How I spent my summer vacation: Using film to improve your language skills

1 50 day movie challenge

Okay everyone, here we go:

This time I’m going to set you a challenge and make you a promise at the same time.

3 Number 3I challenge you all to watch 3 English language films over the summer break, in their original version, with or without subtitles (I’m not that picky).

4 Number 5In return I will watch 5 Spanish language films (with subtitles, obviously). I’m watching more than you are because I love films anyway, so this really won’t be that hard for me!

Watching English language films in the original version is an excellent way to test your listening comprehension skills. As you probably know by now, I am a big fan of movies, and I’ve found that by watching films in Spanish that I know so well that I know all the words in English I can still understand what they’re saying. Try it:

2 Watching movies1) Pick an English language film that you know (and like) really well. If you don’t currently have it on Blu-ray or DVD find a copy and buy it, but make sure that it includes both the Spanish and English audio options.

2) Watch the film in Spanish to remind yourself of the dialogue and story.

3) Watch the film again, but this time in English. Make sure you switch on the English subtitles. Reading along with the dialogue will really help at this stage.

4) Watch the film one more time but this time without the subtitles.

If you do this I am sure that you’ll find that you understand a lot more colloquial expressions and idiomatic language than you did before. I did it from English to Spanish with Star Wars and it worked really well. Check out this video of Darth Vader sharing a tender moment with Luke in a lot of different languages (spoiler alert):

Of course, you don’t have to watch a film that you’ve already seen. You can do this with any film that has dual-track audio. A lot of films on Spanish television are available in both Spanish and the original version, just try switching between them!

5 Cinema

Or you could splash out and go to the cinema! Let’s take a look at some of your V.O. cinema options over the summer (click on the name of the movie to visit its IMDb page and watch the trailer):

18 July 2014

El amanecer del Planeta de los Simios (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) (2014) – Action blockbuster. I am certainly going to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – there are few things I like more than watching a simian mash the heel of his foot into a human’s face.

25 July 2014

Infiltrados en la Universidad (22 Jump Street) (2014) – Action/Comedy. I really enjoyed 21 Jump Street, so I’m probably going to see 22 Jump Street – that’s just good maths.
Lucy (2014) – Action/Sci-Fi. Lucy looks really interesting. Honestly, if you like Sci-Fi/Action movies have a look at the trailer for that one – just ignore the tagline; we do not only use 10% of our brains. Tagline writers might only use 10% of their brains, but the rest of us use all of our brains, just not necessarily all at the same time.
El protector (Homefront) (2013) – Action/Crime. Homefront is a Jason Statham movie. If you don’t like Jason Statham movies then I’m afraid we’re never going to be friends.
Las vidas de Grace (Short Term 12) (2013) – Drama. I don’t know what Short Term 12 is, but the IMDb says it’s a ‘drama’, so I’ll avoid this one at the cinema; the only time you should see drama at the cinema is when someone pushes into the queue ahead of you, or it is on fire.

1 August 2014

Cómo entrenar a tu dragón 2 (How to Train Your Dragon 2)  (2014) – Animated Action/Comedy. How to Train Your Dragon is in my top 3 animated movies of all time, so How to Train Your Dragon 2 is definitely in my top 3 films to see in the summer.

8 August 2014

Transformers: La era de la extinción (Transformers: Age of Extinction) (2014) – Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi. This is the fourth film in the Transformers saga and threatens to be the beginning of a new trilogy. God bless Michael Bay and his ever-growing team of pyrotechnicians.
#Chef (Chef) (2014) – Comedy/Drama. A film about food and how it is an allegory for relationships from the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2. I bet it doesn’t mention the digestive tract even once.

14 August 2014

Guardianes de la galaxia (Guardians of the Galaxy) (2014) – Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi. This is the film I am most excited about this summer. Talking tree voiced by Vin Diesel? Check. Gun-toting raccoon? Check. Green alien woman? Check. What’s not to like?
En el ojo de la tormenta (Into the Storm) (2014) – Action/Thriller. This is Twister, only bigger. Which is a good thing.
Mi amigo Mr. Morgan (Last Love) (2013) – Comedy/Drama. Michael Caine is what we call a National Treasure – an actor so well-liked that he makes you smile just by being appearing on-screen. He is responsible for this moment in cinema history:

I think I’ve made my point.

15 August 2014

Los mercenarios 3 (The Expendables 3) (2014) – Action. The list of action stars involved in this franchise gets longer every time; the list is now so long in fact that it has become little more than a series of actors saying two lines each and then firing enormous guns. But in the last one Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger drove a Smart car around the inside of an airport while shooting baddies, so I’m probably going to see this one just in case that happens again.

22 August 2014

Operación Cacahuete (The Nut Job) (2014) – Animated Adventure/Comedy. The tagline to this film is “No nuts, no glory”, which is a pun on the popular expression “No guts, no glory”, the title of a 1955 book on air-to-air combat tactics written by Major Gen. Frederick C. Blesse of the American Air Force. So I’m certain it will be a lot of fun for all the family.

That’s a lot of choice! Of course, most of it is facile, childish nonsense but that’s just the kind of entertainment we want! Isn’t it?

Speak to you soon,


P.S. If you have any suggestions about which Spanish language films I should watch, please leave a comment on our Facebook page!



challenge = a call or summons to engage in any contest, as of skill, strength,etc.
break = holiday
picky = difficult to please
fan = supporter
pick = choose
Check out = take a look at
tender = gentle and loving
switching = changing between two or more things
splash out = spend more money than usual
mash = hit with sustained force
heel = the back of the foot, at the opposite end to the toes
tagline = a line used in film and book advertisements that gives a sense of the content
bet = risk losing or winning money if not correct
baddies = the people in a film who have bad intentions, often revolving around the end of the world
facile, childish nonsense = silly, infantile content

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