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?

6 replies on “Should you watch Vietnamese films and TV when you’re a beginner?”

Great advice. I’ve been watching Taiwanese dramas as a supplement to studying Mandarin in other ways. I cannot understand most of what it said, but it’s rather rewarding to pick out the things I do understand. I’ve also learned a few words/expressions when they’re said alone – things like “cheers” and “hey”. I think it definitely helps to occasionally immerse yourself in the language, even if it is just a tv show.

Yes, if you’re not getting much immersion then films and dramas can help to attune your ear. Plus, they’re enjoyable. Glad to hear the Taiwanese dramas are helpful for you!

I’m hoping to find a Southern Vietnamese show I can watch online, hopefully where the episodes aren’t too long or with lots of clips available. Something with lots of modern day situations and everyday language. It’s hard for me to say exactly what my level is but if I’m not already at an intermediate level then I’m getting close.

In Saigon accent, I started watching The Curse of Sapphire on (comes with English subtitles, I got the first couple of episodes transcripted with Vietnamese subs). The episodes were about 40 mins (basically an hour without ads). It wasn’t my thing enough to continue.

Let me know if you find something better!

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