How to build your vocabulary: part 3

In our first two posts about building vocabulary, we discussed flashcards, spaced repetition and reading. Now let’s look at TV and films.

Of course, most people enjoy watching TV and films, so it’s a very attractive way to learn a language if it works. Many people believe it does: the fact that most programmes in Spain are dubbed is often given as a reason why the Spanish don’t learn better English.


  • Like reading, you can choose programmes or films that you enjoy, so studying doesn’t become a chore.
  • TV programmes and films are often available in their original language, with our without subtitles.
  • You will probably hear a lot of colloquial expressions, including ones that are only used in spoken language, and which you won’t find in books.
  • You will hear the correct pronunciation of words.
  • TV series and films engage our emotions, which can help us to remember what we have heard.


  • Like reading, it can be difficult to find series and films that match your level. If you don’t understand what’s going on, you won’t enjoy what you are watching.


  • Start out with subtitles in your native language, then move on to subtitles in English and finally get rid of the subtitles altogether. This helps you to get used to the accents of the characters, and makes it easier to look up unfamiliar words that are used frequently.
  • Olive Green is a film and English course that has been produced specially for English language learners, and the language used gets progressively more difficult as you go through the film.

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