Dubbed Movies: A Language Learner’s Best Friend


You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.  -Steve Martin

Movies.  They have become a tremendously influential piece of our culture – of nearly every culture around the world.

They have the power to move us, to entertain and to educate.

Nearly everyone has a favorite movie, a favorite genre of movies and perhaps, a favorite actor or actress.

We all love movies.

And that is why movies can and should be a part of your personal plan to master your target language.

You need to find dubbed movies.

Dubbing is when a movie provides a soundtrack in a different language from the original.

Dubbing comes in many forms, from subtitles to voice over, but all can be useful for learning another language.

Why Dubbed Movies

Movies dubbed into your target language can be a useful activity because they provide a number of great components that will help you engage the language more effectively.

When you watch a movie dubbed into your target language that you have previously watched in your native language, a number of things happen that create a better opportunity for you to get a lot of comprehensible input.

[read more about the importance of comprehensible input]

You’ve Got Mail – image credit

Background Knowledge

One key component of a dubbed movie that you have seen before is the presence of background knowledge.

You know what is going on in the story line.  You are able to anticipate where the dialogue is going.

In many cases, you know what the characters are going to say.

All of this leads to a greater chance that your mind will make connections from target language utterances to their meaning.


Movies made in your native language provide more context for the dubbed voiceover.

You will understand the setting of each scene and what should and would be said in the interactions that take place on the screen.

There is less cultural confusion to get in the way of connecting meaning to what you are hearing.

This of course means that the use of the target language will not be completely authentic, but for this activity, the focus is on building a foundation of sounds (pronunciation), structure (correct grammar usage) and vocabulary (words).

You do need to expose yourself to authentic use of the language but that is another activity.


A good film contains somewhere around 50,000 words.

In that sense, movies provide massive amounts of content.

In a dubbed movie, you are hearing the words spoken in the target language, but you are also seeing the words spoken – that is you are seeing the context and interactions that take place while you hear the dialogue.

This creates rich content for the language learner.

Not all movies are created equal however.  Some movies will have greater linguistic content than others.

When learning Turkish I bought the Pixar movie Wall-e.

Oops.  862 words.  Not much content there.

High Interest

An important aspect of dubbed movies is your ability to watch movies that you really enjoy.

When we enjoy something, when we are interested, it is infinitely easier to sit down and put in the time.

When we are bored, we change the channel.

Do you have an all time favorite movie?  Find it in your target language.


Language learning is a bit of an unexpected journey at times - image credit

 A Few Challenges

There are of course a few challenges that come with the dubbed movie.

Often in the course of translation, what is said in English in a two second utterance, takes four seconds in the target language and in order to avoid the old kung fu action movie dilemma of lots of mouth action with no sound coming out, voiceover artists need to speak at what for many language learners is an unintelligibly high rate of speed.

A second challenge and one that I think is a bit over rated, is that translations are not always perfect.  No they are not, but I say who cares.

I am looking for context rich comprehensible input and if 90% of the translation work is good, that will far outweigh the 10% which is poorly done.

And besides, even the bad translation is probably a grammatically correct sentence that makes sense.

I remember sitting through a movie in Tijuana, Mexico once and realizing pretty quickly that every swearword was translated to the Spanish word for ‘thing’ – cosa.

Imagining people saying, “Thing you!” and “Holy Thing!” and “Thing It!” was pretty entertaining but hardly got in the way of me learning a whole load of new Spanish from the movie.

The Biggest Challenge – Finding Them

The biggest challenge in using dubbed movies is of course in finding them in the first place.

First of all, not all countries have robust dubbing industries.  Most do subtitles but not all do the work of voice overs.

Some countries just do voice overs for kids movies.

Smaller tribal languages probably don’t do movies at all.

[One exception is the Jesus Film which has been dubbed into over 1,000 languages and can be watched free online.  Find your language here.]

Here are a few ideas for locating dubbed versions of your favorite movies.

1.  If you live in country or are traveling to the country where your target language is spoken, just locate a DVD shop and pick up a suitcase full of your favorite dubbed movies.  Make sure and have the salesperson show you a bit of the film first to make sure it has voice over dubbing.

2.  Find movies online.  Using Google Translate, get the translation for “Watch Movies Online” and do a basic search with the translated phrase.  This will take a little bit of searching, but you should be able to find a few sites on which you can watch dubbed movies.

3.  Expat Forums.  A great place to find dubbed movies is through expat forums.  These forums are used by those living in the countries where your target language is spoken.  These are on the ground experts who can help you find the movies you are looking for.  Simply search for “expat forum (country name)”.

Some Viewing Suggestions

Watching a movie dubbed into your target language – a movie you are familiar with and have watched before in your native language – is a great activity for language learners.

But you can do more.

Here are a few suggestions for maximizing the movie experience:

1.  Watch a movie two or three days in a row.  This increased exposure will create higher and higher levels of engagement.

2.  For beginners.  Write down the words that you hear and understand.  This will help you stay engaged longer.

3.  For intermediates.  Write down phrases and words that you hear that you do not yet know.  (Feel free to use the rewind button).  Look these up and add them to some system of review so that you can learn them.

4.  Watch the movie with a native speaking friend.  Chose certain scenes to discuss.  Retell these scenes to one another.

5.  Chose one scene to watch and master.  Using the rewind button, learn every word, every phrase in the particular scene.

Movies Are Fun

Movies can be a fun way to increase your level of engagement with your target language.

Mixing entertainment with learning is a great recipe for putting in more time.

And putting in more time is one of the major challenges that we everyday laguage learners often struggle with.

Do you regularly watch dubbed movies as part of your language learning routine?

Turkish Movie Sites

Italian Movie Sites

Spanish Movie Sites

Help the EDLL community out!

Share your favorite sites to find movies in your target language and I will add them to the post.


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11 Responses to Dubbed Movies: A Language Learner’s Best Friend
  1. Brian Yeager
    May 8, 2013 | 2:32 pm

    Great article today. Does anyone know where I might be able to find dubbed films in Tajik?

    • jake
      September 30, 2013 | 11:27 am

      The only movie I have ever seen dubbed in Tajik was Kung Fu Panda. Even when I was living in Tajikistan, every single movie store I went into in the ENTIRE country only had Russian dubbed movies. Two movie theatre’s in Dushanbe both just played Russian films and Russian dubbed films. Even finding books in Tajik was hard, books that weren’t either religious or just tall tales like Arabian knights. Tajikistan is a developing country with a lot of education problems. So no you won’t find Tajik dubbed films.

  2. aarongmyers
    May 8, 2013 | 2:43 pm


    Great question. I’d love to see if anyone can help Brian out on this – maybe a Russian speaker?

    Let’s find some Tajik movies!

  3. Natalie
    May 8, 2013 | 3:02 pm

    Great post, Aaron. I watched Amadeus, one of my favorite films, in Russian and learned so much. It’s very helpful that I practically know every line in English, of course. :)

    As for Russian movies, there are so many sites out that that I could not hope to list them all! Just searching смотреть фильмы онлайн [watch films online] will give you loads of options. Unfortunately there aren’t many films dubbed in Tajik. In fact, while searching in Russian, I couldn’t find any, though there were quite a few with Russian dubbing. I’ll let you know if I find any later.

  4. aarongmyers
    May 8, 2013 | 3:08 pm

    Thanks so much Natalie!

  5. Gail Brown
    May 8, 2013 | 3:32 pm

    Another wonderful post, Aaron! I love watching dubbed movies and TV shows in Italian. Fortunately, Italy has very skilled “doppiatori.” Here are my go-to websites for dubbed films and TV shows:

    • aarongmyers
      May 8, 2013 | 3:47 pm

      Thanks Gail. I’ve added them above.

  6. Ray
    May 9, 2013 | 11:27 am

    OK I’m going to be a contrary so and so here! I’m a native English speaker living in Turkey and learning the language. Almost all of the channels dub into Turkish, I hate it. The Turks I know hate it too – doesn’t help them learn English.

    I’ve made far more progress watching the rare American movie that is subtitled rather than dubbed. Or I’ll watch a DVD that has Turkish subtitles. Guess we all learn in different ways :-)

  7. Joe Mitchell
    May 14, 2013 | 1:43 am

    Hey Aaron,

    Nice blog post. I really like the idea of watching movies to help you learn a language – it’s something I had not really thought of before.

    I agree with what Ray say’s. I think being able to read the words in your native language while hearing them in the language you’re trying to learn will surely help them to stick in your mind.

    I’m off to find some subtitled Spanish movies to help me with my Spanish learning – thanks for the great idea!


  8. Chris
    June 12, 2013 | 1:53 pm

    I was just wondering, isn’t Tajik just a dialect of Persian? Maybe Persian dub would be easier to find, just a thought.

  9. Brock
    July 18, 2013 | 9:31 am

    I’m also in Turkey learning Turkish. I think the most ideal thing for me would be a dubbed film WITH Turkish subtitles. So both dublaj and altyazi. Does that exist anywhere? That way, during fast portions (which is the norm it seems), I can also read the Turkish which would help a lot. Then I wouldn’t necessarily be translating everything into English using English sub-titles or only reading the Turkish if the movie isn’t dubbed. Best of both worlds. But very well may not exist. Do Turkish-made films come with closed captioning for the hearing-impaired??

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