competency in my current conversational French class at the local adult school. (I seem to be one of the best students in the class but then again, it's rigor seems to be ankle-level.)

I wonder whether watching Jules et Jim with the subtitles off will be a rude awakening to my inability. Eo, do you have any opinion of films to learn French by? I've never seen "Small Change"; what's the language in that one like.

(Does Tahitian French differ much from standard French? What about Canadian French-- a far more likely application as I may never be in France or Tahiti again but I know I'll be in Canada many times before death-- ?)
post #2  on April 9, 2006 - 1:18 PM PDT  
I find that watching French films with French subtitles is a great way to improve my comprehension. The best thing is to spend some time in a French-speaking country, but if you can't do that, films help.

I even made a list that can help you find some films where the subtitles match the spoken dialog pretty closely.

One thing to watch out for is that sometimes the subtitles do NOT match the spoken dialog. The French subtitles are sometimes re-translated from the English subtitles! It is really irritating to watch a film like that. "The City of Lost Children" is one example.

The Quebec accent, and some of the slang, is very different from French in France. But for that reason, it is more common to find subtitles on films from Quebec. (The same as we have subtitles on films from Scotland.)

The French spoken in Africa is sometimes easier to understand for me than France-French. I'm not sure why. Maybe they speak closer to the formal language taught in school and use less argot.

One thing you'll learn quickly is that what you are taught in school is very different from they way people really speak. It is very disorienting at first, but subtitles help alot. I took a class specifically in understanding contemporary spoken French at the Berkeley Alliance Francaise, and that helped alot, too.

If you want to try turning subtitles off altogether, try some of Eric Rohmer's films. I find him boring usually, but the characters are often speaking in a very formal way that is easier to understand. "The Lady and the Duke" is a good one.

post #3  on April 9, 2006 - 5:15 PM PDT  
Wow! Thanks!

I haven't put to much work into watching French films but I watch "Small Change" I tried just watching it in french first with no subtitles but I got almost nothing. So then I started watching it in pieces, First half with English subtitles, then with French Subtitles, then alone, then with French Subtitles again, then the next half hour, and so on. I recently rented "Jules et Jim" a film I've always liked ever since I was mesmorized by the soundtrack on 45 when I was 5 years old. This is actually a really bad film to learn as the dialog has hard vocabulary, goes quickly, and has little casual conversation. Also the DVD I rented (hopefully the Critereon edition will be different) only had English subtitles. A discouraging fact is that my ability to hear a language is terrible compared to my ability to read a language. Reading French while hearing french is an incrediable help.

Anyway, I don't have great hopes and objectives in learning French and as I stated the local adult school's rigors is ... not challenging, but there is something about trying to learn a tongue that is different than most other learning that is quite appealling... I'm not sure what it is; I think it has to do with the primacy of our speech centers being the earliest part of our brains being we awakened to new textures is fairly ... well, enticing.

!!!Great List!! !!Great List!!!

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