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Who doesn’t love a good movie? Polish language movies and YouTube are great sources of learning material for the aspiring Polish speaker. Watching movies is an extremely fun way to pick up real-life vocabulary. You might even forget that you’re learning! Should you watch movies with subtitles? To you, the answer may be obvious. However, what I’m going to tell you later in this blog post may surprise you!
In this post, I’ll be discussing where you can find Polish movies to watch. I’ll also discuss in which circumstances you should use subtitles (and in what language). By the end, you’ll know how to understand an entire Polish movie without subtitles, admittedly with some preparation.
I can’t watch any Polish movies online – what should I do?
Have you suddenly realised that you can’t access Polish Netflix? Are certain videos blocked in your country? Is the dodgy looking website offering “free Polish movies” now asking for your bank account details? Do not fear! There are alternatives. For example, did you know that there are more than 1,600 Polish language movies on Amazon?
If you’re trying to watch a video online that is blocked in your country, you can quite easily fake your IP address to appear in Poland. I use Virtual Private Network software called SurfEasy VPN. It’s super simple to use – I just click down on the arrow of flags, select Poland and then click Connect. You do have to pay to use it, but it’s really not expensive. A word of warning though – because I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t realise that I was paying for a whole year’s service in advance.
I’ve since found a much faster VPN called IPVanish, but I can’t really justify buying that one too while my SurfEasy subscription is still active. Anyway, you’re probably not supposed to use VPN software for this purpose, but it does mean you can watch catch up TV on TVN Player which is quite possibly the most fun way to learn Polish ever. Think “Polish Netflix”, but for free. Since it’s all in Polish, even the commercial breaks are educational!
Don’t worry – if you’re poor (or tight) like me, there’s one place you can head to where you can watch thousands of Polish language videos and films for FREE…
YouTube – learn Polish in context
That’s right – good ol’ YouTube is full of Polish videos and films. That is, if you know where to look. Thanks to lesser known tools like YouTube’s Trending section (www.howtospeakpolish.com/trendingvideos), you can even see exactly which new videos Polish people are watching right now.
Watching Polish YouTube videos allows you to get a glimpse into Polish culture as well as enjoy videos on your favourite topics. By watching them, you can simultaneously acquire specific vocabulary to talk about the things that interest you the most. Does it get any better than that?
Gain instant access to Polish culture
Try it now: Head to YouTube’s Trending section, pick a video that you like and watch it. By listening carefully, you’ll hear topics and terms which you can use in language exchanges – all by simply watching TV. Polish YouTube videos don’t just provide an insight into Polish culture and interests. The videos are also packed full of real world vocabulary in context for you to add to your Anki deck.
Find videos that you know you’ll enjoy
If you can’t see a video that you like the look of amongst the top trending videos, head to the YouTube search bar instead. Search (in Polish) for a topic which interests you. For example, searching for “gotowanie” (which means “cooking”) will bring up lots of Polish videos about cooking. This is a guaranteed way to find interesting videos and discover specific vocabulary that relates to your particular interests.
If you’re not sure how to translate a topic that you’re interested in into Polish, just use your favourite online translator or ask a native speaker.
You’d be amazed what you can find on YouTube. In my attempt to see just how obscure the videos are, I found a history of calligraphy told in the style of hip hop…
…I found another video about how to clean car headlights using toothpaste…
…and there was an even a video giving facts about farting:
So, no matter what you’re interested in – even farts – YouTube probably has it. You just have to look hard enough.
You can even find whole films on there. Just search for “cały film”.
Should I watch movies with subtitles? If so, in which language?!
Across the internet, you’ll hear conflicting views about whether you should watch films with or without subtitles. Some argue that doing one as opposed to the other is harmful to your learning. Even those who say that you should watch films with subtitles don’t always agree which language the subtitles should be in.
Rather than sit on the fence, here’s my stance. If you absolutely, positively need to use subtitles, use them – but only if they’re in Polish. My entire method is based around receiving as much comprehensible input as possible. That means understanding the vast majority of what you’re hearing or reading. This makes the choice of whether to use subtitles or not very easy. Can you understand what people are saying without subtitles? If not, turn them on.
So why only Polish subtitles and not English? This is simple. Are you more likely to learn to speak Polish by reading English subtitles or Polish ones? The answer is obvious. So, use Polish subtitles until you don’t need to use subtitles at all. Listening and reading at the same time is one of the best ways to improve your comprehension.
The counterargument debunked
There is a counterargument that watching a Polish film with English subtitles would make everything comprehensible. However, until you have the ability to understand spoken Polish, you’d probably learn more by doing things the other way around. That’s right – try adding Polish subtitles to an English language film. You don’t even have to be watching a Polish language film to learn Polish! Try it out on a TED talk now.
The pros and cons of using subtitles
Always aim to use Polish subtitles wherever possible. The great thing about having Polish subtitles is that you can look up any words that you don’t know. When you have Polish subtitles, it’s as easy as watching the video and writing down some of the words that you don’t understand on a piece of paper. You can always pause the video (or slow it down to half speed) if they’re talking too quickly. Then later you can look up what those words mean and add some example sentences to Anki. If you want, you can even add the exact sentence that you heard in the video.
In fact, if the video has subtitles on it, you can get a full transcript at the click of a button. Click on the “More” button beneath the video and then click on “Transcript”. Because it’s interactive, you can click on the sentences and the video will jump to the point where the sentence is being said. Alternatively, you can copy and paste sentences from the transcript straight into Anki or Google Translate. There are many options available to you. After years of being used as a storage place for videos of cats, who knew that YouTube would become so useful for learning languages?
If you were looking for a catch, here it is – subtitles are a double-edged sword. Although they can aid comprehension, they don’t always match what the people are saying and they can also be distracting. Fortunately, this distracting quality can be used for good, as you’ll learn words throughout the movie as your eyes naturally drift towards them.
How to find Polish videos with subtitles on YouTube
First, you’ll need to search YouTube (in Polish) for a topic that interests you. By clicking on “Filters”, you can filter your search results to only videos with subtitles. Just click on “Subtitles/CC” under “Features” and make sure to click on the “CC” button on the play bar when you’re actually watching the video.
However, due to the unique way that YouTube works, finding a video with subtitles via this method doesn’t necessarily mean that both the video and the subtitles will be in Polish. This is actually a good thing. Should you find yourself presented with a Polish video with English subtitles (or even better, an English video with Polish subtitles), watch it anyway. You’ll benefit from the comprehensible input. While you won’t learn very much Polish from watching a Polish video with English subtitles, it’s better than not watching a Polish video at all.
Subscribe so that you never miss out on a new video
Once you’ve found a few good Polish YouTube channels with some interesting content, why not subscribe? The channel will update you any time it posts something else which may interest you. Over time, you’ll end up building your own personalised Polish Netflix for free!
Which Polish YouTube channels do you recommend?
Most of the Polish YouTube videos that I watch tend to be music videos. However, if there’s one Polish language YouTube channel that I have to recommend, it’s “5 Sposobów na...” Five guys take completely ordinary objects and show you five cool things that you can do with them. Prepare to be amazed – we’re talking “towing a car with a rope made of plastic bags” crazy. They’ve got hundreds of videos and are definitely worth a watch, although I don’t think many of their videos have subtitles. If you watch a Polish video without subtitles, listen carefully and see which words you can understand.
If you have a recommendation for something Polish that I should watch, leave it in the comments below. Give me a brief summary of what I can expect. When I get a chance, I’ll check it out!
If you want to watch Polish films…
I don’t know if it’s just me, but pretty much all of the Polish films that I’ve seen so far were a bit weird. I assume I’ve just been unlucky. Fortunately for you, I don’t need to recommend you any Polish films, because there are already websites that do that for you.
IMDb, the international movie database, really is international. On the website, you’ll find plots, trailers and details of thousands of Polish films. Here’s how to find a movie that you’ll like.
Using IMDb to find films
IMDb is an incredible resource to help you work out which Polish language movies to watch. Head to IMDb: Polish and you’ll be presented with an array of options for your viewing pleasure. You can sort by year to find the most recent releases. Next, you can refine your search by genre. Alternatively, use the user rating system to find films you’re likely to enjoy watching over and over again. Anything with a rating over 6.5 is almost certainly worth watching.
If you can’t see the original title, click on the English film title where it will take you to a page containing this information. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, head to a site like Empik to buy the DVD or Blu-ray. First, make sure that your DVD or Blu-ray player supports Region 2 discs! Alternatively, head to a site like CDA.pl where you can stream a variety of films online.
If you don’t live in Poland and don’t want the hassle of importing films from there, Amazon has a wide selection of hundreds of Polish language films for you to enjoy.
How to understand an entire Polish movie without subtitles
By looking at subtitles, you improve your reading skills while neglecting a perfect opportunity to work on your listening. Instead of watching the film with subtitles, you could download the subtitle files for the film in Polish. After opening the subtitles file in a text editor like Notepad++, you can select the Central European Windows-1250 character encoding (so that you can see all of the Polish letters) and then add the sentences to Anki. I’ve detailed the steps on how to add sentences to Anki in my method. Once you’ve memorised the cards, you’ll understand the whole film without any aids at all!
Which Polish films have you seen?
A lot of the Polish films that I’ve seen were quite odd – ‘Sztuczki‘, ‘Ogród Luizy‘ and ‘Pod Mocnym Aniołem‘ to name a few. Which Polish films have you seen? Leave me a few recommendations in the comments below.