Language learning: Why Harry Potter works for so many

Chris Eubanks
3 min readAug 29, 2023
A collection of my Harry Potter books in Finnish and Russian

So many language learners swear by Harry Potter, yet there’s little information on why it works so well or how to get started.

You’ll forget you’re studying, because you’re in a magical world

This is probably the biggest takeaway from language studying. You need to choose materials that you’re genuinely interested in. When I’m listening to Harry’s frequent trips to Hogsmeade in the Prisoner of Azkaban, I feel like I’m actually in a snow-covered magical village and completely forget I’m studying Finnish. If studying a language feels like work, you will treat it like work and dread your study time. I find Harry Potter to be an intricate story with themes that persist into the muggle world, such as perseverance in seemingly dark times.

It’s easy to follow, because you already know the story

The advantage of a familiar story is huge when inferring new vocabulary. Even simple pairs of words or compound words help you learn. For example, Hagrid’s Hut in Finnish is Hagridin mökki, but you already know that mökki means hut without even looking it up. Or for Kielletty metsä (forbidden forest), just the association of these two word makes it so much easier to learn them.

It has translations in almost every major language

It’s very easy to find audiobooks in any language, but to find a translation back into your native language is the real challenge. Intermediate to advanced learners could get by with no translations at all. But an absolute beginner needs to start with English to build vocabulary. Harry Potter is available in 85 languages, always with a reference copy in English. Many languages will have an accompanying audiobook, which is critical for listening immersion.

Vivid descriptions of family and ancestral relationships

Any language learner will love how deep some of these family trees go in the magical world. Every character has a complex and rich back story that made them who they are today. These magical relationships apply to the Muggle world, because people often talk about their family history.

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Chris Eubanks

Language learner. Rapidly learning the Finnish language. Follow me for specific knowledge that can't be found anywhere else on the Internet.