Learning English with Films

Choose what type of activity you want to do:

Activities to Do Before Watching

Choose a film. Criteria for choosing a film to help you learn English are:

  • the level of English; e.g. childrens' films often have easier English. Aim for a level where you can understand about 80%. You can guess or learn the other 20%.
  • the type of film and the content; some academics believe it is easier to learn when you are having fun.
  • other materials that go with the film; for example the script, or the book that the film was based on.
  • the film will help you do something from your Listening Needs Analysis.

Read the information on the back of the video box or in the newspaper TV pages about the film. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it helps you decide whether you will like the film. Secondly, the background information will help you predict the content and language of the film, making listening easier.

Predict what will happen in the film (the plot). Many films have easy-to-predict plots. Maybe you have seen the film before, so you know what will happen. Try to write down some of the words and phrases that you think the characters will say. Use a dictionary to help you with any vocabulary that you are not sure of. As you watch the film you can check if you are right.

Decide how seriously you are going to use the film to learn English. You might just want to relax and have fun, but you will learn more English if you study the English in the film in more detail.

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Activities to Do While Watching

Choose what type of activity you would like to do:


  • Use the English sub-titles if the speaking is too fast (Click here for a video about this)
  • Write down any vocabulary that you don't know, and check it in a dictionary.
  • Guess what the vocabulary means from the situation and the words around it.
  • After watching you can practise the vocabulary by using it in conversations and in writing; eg. writing a summary for other students to help them to decide if they would like to watch this film


It is easier to listen to a film or a TV programme than to an audio tape because in a film you can usually see the speaker so you see their expression and their body language. You can also often see the thing they are talking about.

If you can't find the meaning or a word or phrase you hear in a film, you can e-mail the CILL tutors at and ask. Tell us the film and the words or phrase.


You can read the script or book of a film, and look for grammar that you don't understand, then check it in a grammar source.

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Activities to Do After Watching

Activities You Can Do Alone
Write a summary of the film. Send it to us. We can put it in the video box for other learners to read. Tell us what English it helped you with, and how you learned. Tell us about the film to help other learners with prediction and choosing suitable films for them.

Activities You Can Do with Friends

Acting / Role-palying: You can pretend to be characters in the film.

Discussion 1: You can ask "What would you do in that situation?" "Why"

Discussion 2: Most films have a theme or a message. For example, 'Jurassic Park's' message is about the problems of new technology. Some of the characters think you can't stop new technology, but others believe new technology is dangerous. The disaster in the park was caused by one person deliberately crashing the computer. What do you think? Is new technology dangerous?

What to Do Next

You can:


Last updated on: Thursday, May 30, 2013