A New Take on Old Classics

Family Classics for Fun Language Learning

One of my favorite movies to watch at this time of year is “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It’s got drama, good guys, bad guys, cute kids, great story….and of course, a positive message of being grateful for what you have. There are probably many movies that you or your kids watch over and over again–either the traditional holiday favorites or those that include a favorite character like Mickey Mouse, Elmo, or any number of Disney princesses!

Does Nemo speak Spanish?

Just when you think you can’t stand to sit through another showing of your child’s favorite flick, try and change it up a bit by watching it in a language other than English! Many DVDs offer the option of viewing the movie in Spanish, French, or numerous other languages. While you may not comprehend every word of the film, there are some definite benefits of this immersion strategy:

  • Since you are likely to be very familiar with the storyline–and perhaps even the dialogue–you will be able to pick out words that are cognates more easily. (Oh, so… ‘orange’ in French is just like ‘orange’ in English!)
  • You can learn to identify and remember any repetitive phrase that appears in the film (think, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” from Nemo, except in Spanish!)
  • Hearing a continuous stream of dialogue in another language will give you and your child a sense of the rhythm and pronunciation patterns of the language. The authentic pronunciation of dubbing can provide a good model for your own efforts in learning a new language.

More options for teachers

If the DVDs you own don’t have additional language tracks, there are a couple of options for accessing old classics in a new language! Many popular cartoons or children’s movies are available for purchase through Amazon–just check the ‘product information’ to learn what languages the movies offer through subtitles or dubbing. YouTube also has numerous clips and popular children’s songs that are dubbed: just search the song/show name and language and see what turns up. Finally, FilmArobics, designed primarily for teachers, offers both DVDs and accompanying lesson plans in French, Spanish, German, and Italian. Have fun!