As parents we're always fighting with our children to get them off the TV screen and do something more productive with their free time. Let me tell you, it might not be that bad, if they choose the right program.

Can TV help you learn a language?

It is described in many articles how children and even adults have learned a language by watching TV series. The question that arises is the following: is it really possible?

There's a story which appeared in the new York Times about a baseball player from Latin America who learned English just by watching the television series FRIENDS with Spanish subtitles. I can relate to this because my sister and I were 8 and 6 years old when my Dad was transferred as a diplomat to a Spanish speaking country and I remembered the first time we spent our summer holidays there, we were practically glued in front of the TV watching cartoons in Spanish. At first we didn't understand anything at all, we followed the story line by guessing. But, at the end of the six weeks holidays, our level of understanding was pretty good and we even started to talk in Spanish.

To learn a language from a TV program, it is recommended for the show to have a predictable structure. This will make it easier for the person watching to figure out the story line. Subtitles are a must because the learner is able to identify the words that are unfamiliar, after a while. The story should be captivating or you will quickly loose interest.

It is easier for children, than for adults, because the former have a general ability to process and absorb new information.

Although feasible, I should say that it's not the ideal situation because the activity is very demanding. This professional baseball player pointed out that he watched each episode at least ten times. As you see it can be a tedious exercise.

My sister and I started speaking Spanish within six weeks, but it is fair to say that our knowledge was consolidated through formal Spanish classes when we went back home.

Do you want to know your level at the language you're currently studying ? Take this Quiz