Many many years ago, I spent a year and a half in Mexico and I learnt a bit of Spanish. I have always found that as a native English teacher, it is quite hard to learn the language of the country where you are teaching because everyone always wants to speak English to you. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

Then came Netflix. Oh joy! I have now improved my Spanish so much just by watching Spanish language films and Spanish language series, mostly Mexican. I have enjoyed every step and I have never felt like I was really studying or working to learn a language.

When I first subscribed to Netflix, I gorged on English and American films, especially during Lockdown and then two things happened. Firstly, I found I had watched most things ( I have to tell you I am not a great sleeper) and secondly, I began to feel guilty about all the time I was wasting when I could be improving my brain. It is very important to me to develop new neurons, firstly to keep my brain fresh and alert and by the same token, to help myself ward off the two demons of dementia and Alzheimers. In case you are trying to work it out, I am that old.

The solution came when I decided to try watching Spanish language series on Netflix and also Amazon Prime. I love action and intrigue and glamour and I find all of those qualities in El Dragon, La Dona, Velvet, Enemiga Intima, Le Reina del Sur, Jose Jose, the life of Luis Miguel and so many more Mexican blockbusters. Honestly, the list is so long and the good thing is, they have so many episodes that you get to know the voices and accents and body language of the actors and that helps a lot.

I have different ways of watching. If I am in a more curious mood, I will watch with a note pad, writing down interesting and useful phrases; I love to learn with phrases rather than individual words. In the beginning and for a long time, at least six months, I watched with English subtitles which I found very useful but now I watch with Spanish subtitles. I have yet to watch anything with no subtitles at all but I know it will come soon. In the meantime, I now understand most of the language in the Spanish subtitles.

As I watch mostly Mexican series and since I have spent time in Mexico, I have developed an ear for the Mexican accent. I still find it hard to understand the Spanish of mainland Spain, Cuba and Columbia but I’ll get there by listening to some European series as well in the future.

I speak several languages already and that, I believe, is the key to learning another language through films and series. I can work out the grammar through listening and reading and so I believe I have learnt relatively quickly. I think this method is not so easy for first-time learners of a language, but I could be wrong.

One of the unexpected spin-offs of watching so many Mexican and Spanish action films and series is that I have learnt so many bad words which I find very amusing as I don’t use much bad language in English. I have realized that any word is just a sound to which we add a meaning which is then accepted by all. The bad words in Spanish are simply sounds and they don’t sound like swear words to me which could be dangerous.

I was once a language teacher at a Premier League football club in England teaching Spanish footballers and so you can guess which words they learnt first on the football pitch. I remember them saying English swear words quite freely not really understanding what they were saying, and I used to blush a bit and have a laugh with them too. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

So, if you want to watch films and not feel that you are wasting your time, try learning a new language and tune into Netflix. However, having watched so much and believe me I have, I now have a desire to actually speak to a real person and recently, to my great joy, I have discovered a Neurolanguage Coach who is “una Mexicana” I also feel the need to read and study more in Spanish to settle a few grammar and stylistic points in my head but for me, Netflix has served a fantastic purpose of allowing me to “descansar:(relax), while at the same time “apprender una lengua:( learn a new language).

Adios amigos!