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How To Use DVDs to Improve Your English

By Kenneth Beare,

Watching DVDs provides a unique opportunity for English learners to improve comprehension and vocabulary skills. Most DVDs provide original English language sound tracks, as well as sound tracks in different foreign languages. Most of these DVDs also provide English subtitles. However, just watching a film or sitcom in English or with subtitles doesn’t take full advantage of the learning opportunity. Here is advice on how to use DVDs to improve you or your students’ English comprehension and vocabulary.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1 – 2 hours per each 30 minutes episode, more for films – 30 minute session max

Here’s How:

1. Get your learning tools out! Pen or pencil, paper and a dictionary should be close by when you begin.

2. Choose a scene. The first scene is always a good place to start. However, any scene will do. Most importantly don’t feel that you have to watch everything. If you want to watch an entire film, great. However, take it one scene at a time.

3. Watch the scene in English with no subtitles. Try to write down any words or phrases you understand.

4. Watch the scene in English with no subtitles a second time. Write down a short description of what happens in the scene.

5. Watch the scene in your mother tongue. Check your understanding of the scene with the notes you have taken.

6. Watch the scene in English with no subtitles a third time. If possible, take note of phrases or words you don’t understand.

7. Watch the scene in English WITH English subtitles. Make sure to watch the scene all the way through without using the pause button on your DVD remote. Add words or phrases to your list.

8. Watch the scene in English with English subtitles and pause the scene to add vocabulary to your list.

9. Now that you have watched the scene six times (five times in English), try to define the words and phrases on your own by thinking about the context.

10. Use your dictionary to look up definitions of words or phrases you still don’t understand. Over time, you will be surprised at how many words or phrases you understand through context and without the help of your dictionary. Please believe me, it’s true!


1. Change your thinking about watching films. Don’t try to watch an entire episode or film. Start thinking in terms of watching individual scenes. Repeat watching of individual scenes will help you focus on new vocabulary and gain a deeper understanding of what is said.

2. Each week, work in many short sessions rather than one long session. Four twenty-minute sessions per week focusing on one scene each time will quickly improve your English comprehension. Long sessions (2 hours or more) will kill your enthusiasm. Short and often is the key to comprehension success.

3. Ask others for patience or leave. You don’t want your little brother or sister bothering you during the film. They will want to hear it in their first language and to watch the entire show. Make it clear that you are watching the DVD in order to improve your English.

4. Rule number 1: Don’t worry if you don’t understand much (or anything). Be patient, following this advice you will begin understanding much more – if you keep doing these sessions often!

What You Need:

* DVD of a film or TV show that is originally in English

* Pen or Pencil

* Notebook

* Patience with yourself!