When to Start Watching TV in Your Target Language?

Watching TV shows in my target languages is a big part of my language learning routine. When I start a new language, I have two different strategies for when to start watching target-language TV, depending on how much time I have.

I) Watch Right from the Start

If I have a lot of time, I’ll try to start watching right from the start. The goal is not to understand what is being said or even what is going on in the show. The goal is simply to build up some experience with the language in a natural context. This is especially useful for a language that’s very different from my other languages, like Mandarin. I don’t consider this to be studying. It’s more like an extra activity that I use to supplement my learning. 

II) Watch after Learning to Read

The other TV strategy, for when I don’t have much time or energy to devote to a new language, is to start watching target-language shows after I have done an audio course, and after I have built up my reading skills. 

The tricky thing about video is that it’s a stream of content. You can always pause a video and go back and repeat it, but the experience is much easier if you can follow along with the content as is presents itself. In contrast, text just sits there, static. So it’s much easier to deliberate over it, reread it, and think about the meaning. As a consequence, when studying, I find it easier to get comfortable reading before watching videos.

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