Top 10 Disney Movies for English Language Learners
Learning a new language, whether it’s for school, business, or pleasure, is always challenging, and English grammar doesn’t do a student any favors. If you find yourself struggling to wrap your head around your English studies, consider using movies to approach your learning journey from a new perspective.
Why Use Movies to Learn English?
Movies, much like video games, combine visual and auditory tactics in an immersive experience that is significantly different from a traditional classroom setting. Disney movies, in particular, are often excellent candidates for English learners to watch, as their often-included musical elements can help reinforce the language being learned.
In addition, the repetitive structure of the storytelling component of most Disney movies, along with the often globally relatable content they include enables viewers of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and ethnicities to get in on the experience.
10 Disney Films to Help You Learn English
Below are 10 of the best Disney movies to consider adding to your collection. Each of these can uniquely help you master the English language as you settle into your new English speaking home, communicate with English speaking friends, or prepare for your next business trip to an English speaking nation.
If you’re going to watch an English speaking Disney cartoon, it’s best to look for those with real humans. Along with the human factor, if you look for modern films, they’ll be more likely to have higher quality audio that will make it easier to hear inflections and the nuances in various pronunciations. Tangled is a great starting point for this. The variety of musical numbers that it includes along with its European setting make it a great English learning candidate.
The 90s cartoon classic Pocahontas is great for English learners, as it once again has many classic songs that are easy to sing along to. In addition, while the plot is fictional in nature, it also helps to highlight the struggle between indigenous Americans and the Europeans that colonized their homes, thus shedding a little light onto the backstory of one of the most predominant English speaking countries in the world: the United States.
Another film that focuses on indigenous peoples — though in a completely different time and place — Moana is another music-infused film that can help anyone hailing from the Pacific feel at home in their English learning adventures. The film is set across a very broad geographic region of Polynesia that includes Hawaii, Tonga, and Tahiti, thus drawing the massive net of historical island cultures into a story spoken in English.
Lilo and Stitch
While the story of Moana plays out 3000 years ago, Lilo and Stitch is another classic Disney cartoon staple that also involves Hawaii, though this time it takes place in more recent history. The film follows orphaned sisters who adopt a dog that ends up being an exiled alien. Along with its focus on the indigenous Hawaiin population, it also follows the story of a misplaced alien, providing an emotional through-line that many immigrant English learners can relate to.
Beauty and the Beast (Live-action)
While the original cartoon is excellent, the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is both well-made and provides viewers with a clear image of the characters’ mouths and lips moving along with their words as they talk and sing.
Another story of a pair of characters “out of their element,” Tarzan is a fun cartoon that follows the story of a boy raised in the jungle and the woman who finds him and reminds him of his humanity. The give and take that occurs throughout the film — as Tarzan regains his humanity and Jane learns to let go of a bit of her own — is a great representation of how a fish-out-of-water must learn to acclimate to and adopt the customs of their new home while simultaneously remembering who they are and where they come from.
My Favorite Martian
Shifting away from the Disney cartoon classics, another film from the House of Mouse that is worth bringing out of the vault is My Favorite Martian. The live-action 90s film follows a Martian that struggles to acclimate to life amongst humans. While it can serve as a great connection for those adjusting to a new culture, it also helps to remind viewers that, at the end of the day, we’re all humans to the rest of the universe, regardless of our primary language.
The modern Disney cartoon Inside Out follows the emotional inner turmoil of a young girl as she moves across the country to a new home. While her relocation isn’t international and she doesn’t have to learn a new language, the film still highlights the emotional struggles that can come with having to start life all over again in a new place.
Avengers: Infinity War
Along with the cartoons and comedies, any English language learner can benefit from watching any of Disney’s Marvel properties. The compelling stories and crystal clear images of characters speaking in English provides an excellent learning opportunity. Out of all of the films, Avengers: Infinity War is a great one to include in the list, as it takes place on an international and even interplanetary level that brings all of humanity together against one common intergalactic foe.
Avengers: End Game
Of course, if one watches Avengers: Infinity War, one should follow it up with the second part of the story in Avengers: End Game. This film caps the Infinity Saga (the first 23 Marvel films) and provides important closure to the first film of the two-part story. This provides a chance for English learners to complete the partially finished narrative all while deciphering what the characters are saying to each other in English.
Mastering English — the Fun Way
Whether you’re trying to polish your English as you prepare to spend a semester studying abroad or you’re simply picking up a new language as a hobby, watching Disney movies to learn English is a great way to help you overcome any linguistic learning challenges.
Even the exploding community of minority business owners can benefit from this strategy. Minority entrepreneurs can often find financial success in English speaking countries well before they acclimate to the language of their new home, which makes movies a perfect way to boost their language credentials in order to interact with their customers and professional connections.