Should you watch Vietnamese films and TV when you’re a beginner?

If you watch a Vietnamese film or TV show when you’re a beginner, you’re obviously not going to understand it all. But is it still worth watching?

To be honest, I wasn’t convinced there was any value until recently. But then that all changed…

A short case study

I started learning Vietnamese as I arrived in Vietnam, so I’d never really thought about listening practice as a beginner because Vietnamese has been all around me from Day 1.

However, since the spring I’ve taken up Korean (again). I’m not surrounded by Korean, I don’t have any Korean friends and the only real listening practice I get is the one or two lessons I listen to each week at Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK).

I do from time to time watch Korean dramas though. I’d watched them before I started learning Korean (simply because I enjoy them). As a total newbie I didn’t learn any vocabulary from watching them or understand anything at all. I was completely dependent on the translated subtitles and honestly, the dialogue was just background noise.

But last month something changed. It was the first time I watched a drama since finished TTMIK Level 1 and found myself able to pick out some words.

기드리… wait? waiting? waited? He definitely said something about waiting.

Now, this doesn’t sound revolutionary but bear in mind that young children spend years listening to their native language before they start speaking. Gradually all that ‘noise’ they hear turns into words… Sound familiar?

Anyway, back to learning Vietnamese.

Will watching films teach me Vietnamese?

No, watching Vietnamese programmes (with foreign subtitles) as a beginner isn’t going to teach you to speak Vietnamese. But if you pay attention to the dialogue, you can start to pick out familiar words.

Singling out key or familiar words in a sentence is a skill you’ll use all the time when having conversations in Vietnamese. People will say things to you and you’ll miss or not understand half of what they say. Being able to use the words you heard to guess the meaning of the sentence is an vital skill that you’ll use over and over again as you have conversations in Vietnamese.


I watch Korean dramas because I like them. It’s an added benefit that I’m training my ear in a language I’m a beginner in.

However, watching dramas is not an efficient way to learn. If you only have an hour of free time, you’d be better off using that time to watch a Vietnamese lesson on Youtube and then practise what you just learnt.

But… if you’re going to watch a movie anyway, make it a Vietnamese one (occasionally at least). 😉

Over to you: Do you watch any Vietnamese TV shows or films? Do you find it useful listening practice?


Review: Language Master Key

Listening is absolutely crucial for language learners. Being able to understand the person you’re talking to means you can nod in agreement, respond, ask questions… ie. have a conversation and connect with people.

If you want to improve your conversation skills, this is where you should start.

But what’s the best way to practice listening? Is simply watching a YouTube video enough?

The e-book Language Master Key by Ron Gullekson presents a listening-based approach to learning.

Language Master Key

Ron draws on over 10 years of experience when he explains why sound is an essential part of language learning. Not only that, but the book is full of actual techniques you can use to practice the two forms of listening he identifies: free and active listening.

I had a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments when reading the book, but my favourite section is on active listening. While free listening can be great for beginners and high intermediate learners, I think people at the middle levels in particular can really benefit from a more hands-on approach. The chapter sets out, step-by-step, methods that you can start using today.

In truth the guide not only covers why and how you should listen to improve your language skills but also includes tips on vocabulary, speaking and general learning activities. The last chapter encourages you to follow a plan for 21 days.

Normally I don’t have a lot of patience reading on my computer but I zoomed through the first 30 pages without even realising it. The book is that easy to read!

While it used to be free, it’s now available on Amazon at a reasonable price.

Practice listening to authentic Vietnamese

For active listening you need to be able to understand a lot of what you hear. Here are our top suggestions for graded or easy to understand material.

For radio stations and/or materials for free listening practice, head to the Resource List.

Over to you: What role does listening play in language learning? Are you going to download Ron’s e-book?