How to Watch a Movie in Spanish

Ok, that seems like a silly title no? But there is actually a bit of thinking to be done before putting on a movie in Spanish for your Dual Language Learner (DLL). Here are some things to think about:

What movie to chose?

Your movie selection should be based on the age of your DLL child and her level of language acquisition at this point. I have found that, in the early years, it is best to replay a very familiar movie with Spanish audio. For example, your 83rd time watching Nemo. At the beginning, your child may fight this -- they have found a lot of comfort in knowing all the lines from the shark scene. However, the fact that they know the movie so well helps improve understanding of Spanish language.

As they get older and fluency is greater, have your child participate in the movie selection. You'll want to start pushing their language ability once they're in 2nd and 3rd grade to help them expand vocabulary and their listening ears. However, make sure the subject matter is the first filter -- you want them to be interested in the movie otherwise you won't make it past the first 10 minutes.

Who to watch it with?

Should you plop your child in front of the TV and go get a glass of wine? Yes. No. 😃 Actually, you should try hard to get the whole family involved. Especially when you're watching something everyone has seen before, take pleasure in the experience even if just for the benefit of your DLL. You may pick up more than you think. This also gives you an opportunity to pause the movie and ask your DLL to help the rest of the family when they don't understand something. This position of leadership is sure to thrill them and drive up their confidence.

What about captions?

First of all, captions are VERY helpful when watching a movie with Spanish audio. However, there is a bit of debate in our household on English v. Spanish captions. My husband is actively trying to learn Spanish. While he is not yet 100% fluent, he knows enough to be dangerous. However, my 5th grader has already surpassed his language skills. Anyway, in his opinion, it is best to have Spanish audio with English subtitles. He finds this is the easiest way for him to understand and follow along with the Spanish audio. I am a Spanish speaker, so I feel its best to have Spanish captures to help you see the content you're hearing in case your ears miss it. Since my husband is actually learning the language, I'd recommend you try his method first: Spanish audio with English subtitles. But feel free to try it my way too and see what works best for your family.

Where to find movies with Spanish audio?

There are a few places:

  • DVDs you own. Depending on how old your kids are, you may have a few piles of DVDs around. These movies almost always have Spanish audio available. This is certainly true for Disney movies.

  • Streaming services. Amazon tends to be really good with alternate audio options for English language movies. Netflix not as much. On the other hand, Netflix is known for carrying a wide range of Spanish langauge movies that can be great options for older DLLs.

  • Broadcast and cable TV. This can be hit or miss. I would say about 25% of the time you can find movies on TV that have a Spanish audio track - search your TV or cable service menu for alternate audio tracks. Rarely do they have Spanish captions though. Of course, your chances are 100% if you stick to Spanish-language TV like Univision and Telemundo. Unfortunately, your chance of finding a movie, the right move, on one of those channels just as you need it can be tough. But if you plan ahead and record the movie, it is certainly an option.

  • YouTube. Here you can find some full feature English language movies, but of course the quality is usually bad and there is no option for alternate audio. However, you can find a TON of Spanish language content that can be as short or long as you need. This, of course, takes a bit of trial and error to find something that works for your family.

What else?

Get some popcorn and make it special. Just because the movie is in Spanish doesn't mean it needs to feel like a homework assignment. Plop some pillows on the floor and cuddle up!

Do you have any other movie watching tips?



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