Watching TV series to learn a foreign language

TV series are excellent tools for learning foreign languages.

  • What are their advantages?
  • How do they work?
  • Should you watch the series with or without subtitles?
  • Which series should I watch?

Lots of tips in this new article!


A fun and effective way to learn

When learning a foreign language, it is important to stay motivated and for this reason there is nothing better than having fun while learning. Watching series is perfect for combining business with pleasure: you learn the language without realizing it, almost effortlessly!

Complete language immersion

Watching a series in a foreign language is a real immersion in the language. It allows you to work on your oral comprehension in different situations of everyday life, confronting different types of accents in a completely natural way.

The subtleties of the language

TV series are also an excellent way to discover the subtleties of a language such as :

– The different accents

– Idiomatic expressions

– The rhythm of the sentences

– The intonations

A cultural immersion

In addition to the linguistic interest, there is also an important cultural immersion as the adventures of the characters offer a glimpse of the customs of a country and its history. Contemporary series are also a good tool for following the evolution of a language, identifying new words or expressions that regularly enrich it, as well as informal “speaking” that is not learned from books or language methods.

Series, instruction manual

The basics before you start

Before starting to watch TV series in VO, it is necessary to first learn the basics of the language, so as not to find yourself totally lost (and frustrated) from the first episode! It is therefore advisable to start by acquiring the first elements of the language through a method or lessons, before getting started.

Choosing the series

What better way to get motivated than to choose one of your favourite series to start? Even if you already know it, it can be an excellent start to follow the plot in a very satisfying way and make rapid progress in the language. Whether it’s a medical world, the adventures of a group of friends, police investigations, thrillers, horror, fantasy adventures or a historical series, there’s no shortage of themes to choose from – it’s up to you!

And if you can’t make up your mind, ask your friends! For example in our Facebook Coliglote Language Learning group, just ask for advice on the best Italian, Spanish, English, French or other series to get dozens of suggestions from other native members.

Regular practice

Regularity is the key to progress in the language and the length of the series, around 45 minutes, is rather practical. Sitcoms and their 20-minute format are a good alternative for those with limited time.

From the famous Friends series to The Big Bang Theory, via The Office, or The Simpson… there’s plenty to do.


Discovering a series in its original language allows you to better grasp its essence, to understand its cultural and historical elements.

However, translating is often a betrayal, despite all the efforts made by the translators to remain faithful to the original text. However, it is important to know that the work of translators and subtitlers is full of constraints that distance the written transcriptions from the original message. For example, the texts that appear on the screen must be very short and necessarily less than 3 lines long. It is therefore sometimes impossible to faithfully transcribe or translate the original oral version: subtitlers often have to modify the texts, which explains why the subtitles do not always correspond exactly to the audio.

As far as viewing is concerned, everyone has his or her own method of learning the language. Some people choose to watch the video directly in OV without subtitles, while others use subtitles in the chosen language or even sometimes in their mother tongue.

Personally, I often use subtitles in the language I’m learning because I work with both spoken and written language. But when the subtitles are too different from the audio (when it is the message that is conveyed, but not the exact expressions for example), then I prefer to use subtitles in my mother tongue which allows me to read very quickly and then to be able to concentrate on the spoken word.

Note that it is also possible to “cheat” by using a system of intelligent subtitles such as  Fleex which help you to translate difficult passages and offer various comprehension aids.

In any case, don’t be discouraged. Don’t always try to understand everything: simply use the context, the gestures and the reactions of the actors to understand. And above all, use the Pause and Rewind buttons whenever necessary. You can then evaluate your progress from time to time by removing the subtitles.

Which series?


A sitcom or situation comedy is a predominantly humorous television series characterised by a unity of place (a recurring set) with episodes lasting generally less than half an hour.

Here is a list of sitcoms in 10 languages !

The series

Here is a non-exhaustive list of a few cult series to be seen or reviewed in VO. I will soon write a new article to offer even more suggestions in each language!


The Americans – USA

A series to watch in American English and Russian.

We follow the story of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, two KGB spies whose marriage has been arranged. They settle in the suburbs of Washington with their children in the early 1980s, shortly after the election of President Ronald Reagan. We watch the couple discover life in the United States and play at being the perfect little family while fighting to avoid being discovered… at the risk of being killed.


House of Cards – USA

A series to watch in American English.

Frank Underwood is a shrewd politician with questionable morals; aided by his Machiavellian wife, he will do anything to conquer the post of President of the United States.


Sherlock – United Kingdom

A series to watch in British English.

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, are transposed to contemporary times.

 – France

A series to watch in French.

5th century after Jesus Christ. In the Kingdom of Kaamelott, King Arthur, invested with a divine mission, tries to guide his people towards the light.

– France

A series to watch in French.

The discovery of the body of a young girl in a dumpster will lead a deputy public prosecutor to expose the workings of French justice.

village français – France

A series to watch in French.

In 1940, a fictitious village in the Jura is upset by the arrival of the German army. The series follows the destiny of its inhabitants, their faults and secrets.

Versailles – France

A series to watch in French.

Versailles, 1667. Louis XIV is 28 years old. In order to subdue the nobility and definitively impose his absolute power, he set out to transform Versailles… as if he were setting a trap. This young king, haunted by the trauma of the Fronde which had seen the nobles rebel against royalty, turns out to be an extraordinary political strategist, Machiavellian and manipulative. He “invented” Versailles to keep the nobles away from Paris, keep them under his control, and gradually turn the château into a golden prison. He is also capable of romantic passions; but how do you live them when you are the greatest king in the world?


La casa de papel – Spain

A series to watch in Spanish.

A mysterious man, nicknamed the Professor, plans the best robbery ever carried out. To carry out his plan, he recruits eight of the best criminals in Spain who have nothing to lose. The aim is to infiltrate the National Coin and Stamp Factory in order to print 2.4 billion euros, in small denominations of €50, in less than eleven days, without victims, despite the presence of 67 hostages, including the daughter of the British ambassador.


Las Chicas del cable – Spain

A series to watch in Spanish.

The series is set in the 1920s and takes place in Madrid. Thanks to their work as switchboard operators in the capital’s telephone company, four young women in search of independence will create bonds and live stronger adventures. They will be confronted with many problems, which they will manage together, always having complicated choices to make, at times when vulnerability affects them more than anything else.


1992, diving into the Italian mafia – Italy

A series to watch in Italian.

The Italian series plunges the viewer into the year 1992, the year in which the Milan public prosecutor launched the “Clean Hands” operation. The aim of the operation is to put an end to the widespread corruption orchestrated jointly by politicians and business leaders. Advertisers, deputies, ministers, industrialists… Nobody is spared.


I Medici

A series to watch in Italian.

The Medici (Medici) are a famous Italian family, who played a leading role in the history of Florence and Tuscany. At the beginning of the 15th century, Giovanni de’ Medici, a Florentine banker, made a considerable fortune thanks to his skill and cunning. He consolidated this wealth by using it to forge alliances with the Tuscan aristocracy and the high clergy. When he died in 1429, his eldest son, Cosimo, became the head of the family. He continued his work, adding active and innovative patronage to it, inspired by his thwarted vocation as an artist.

However, even though the Medici were careful to avoid ostentation and respected the forms of republican government, the inexorable rise of their power displeased the aristocratic families who were thus ousted, and they were working towards their downfall. In addition to this, there are personal dramas, family rivalries and epidemics.


Bron/The Bridge – Danemark/ Sweden

A series to watch in Danish and Swedish.

The body of a woman is found in the middle of a bridge on the border between Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish and Danish police are dispatched to the scene and join forces to solve the mystery surrounding the murder. Everything gets carried away when it is discovered that it is not just one but two corpses, cut in half at the waist, which have been assembled into one…


Real Humans – Sweden

A series to watch in Swedish.

Welcome to a parallel universe where humanoid robots (Hubots) are an integral part of society and seem to be a source of dependency for humans. Society is divided between those who wish to integrate them and those who wonder about these over-evolved machines showing signs of independence and their own personality.


Murder at the foot of the volcano Hraunið – Iceland

A series to watch in Icelandic.

Shortly after the stock market crash of 2008, a police officer investigates the murder of a crooked banker in an Iceland where everyone knows each other.


Avenida Brasil – Brésil

A series to watch in Brazilian Portuguese.

We follow the story of a talented cook, Nina. Nina comes to Brazil to seek revenge on Carminha, her mother-in-law, who abandoned her in a garbage dump when she was a child. In order to achieve her ends, Nina gets hired as a cook at Carminha’s house, hiding her true identity.


Aelier アンダーウェア – Japan

A series to watch in Japanese.

Tokita Mayuko is a young fashion school graduate who arrives in Tokyo to do her apprenticeship at the made-to-measure lingerie boutique Emotion, run by its charismatic president, Mayumi Nanjō.

Attack on Titan進撃の巨人 – Japan

A series to watch in Japanese.

This animated series plunges the spectator into a universe where humanity lives in seclusion within a fortress city in order to protect itself from the Titans, gigantic creatures who are working to decimate humans. The series tells the story of mankind’s struggle to regain its territory and follows the story of Eren Jäger, who dreams of joining the elite corps charged with discovering the origin of the Titans and destroying them to the last since the day they murdered his mother.

Undercover- Belgium Flanders

A series to watch in Dutch (Flemish)

Undercover agents, a man and a woman, infiltrate the organisation of a drug baron and pretend to be a couple in the campsite where he spends his weekends. Very funny and exciting, based on reality.

If you don’t like to watch TV series, films and documentaries are also an interesting solution. The idea is to drink content in different forms in order to develop your comprehension and enrich your vocabulary. To be complemented with reading, singing and oral practice.

Written by Ingrid, Coliglote

Sources :

  • Housna
    3 December 2020 at 11 h 47 min

    Merci Ingrid, c’est noté !


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