Language Learning with Netflix: BS or Incredible Tool?

language learning with netflix feature imageSo you want to kick back and learn a language by watching Netflix?

It’s totally practical. In fact, I wish Netflix had streaming back when I was first using movies to help me learn German.

Of course, it’s not just about Netflix.

Using the tips and tricks I’ll teach you today, you can learn a language much faster using any streaming service.

And you don’t have to limit yourself to movies or series either.

Ready to be entertained while learning a language?

Let’s get started!

What’s Language Learning with Netflix?

The scientific term for learning a language while watching movies, when it’s done correctly, is “comprehensible input.”

Notice that I’m using the term “correctly.”

This means that you can’t just turn on any old movie and expect to learn. There are steps to follow and I’ll share them with you.

But the good news is that plenty of research shows that you need to get as much listening in as possible. The principle is called extensive listening.

And that’s the the point:


Not reading subtitles while listening. We’ll talk about reading subtitles effectively in a moment.

The point is to watch characters in context while listening to them speak for extended periods of time.

Nothing else. Just watching and listening.

This principle is effective because it means you don’t have to install Language Reactor (formerly called Language Learning with Netflix).

But if you do want to install it, the steps are easy:

  • Add the plugin to Chrome on the Language Reactor page
  • Watch their video on that page about using the popup dictionary
  • Start watching a movie or series on Netflix

Again, however, that’s not necessarily how I would recommend that you proceed.

At least not at first.

Save the time and hop on a movie spoken in your favorite language.

popcorn girl is watching movies

How to Use the Netflix Language Learning Extension to Become Fluent in Any Language

As I mentioned, you don’t have to use the extension at all, but it does have its uses. I’ll share some of them with you.

But to go deeper on the suggestion to just watch movies in your target language, consider these suggestions:

Step One: Set a Goal Based on Missions

In order for input to be comprehensible, it’s important that you’re able to comprehend some of the language.

For this, you’re going to want to establish some basic vocabulary.

Here’s a tutorial on how to memorize vocabulary.

Your first vocabulary mission should include learning 5-10:

  • Pronouns
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives

Don’t make it more complicated than that. Be willing to take it one step at a time.

Step Two: Watch First, Gather Vocabulary Later

If you have the Netflix Language Learning Extension on, only gather the words you’re going to memorize after you’ve watched for at least 10-15 minutes.

Your brain needs time to develop context and absorb different sounds and grammatical patterns.

In the beginning, you might find this a bit boring, even frustrating. However, you always need extensive listening in order to develop pattern recognition.

Later, extend the amount of listening time in 5 minute increments. Make this part of your deliberate practice routine.

Step Three: Use a Memory Palace

After you gather your vocabulary during the second viewing, ideally using this approach to creating high effective flashcards, commit the vocabulary to memory.

I advise using a Memory Palace, ideally several.

The process is fun and easy to learn and you can complete this free course to learn how:


The more you work with this kind of memory technique, the more you’ll be able to add phrases to core vocabulary that you’ve memorized.

Step Four: Record Yourself Speaking Phrases

As you continue listening to movies and series, a key part of learning a new language is speaking.

And one of the best ways to practice speaking is to hear yourself.

To do this, watch a bit of the program you’re interested in and then record yourself into your phone’s recording app.

Play yourself back and compare your pronunciation with the native speaker in the movie. This will train your pronunciation skills quickly. 

Step Five: Add More Media

You don’t have to limit your extensive listening to Netflix.

Also listen to podcasts and online radio in your target language as frequently as possible.

Step Six: Continue Learning About How to Learn

The great thing about learning a language is that you’re not alone. Many others have done it.

There are quite a few books about language learning I recommend. Some of them give you a source of stories that is just as good as watching Netflix.

books and books

You can also get a lot of stories and articles read to you through a language learning website like Lingq. There are other language learning softwares that include stories that are well worth your time.

Step Seven: Reverse the Process

When I was learning German, I often put on English movies and turned on the German subtitles.

Now, this is different than getting listening practice. This is reading practice. 

And it’s a powerful way to enjoy movies you’re already familiar with and see how the characters say lines you’re familiar with in your target language.

I’ve done this with everything from Robocop to Shakespeare adaptations. It’s a powerful technique.

Then, follow up by watching those movies with the language voice-over if you can get it.

I don’t see a problem with having the subtitles on while listening to the voice-over, provided that you’ve spent time listening to the movie first.

Again, listening is listening. If you’re reading while listening, you’re splitting your focus. It might seem that you’re killing two birds with one stone, but you’re ultimately slowing down the process.

Netflix Language Learning Couldn’t Be Easier

So there you have it:

A simple and reliable means of getting loads of vocabulary and phrases into your memory quickly.

This approach is so much better than rote learning and you can immerse yourself in the language even from the comfort of your own home.

Just remember:

It’s very important to divide the processes.

  • Watch and listen first without the subtitles on
  • Watch and listen again with them on to gather words and phrases
  • Commit the words and phrases to memory using a Memory Palace
  • Record your own phone to compare with the actors to improve your pronunciation
  • Rinse and repeat

So what do you say?

Are you ready to master your dream language?

Enjoy this process and just shout out if you have any questions along the way!

4 Responses

  1. Anthony! what a great idea! now to put that in practise. will save this link and find time to do this. (despite my laziness)

  2. I’ve found in the past that listening in a foreign language with the foreign language subtitles on is frustrating, as the visual subtitles always commands more attention than the spoken word, to the extent that I’ve listened to dialogue with my eyes closed to counter this; so the direction “to watch and listen first” makes absolute sense to me.
    You know when you’re making progress when you find instances where the spoken dialogue and the subtitles are different (LOL) – it happens a lot.

    1. This is great, Felice.

      I remember the first time I started noticing these differences in German.

      Often, there are geo-political reasons. For example, in The Grand Budapest Hotel, references to Germans are changed slightly in the German subtitles to lessen the criticism the filmmaker meant to make.

      A student of mine from back when I was a Film Studies professor did a whole project on how this happens in movies all the time.

      In any case, you truly do know you’re making progress when you start noticing the discrepancies and it feels very good.

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Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

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