Watching national movies with a pencil in hand is a good discipline.
If you do this regularly, it will help you explore language and culture in many helpful ways!
1. High days and low days
Culture often kicks in at traditional high days, like weddings, funerals, the birth of a baby. Even someone who on the surface looks pretty Western will at these moments often throw themselves into the old traditions, and as movies have more than their fair share of weddings and funerals, they are a great place to explore what this looks like.
Culture also often kicks in at a crisis moment in someone’s life, because it takes place in the heart and in a crisis the heart governs behaviour. Movies are full of crises (at least, interesting ones are!), so are a good way to see the heart more often perhaps than in everyday life.
2. Feel in the language
Even with very little language it is possible to feel the pathos of a moment and be moved to tears. Emotion moves truth from your head to your heart, and it is important in language-learning to be able to “feel in the language” rather than it staying purely in your head. Movies, particularly tearjerkers, are a great way to allow yourself to be moved in the language you are trying to master.
3. Something to talk about
Having watched a movie, it will give you something to talk about with friends, neighbours and your language circle. Movies are a great point of departure for conversation, including asking questions, “Why did they do this? What does that mean?” Movies allow you to talk within a narrow field of comprehensible input (the plot of the movie) rather than those wide-ranging conversations which are so hard to follow because they introduce so much new vocabulary.
4. Extreme characterisation
Movies often use exaggerated character types: the village idiot, the successful hero, the town gossip, the villain – larger than life figures who represent the general opinion of that role. If you watch 10 movies, you will soon know the stereotypical mother-in-law, imam, coffee-shop owner.
5. Language in context sticks better
We learn better from stories. Phrases you learn from movies will stick better in your brain than from a cold flashcard with no context. The words act as a recall for the scene, and the scene as a recall for the words, helping you land the right expression in the right context, which you won’t get from a phrase-book.
6. The national story
If you watch a broad sample of national movies, you will get a pretty good feel for the national story. Hollywood movies usually end happily, but at least end resolved. That’s important for Americans. It’s not true everywhere. Turkish movies may resolve, unravel again, and then end. Maybe Turks don’t expect a happy ending from life. Iranian movies are artistic and poetic. Egyptian movies will often turn on rivalry, honour and shame. Bollywood has a larger-than-life escape-from-reality optimism.
Knowing these things will help you connect, help you love, and in time, help you tell the Great Story in a way that gets into hearts!
AM has been in a city in the ME since 2009, leading a team, leading his family, planting a church. “We are still very new at this, so don’t take anything I say too seriously!” Click here to connect on Twitter.