Watching movies with subtitles is great for the movie... but not for language aquisition
Well I just watched “The Sorcerer and the white snake” which is a Cantonese movie based on the legend of the White Snake. It doesn’t exactly follow the legend and diverges in many key places. The special effects weren’t terrible but some bits were a bit on the cheesy side. That said, I really enjoyed the movie. There was one key thing of interest though…
I don’t remember the movie being in Cantonese. Once you get used to reading sub titles for the content, your brain will stop bothering to real process the sounds you’re hearing. Of course at a fundemental level you know they’re not speaking English - but it doesn’t really seem to matter as you have no trouble following the story. Not surprising really because your brain is working over time on the sub titles. That extra effort has to come from somewhere and I guess it does - from your ears.
I don’t think that watching foreign movies is a great way to boost your exposure if you’re going to sit and watch the sub titles. With them off, the brain has nothing to focus on and must attempt to derive meaning from the speech. Otherwise, whilst you might enjoy the film, I really doubt you’ll take much away from it language wise.
Of course, this shouldn’t stop you watching these movies. Many Chinese films are very cultural and deal with lots of ideas that are deep in Chinese custom and culture. If you just go for that experience alone then it is really worth it - just don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re getting true exposure to the language if the movie has sub titles :)
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