Your mother probably told you that watching too much television will rot your brain. But watching TV will actually help improve your English! Why? Well, no matter how hard your teachers try to find topics that are of interest to you, they just don’t come off as authentic English. Even when you’re listening to those textbooks or English CD’s, it feels like you’re hearing the same English accent going over the same topic. Not to mention, it can get really boring.
However, watching television can hold your attention while improving your English!
Let’s examine a few different areas where you will see improvements, just by watching English television shows.
There are hundreds of expressions or slang terms you won’t learn about through a dictionary or textbook. In fact, by the time a new word is added into a dictionary or textbook, it’s usually obsolete. Watching recent television shows is a great way to expose yourself to new terms. If there are words you’re familiar with, but you still don’t feel comfortable using, you’ll hear the proper context of the word. Once you hear the context of words, you might have a better understanding of the word and feel more comfortable using it.
For the most part, you’ll hear how words should be pronounced. But you’ll also hear how English speakers actually talk. We tend to be pretty lazy, so we try to say as much as we can in as little time. This includes using contractions (can’t, don’t, didn’t) and time-savers (gimme, walkin’, watchya doin’?)
- Listening Comprehension
The more you expose yourself to English accents, the more you’ll understand. It may not happen overnight, but you’ll soon find yourself understanding what English speakers are saying, how they’re saying it and what it really means. A great way to start is through television.
So what kind of television shows should you watch? Well, it’s not as easy as turning the TV on. Depending on where you live, and what kind of English you’re learning, you may want to stick to one English language show. For example, even though it’s the same language, British English is very different from American English. If you’re used to British English and then start watching American TV shows, you may find yourself very confused. So unless you feel your English is advanced enough, try to stick to one kind of English.
Here are some television show recommendations:
Property Brothers (2011-)
Property Brothers is a reality television program in which twin brothers help couples to find properties and fix them into a dream house. This show, or really any home improvement show, can help with vocabulary. They use informal, everyday vocabulary while they explain how they’ve decorated their home, or placed their furniture. They will usually point the camera to the object they’re talking about as well, so you will understand exactly what they’re talking about.
The View (1997-)
The View is a talk-show television program in which a panel of women discuss various topics like politics, news stories, fashion, beauty and relationships. You may not enjoy the show, or agree with their viewpoints, but it definitely helps with exposure to dialogue. The panel of women are in a constant dialogue, covering many different topics. You will hear different clear English accents, and it will help improve your vocabulary.
Modern Family (2009-)
Modern Family is a fake documentary-style television program that makes funny observations about family life. This show will definitely help you understand American family culture. It will also expose you to common American humor, and new slang terms/common expressions.
Although it’s not on the air anymore, this television program follows around 6 friends as they live in New York City. This is a great show to watch because it’s full of dialogue, and relatively easy English. There are also a couple of episodes that talk about vocabulary and pronunciation. Don’t worry – it’s a lot funnier than it sounds.
These are only a few examples, but there are hundreds of television shows to choose from. If you want to pick a show to help improve your English, choose television shows that are based in this century. Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones may be more enticing for you to watch, but the language isn’t always the easiest to understand. And shows like Suits, Grey’s Anatomy or Scrubs involve jargon specially related to their profession. This may not be the best shows for you to start off watching.
Just remember that you can take your time watching your TV show – feel free to pause, rewind and watch parts of the show again. Have a notebook handy and jot down new words or phrases you don’t recognize. And if you feel like you need to, don’t feel bad about using subtitles. Just don’t let it distract you from the show. In time, you’ll realize that you won’t even need subtitles!