What to watch on Netflix to help language learning


Maybe you have decided to learn a foreign language during confinement and downloaded a language app like Duolingo, which saw its numbers double in March to around 30 million monthly users. You can now say useful sentences, such as “My horse eats eggs” and “My sister is not in the park”, in French, German, Italian or Spanish.

But maybe you’re looking for something a little more, uh, conversational? This is where another great locking hobby – streaming – comes in. Services like Netflix host hundreds of foreign language movies and TV shows, including cartoons, cheesy romantic comedies, and award-winning movies.

For absolute beginners, watching with English subtitles should help you grasp the sounds and rhythms of the new language, an important part of learning. If you are a more advanced learner, switching from subtitles to the original language will offer new vocabulary, colloquialisms, and the differences between formal and informal modes of address. (For foreign movies and shows that are dubbed into English, you can usually revert to the original language.)

Finding streaming services for foreign language offers can be frustrating. Netflix, for example, often gives away only a portion of its library and a glut of mediocre movies. Here’s a selection of great TV series and some movie gems in French, German, Italian, and Spanish – the most popular languages ​​on Duolingo – to get you through the next few weeks. All links are for US Netflix libraries.

Stream it here.

This satirical spy series takes place in 1960s France, a world in which the important agents of the French secret service are all men, the women are buxom and secretaries, and colonialism still reigns. (The demand for independence and representative democracy of an African delegation is met with thunderous French laughter.) The tone is ironic, but the dialogue is simple and often repeated to allow time for twisted and unofficial agents to absorb a point. , and the language is relatively formal and classical. “I’m not saying anything, but be discreet,” (“I’m not saying anything, but be careful”), says a secretary to the unfortunate new recruit, André Merlaux (Hugo Becker), when she discovers that he is still working a unacceptable 20 minutes after the end of the day.

Stream it here.

Addicting portrait of a high-end Parisian artistic agency, this series (called “Dix Pour Cent” in French) combines aspects of “Entourage” and “The Office”: It offers cameos of famous faces (Nathalie Baye, Isabelle Adjani and Juliette Binoche), office intrigue and hilarity. The show stands out for the skill and dedication of its four main characters and its quirky and endearing portraits of its famous guests. However, the dialogue is often familiar and fast-paced, and you may need to turn on English subtitles quite frequently. However, you will know exactly how to say “What an idiot! »In French after an episode or two.

Stream it here.

David Gelb’s series featuring some of the world’s most famous culinary figures includes four episodes dedicated to French chefs. The quartet (Alain Passard, Alexandre Couillon, Adeline Grattard and Michel Troisgros) talks about his favorite products, his profession and his love of cooking in a language for the most part simple, sometimes with poetic aside. You will learn a lot of vegetable names, and the food pictures are mouth-watering and beautiful.

If you are looking for a French film:

The selection of French films on American Netflix is ​​not great. For language learning, “Lady J“, A kind of” Dangerous Liaisons “; and “One Plus One, A colorful romantic comedy, are your best bets.

Stream it here.

Oscar Martínez rightly won the Best Actor award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival for his portrayal of Daniel Mantovani, an Argentine writer who visits his hometown after 40 years living in Europe. Directed by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, “The Distinguished Citizen” is a funny and increasingly dark tale. The script advances at a measured pace, and it is easy to hear and focus on the language. The film also offers the opportunity to notice the differences between spoken European and Argentinian Spanish.

Stream it here.

This 2016 film by Chilean director Pablo Larraín (“Jackie”) blends fact and fiction as it describes the 1948 flight of beloved Chilean poet and prominent leftist politician Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco). When the Communist Party, which Neruda represents in Parliament, is banned, the poet and his wife Delia go into hiding, pursued by a fiercely determined cop (Gael García Bernal). A curious bond forms between the two as Neruda deftly, and rather fantastically, manages to stay one step ahead. Spanish here is, given its literary hero, often difficult. A good idea might be to watch it with English subtitles and then watch it again with Spanish subtitles. There is more than enough text and subtext to warrant two views.

Stream it here.

It’s easy to see why this frenzy-worthy series is Netflix’s most watched non-English speaking program. “Money Heist” (called “La Casa de Papel” in Spanish) is an elegant, fast-paced, witty show, using all kinds of visual tricks – flashbacks, unreliable storytelling, bizarre costumes and bold graphics – to tell the story of a super cool group of thieves who use city names as pseudonyms. The only danger here is that you will be too impatient to find out what happens next to go back and check your understanding of Spanish.

Other possibilities:

Netflix’s selection of Spanish films is quite good, and several are excellent candidates for more advanced language immersion: Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá Tambien, “ from 2001, and his Oscar 2018 Rome are both available to stream, as is the 1998 Argentine crime drama, “Pizza, Beer and Smoke, “ milestone debuts by Bruno Stagnaro and Adrián Caetano which marked the beginning of the movement of new Argentine cinema.

Stream it here.

Alice Rohrwacher directed this 2018 film, which earned rave reviews and an award for best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival that year. It’s a visually beautiful and powerful narrative tale of a rural community called Inviolata, where sharecroppers grow tobacco and lentils. The young hero, Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), is either a little simple or a little holy, facing intimidation with unwavering contentment. The film is still captivating and easy to follow even as it moves away from the countryside and towards magical realism, and the language has a sort of poetic clarity. “Cosa ve ne destin delle lampadine con la luna bella che avete qua?” Asks a farm worker. (“Why do you need light bulbs with the beautiful moon that you have here?”)

Stream it here.

This captivating series is based on the neo-noir film “Suburra” (also on Netflix), and it offers a deep dive into the murky intersections between organized crime, Italian politics and religion. The language is formal among politicians and priests, more slang and more difficult to follow with gangsters. There’s also a great mix of vocabulary (and swear words), gripping stories, and gorgeous views of Rome and the seaside community of Ostia, where shady characters fight for the precious land that can be turned into a casino. (You will certainly learn the word for “corruption”.)

Other suggestions:

Welcome Mr. President! features Italian comedian Claudio Bisio as Giuseppe Garibaldi, a librarian who shares his name with the 19th-century general and who is accidentally elected President of Italy. (You will also learn the word “corruption” here.)

Another recent series, The application, “ offers a glamorous hero and even more glamorous backdrops, as rich Nick becomes obsessed with a dating app. It’s more style than substance, but the language is straightforward and you will learn terms like ‘relazione a lungo termin’ (‘long term relationship’), ‘relazione a breve termin’ (short term relationship) and ‘ chat eroticism ”(this one is pretty self-explanatory).

Stream it here.

A dark mysterious murder in six parts, “Parfum” is inspired by the 1985 novel by Patrick Süskind, transposed from 18th century France to contemporary Germany. Like the original, the plot involves a murdered woman and an obsession with perfume, but the on-screen version focuses on a group of friends who went to school with the victim. It starts out slowly and conventionally, with a slow burn, and its silence punctuated dialogue and character-centric scenes make it a good candidate for absorbing the rhythms and vocabulary of everyday conversations. Warning: the series is not afraid of sex or gore.

Stream it here.

Based on the bestselling Volker Kutscher novels, this animated show is now in its third season. Set in Weimar-era Berlin and filmed with exquisite attention to detail from the 1920s period, the story begins with the arrival of a Cologne police detective, Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), addicted morphine, who came to investigate a sadomasochistic pornography network. “Babylon Berlin” offers a dazzling stew of police procedures, spies of espionage, political turmoil and hedonistic nightlife. Although Berlin accents abound, the dialogue and vocabulary are for the most part fairly easy to follow with subtitles.

Stream it here.

This silly but entertaining film is one of the many remakes of the 1987 film, “Three Men and a Baby”. This time we have three single brothers of Turkish descent, who run a failing bridal shop in Frankfurt. They find themselves taking care of a baby when one of their ex-girlfriend is involved in a car accident. It all goes somehow badly, but also somehow good, and neither the dialogue nor the plot is too difficult. (“One coat,” by the way, is “eine Windel.”)

Other options:

If you love horror movies, the new Netflix series Freud transforms the young and still unsuccessful Sigmund (Robert Finster), into a sort of Viennese Sherlock Holmes, addicted to cocaine and hunting down a serial killer. The series is dark and fantasy, with Freud – who has a strong Austrian accent in German – battling inner demons, outer evils, and vile villains. But if you liked “Penny Dreadful” this could be for you.


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