Streaming services have become increasingly popular over the past several years, and with good reason. These services provide a great way to enjoy movies, TV shows, music and concerts, often at a much lower cost than a pay-per-view arrangement or cable TV. Better yet, streaming services can be accessed via computers, smart phones, tablets, smart TVs, or virtually any other device you can think of. Even if you haven’t taken advantage of streaming services yourself, chances are you’ve heard the names: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, and Vudu, to name just a few. And now, streaming services may offer much more than simply allowing us to be entertained: they could provide a convenient, effective way to learn a new language.
Recently, Netflix has begun to offer shows that provide two subtitles simultaneously, allowing the viewer to see the subtitles and compare those subtitles with the spoken dialogue. The service is called Language Learning With Netflix (LLN) and it could very well revolutionize the way many of us learn a new language. This service allows viewers to not only be entertained, but to actually begin to learn another language at the same time.
Here’s how it works. The viewer is provided with a foreign language film that includes two sets of subtitles, one in the original foreign language and one in English. So the viewer hears the foreign language being spoken onscreen, and can see the foreign subtitle along with an English subtitle onscreen at the same time. The service even automatically pauses from time to time to allow the viewer to mentally grasp the translation.
Most teachers would agree that we learn most efficiently when we are able to read text and have other visual stimulation at the same time, which is why flash cards can be such an excellent learning tool. So some linguists believe that using streaming services to learn a language may be an excellent method. Not only is the viewer provided with two sets of subtitles – allowing for comparisons to be made between the two written languages – the viewer can also hear the original foreign language being spoken and is given the added benefit of the visual story playing out onscreen.
Of course, not everyone is convinced that streaming services are the best way to learn a language. Some language experts insist that the most effective way to learn is in a classroom setting, with the help of a language teacher who can not only teach the nuts and bolts of the language – grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. – but can also be there to provide full explanations for students and to engage them in conversation. And it has long been believed by linguists that immersing one’s self into a language – by visiting an area of the world where the student is forced to speak the new language day in and day out with native speakers – is, by far, the most effective way to become fully conversant.
Still, the notion of learning a language through streaming services is intriguing. If nothing else, it provides an excellent opportunity to expand and broaden the viewers’ horizons to a certain degree. And even if it is only marginally effective as a learning tool, isn’t it better to at least be somewhat minimally conversant in a new language as opposed to never learning one at all? In fact, inside the US, streaming services could prove to be the catalyst that increases the number of people who pursue learning a second language – people who might otherwise have never given it a second thought. And that, in itself, makes LLN and other streaming language services very much a worthwhile advancement in technology. After all, the US lags far behind many other countries with regard to the number of people who speak multiple languages. Most linguists would agree that speaking another language encourages the learner to become more appreciative of the other culture as well. And that is something that could very well benefit us all.