One thing that’ll help you keep motivated when learning a new language is to have something you can enjoy binging on Netflix in that language. Here’s the Ultimate Guide to Netflix for language learning.
A few weeks before writing this article, I tweeted out an article I’d read about the results of a survey from Netflix.
TLDR = they’re set on making content in different languages. Good news for international users and for language learners!
With that in mind, I want to share with you how to best use Netflix for language learning.
I’ll be working through these steps with Netflix on the computer so I can easily screengrab images to help explain things, but things shouldn’t be drastically different across devices.
The thing that will be different is when we get to needing to type URL web addresses to find stuff. It’s worth spending some time with Netflix on your computer to do the other type of Netflix Binge (the Search + Add to Watchlist Binge) and then watch stuff on your other devices as you normally would once it’s on your watchlist.
Your Personal Netflix Language Study Pack
The thing I don’t like about Netflix is how stuff gets lost in my Watchlist and then I end up watching the same stuff.
And when it comes to using it for language learning, sometimes you want to sit down and really use it well to improve my languages, but it’s tricky to know where to begin.
I figured you might have the same problems from time to time, so I made a printable and digital Netflix Language Study Pack to help you really use Netflix for language learning.
Click below to get your personal Netflix Language Study Pack now.
Create a separate profile for language learning if you share an account
Once you’re signed up for Netflix, you have the option you make multiple profiles. You can have up to 5 different profiles on one account.
What I recommend to begin with, especially if you share an account, is to create a new profile for language learning.
It’s really simple to do.
When you log in to Netflix on any account, it’s the first screen you see. Click “add profile” and name your new profile. It’ll now appear on your main page.
Now click “manage profiles” underneath the profile icons. A pencil will appear on top of each image. Click your new language learning profile.
You can change the language of your profile here and it stays the same on your other profile(s) so you get a little extra language practice but no-one else is distracted or annoyed at you for changing it!
You can also change your profile photo. I picked Titus from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because his face is like “You learn that language, girl”. But of course, this step is optional.
Now when you click your new profile image, you’ll be taken to the main Netflix page. All the text will be in the language you switched your profile to, but of course programming will remain open. Here’s a synopsis of the madness that is Riverdale in español.
I just learnt the word agallas (guts). Thanks, Betty.
Change Subtitle appearance
Do you ever find yourself squinting at the screen to read the subtitles? You can fix that.
Once logging into your language profile, click your profile photo. Select “Account” from the drop-down list.
Scroll down on the account page and you’ll see this…
You can also change your profile language here (like we just did) but we’re going to click “Subtitle appearance”.
Here’s where you can make subtitles bigger, change the background colour, font etc.
However, if you’re watching on an Apple device, you’ll need to configure this within the Settings on that device. This help page from Netflix shows you how to do this for various devices.
Now you’ve got a separate profile and your subtitles are set, you can begin hoarding multilingual content into your new lovely clean list. Woohoo!
Finding stuff to watch with audio in that language
This is easier to do on a computer.
Start by visiting netflix.com/browse/audio. You’ll see this…
Now click “English” (or whatever language it says there on your profile depending on the language it’s set to).
To find content with audio in the languages from the list, simply click on the language you’d like. We’ll try Mandarin…
Great!…but this is clearly all content that’s originally been created in another language (mostly English, I think here).
If this happens to you, next click “suggestions for you” by ‘Sort by:’. Switch this to “A-Z”. Here’s what we get now…
This looks more promising!
As you would with Netflix generally, when you find something you’re interested in watching, hover over it and click the “+” to add to your watch list, or click the down arrow for more info.
Finding stuff to watch with subtitles in that language
Remember that little “Audio” next to the drop-down box for the languages? When you click that one, you can switch your search to “subtitles” and then select the language again.
You might also want to switch and sort by A-Z but it’s not as helpful here, because the content with audio in a certain language doesn’t always align to having subtitles in that language too.
And of course, when you find something you’re interested in, add it to your watch list in the same way.
Finding stuff when your language isn’t in the drop-down list
Of course, thousands of languages in the world. They’re not all going to be on Netflix, and all the ones that are on Netflix aren’t necessarily going to fit in the drop-down list. So there’s more.
If the language you’re learning doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, it’s time to head to the search bar. Keep it simple. Start by typing in the name of that language. We’ll use Indonesian as our example…
No way! Some of these are definitely Indonesian – I can tell from the names alone. Straight on the watchlist.
Let’s see if there’s any more hidden away. Use the clickable options next to “Explore titles related to:” to have a browse around and see if there’s any others that interest you.
When I clicked “Indonesian Movies & TV” from here, this helped by actually limiting the list to just these things so the list ended. Woohoo! No more overload winding back around to Stranger Things and House of Cards.
Finding stuff to watch using category codes
The next thing you might want to try is category codes. This one is particularly helpful only for a limited range of languages.
Netflix has some pretty obscure genres for its content. This can be used to our advantage. Click here for a full list of Netflix categories.
I found categories for French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Greek, Czech, Thai, Filipino…But none for Arabic, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian among plenty others, I’m sure.
You could also try searching for director names (Movies by Pedro Almodóvar = 3968) or regions (Eastern European Comedies = 3892).
But even if there’s a category for it, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’ll be any content. For example “Dramas directed by Jean-Luc Godard” (3598) has nothing on Netflix (at least at the time of writing on UK Netflix).
Finding stuff to watch about people and places
Of course, language learning is much more than just words. It’s also about learning more about the culture, people, and places associated with that language.
The easiest way to do this on Netflix is to try searching the name of countries or regions.
You may find that Netflix hasn’t quite got the memo that Latin America has more to offer than drug lords and cocaine, but you may also get lucky and find something to watch.
For example, when I type “Paraguay” into the Netflix search, I get this…
In and amongst the titles on display (7 of 18, almost half are about drugs/Escobar/El Chapo. Geez.) you can spot Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, where there’s an episode all about Paraguay. (It’s actually a really good one. He finds out about his ancestors who moved to Paraguay. He’s also helped out by Romy, who we interviewed for Language Stories.)
The broader you are here, the more likely you are to find stuff. For example, if I type in “Latin America”, I’m given some options again next to “Explore titles related to”, which I wasn’t when I searched “Paraguay”.
I clicked “Latin American Documentaries” and guess what?…Only TWO about Escobar and El Chapo! Hooray!
This means you can learn about Che Guevara, el asado, Machu Picchu and more. All useful things to support your Spanish language studies.
Enhancing Netflix with Third-Party Extensions + General Tips
There’s a few helpful options out there to help you really make the most of Netflix for language learning. However, as these are all third-party, Netflix could decide at any point they want to block them, ban their use etc. So they could disappear.
With that in mind, I won’t give you a full walk-through of each. Instead I’ll just tell you what they’re all good for. Most of them are Google Chrome extensions, which means you’ll need to be watching Netflix on a computer to take advantage of them.
Nflx Multi Subs – Amazing! Download it, close and reopen your Chrome browser and you can watch stuff with 2 sets of subtitles. You’re limited to the subtitles that Netflix provides, so sometimes there’s a limited choice.
Language Learning With Netflix – a Chrome extension that adds a lower bar to your Netflix playback window and gives you subtitles in 2 languages. You can auto-pause, and play with the vocabulary highlighter too depending on your level. For example, I tested this watching a French film, with Portuguese subtitles selected on Netflix, and “Translated into: Esperanto” selected on the Language Learning with Netflix bar. Pretty cool.
Lingvo – Lingvo is a Chrome extension that requires your phone. Watch Netflix on your browser and open the Lingvo page on your phone’s internet browser. Enter the code from your Lingvo Chrome icon on your computer and you can view subtitle translations on your phone. Again, clickable vocabulary to help you learn. Helpful if you’ve seen stuff before and don’t mind looking away from the screen to check bits you don’t understand.
Sufli – Another option for subtitles on Chrome. This one has fewer options but is pretty easy to use and has a wide range of languages because it draws from the Google Translate list.
Useful general tricks – This Buzzfeed post has some helpful tips and tricks to make the most of Netflix in general.
Your Personal Netflix Study Pack
Did you miss it up top? You don’t want to miss out on this freebie. I made a printable and digital Netflix Language Study Pack to help you really use Netflix for language learning.
This one walks you step-by-step through how to make the most of Netflix for language learning.
Click below to get your personal Netflix Language Study Pack now.
How do you use Netflix for language learning? Share in the comments below!