Learning through films is a powerful method as it involves images, sounds, and emotions. The visual content is engaging and helps comprehension. The audio content will help you develop a general sense of the language sounds and improve your pronunciation. The Russian language, unlike other languages, has a very wide range of sound frequencies which start from 100Hz and go up to 12000Hz. If you want to reproduce all those unfamiliar sounds correctly, you need to listen a lot to the language and train your ear. Films are great in this respect as they will introduce you to tons of real life dialogues. With regard to emotions, research in neuroscience has shown that information that is tagged with strong emotional value is more easily recalled from our memory. Films are extremely effective in evoking emotions i.e. happiness for a couple in love, admiration for the main actor, empathy for a poor man, anger for the atrocities of war etc. Finally, films will help you immerse into the culture, history, and mentality of the Russian people.
But how can we watch a film in a ‘learning mode’? The setup that has worked in my case is three windows opened on the screen: actual film with English subtitles, transcript in Russian and a Google Translate window like below:
I suggest that you watch the film trying to understand as much as possible without looking at the subtitles. When you have an unknown word, press pause and look at both translation and transcript. You can find the transcript of many Russian films on Vvord or here. The Google Translator is very useful for different reasons. First, you can confirm that you match correctly the translation with the corresponding word of the transcript. Second, you can easily copy and paste from the Transcript and play back a phrase or word as many times as you want. Third, it points you to the initial form of a noun or verb which you can then investigate more. On the picture above, ‘квартиру’ is the accusative form of the noun ‘квартира’ (apartment). Finally, you can record your voice if you want to practise your pronunciation.
I understand that it would be tiring, or even impossible, to translate every single unknown word. Hence, feel free to skip through so your learning has a flow and you feel happy. Remember that learning is effective only if you are in a state of happiness and calmness. In the beginning, just focus on the unknown words that you manage to guess, or the ones you find interesting. You can always watch the film again and pick up more words.
Below, you can find the links to some popular Russian films which you can watch using the above method. If the link directs you to a subtitle file (.srt file), you just need to open the file with an editor like Notepad (Windows users) or TextEdit (Mac users). Make sure you choose ‘Cyrillic Wndows’ encoding either you are a Windows or a Mac user. Enjoy!!