“Ask a Priest: Would It Be OK to Watch Netflix to Learn a Language?”

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Q: Hello from Poland. I have a huge problem with TV series, especially Netflix. I used to have a Netflix subscription, and I watched a lot of TV shows in English, German and Spanish to learn these languages. However, after some time I noticed that there are some serious moral problems with that. I was watching one show and there were lots of sex scenes, so I skipped them but nevertheless had lots of unwanted sexual thoughts. I came into conclusion that TV shows are a near occasion of sin for me and I should completely quit watching them. I went to confession and the priest advised me to quit watching them. When I got home, I deleted my Netflix account permanently. I concluded that by paying the subscription, I am simply supporting evil. Now, I constantly have doubts that my foreign language skills will deteriorate because I don’t watch TV shows anymore. I learned a lot of vocabulary from them, and every handbook on learning languages recommends watching TV shows in order to practice listening and learning vocabulary if one cannot travel to the country where the language is spoken. Learning English, German and Spanish is my passion, and my job is also connected with languages (I am a translator). I wonder, do I use language learning as an excuse for the sin of watching TV shows? While it is important to develop the linguistic talent that God gave me, it is even more important to obey God’s commandments. What should I do? – Katarzyna

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The priority should be to avoid unnecessary near occasions of sin. The learning of languages is a secondary consideration here. You don’t want to endanger your soul to master a language.

You seem to have posed a false dilemma. You seem to think that either you watch these bad TV shows and movies, or else you won’t develop your linguistic skills.

In fact, there might be lots of clean videos on YouTube – complete with captions – that could enable you to study languages.

Catholic Answers has a lot of short, apologetic videos, complete with transcripts, that could help. Also helpful could be the Thomistic Institute’s Aquinas 101 series and any number of talks at Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire site.

And these suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg of the good stuff available online.

I hope some of this helps.

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One Comment
  1. There’s also a host of on line learning of a variety of topics. On line courses MUST INCLUDE learning a second language, or third. And surely there are ‘official continuing education’ classes in your area.

    Here’s one but there’s many… select carefully

    Same with learning English and German.

    SCHOOL teaches PROPER SPEAKING of a language. Watching TV teaches the ‘slang.’ It gives homework assignments and study. Or buy a book and learn on one’s own … reading and writing the ‘self assigned’ work of the book. But an official class is best.

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