Can You Learn English by Watching TV Shows


Is learning a language by watching TV shows possible?

Have you ever thought about how watching TV can be more than just entertainment, especially for those who are learning a new language? If you’re one of the millions of people subscribed to Netflix, Star Movies, Fox Movies, or HBO, chances are you’ve seen your fair share of popular TV shows like Game of Thrones and Friends. You may have been captivated by the sound effects, CGI, and intriguing characters. But, have you ever paid close attention to the dialogues and subtitles? As an aspiring English speaker and writer, focusing on this aspect can help you improve your language skills significantly.

In this post, we’ll explore how watching TV shows can be an excellent way to enhance your English skills and provide you with some practical tips to make the most of your viewing experience. So, let’s dive in and discover if learning a language by watching tv shows is really possible!

Yes, or No? Is Learning a Language by Watching Tv Possible?

can you learn English by watching tv

Believe it or not, the answer is yes. Learning the English language is not only limited to four corners of your classroom. A lot of people gain more English knowledge by watching TV. Why? Because most of the time, students are not interested in the topic that they are discussing. Hence, their attention is directed to something else.

However, by turning your favorite programs into a learning medium, you can instantly improve your linguistic skills. According to experts, the key to effective learning is to keep the interest high as much as possible. Take the children, for example.

Before starting to speak, they are just copying what other people say to them. From that, they can learn their native language. But what if you show them cartoons and animations spoken in the English language? The result will surprise you because they can acquire some essential words.

The point is, if you enjoy what you are studying, you can learn anything no matter how hard it is. So, is learning a language by watching tv shows like Friends? Of course! And the perfect tool for that is no other than your television.

Age Factor in Watching Television

Toddlers nowadays are exposed early to the technological face of the world. First of all, young children are like sponges. They will absorb everything they see and hear, and then they will copy it. Now, imagine them watching educational programs or cartoons on television. Guiding them to watch educational programs is a great opportunity for audiovisual learning that can help them become fluent in English. But be mindful in choosing the programs that the kids can watch. Also, too much television for kids is inadvisable.

The “millennials” or the “Generation Z” have a broad selection of programs that they can watch. Most of them learned English through online games, the internet, and television. Though they are in the process of learning, they often succumb to things to decrease their stress. Such things are watching romance flicks, action movies, or historical series on television. Their acquisition and absorption of the English language through watching television and streams are commendable.

In the same way as younger generations like playing on their smartphones, the older generations like watching TV. One of the main features of getting older is that you can no longer do things you used to do. Or you find those things you used to do no longer catch your interest. Been there, done that is the slogan for aging. Not that much is new to you. You have seen and done a lot.

One thing that offers nonstop entertainment is television. You never get too old or weak or sick for it. And unlike a lot of other activities, watching tv causes no pain. So it remains a popular activity as people age.

TV Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind

They say that the most effective way of learning the English language is by reading books. However, technology is dominating the modern era. And among all the high-tech advancements, the TV stands out as one of the most convenient avenues to pick up different languages.

In 2019, there were 1.7 billion pay television households worldwide. This survey shows how massive the population of TV users is. It is no longer surprising, but it is still mind-blowing. The television proves to be one of the most utilized appliances on the planet today. Because of this, it answers the question entirely. Learning a language by watching TV is a brilliant idea, and there’s no doubt that it’s an effective way to develop language skills.

Top Benefits: Learning a Language by Watching TV

To be more convinced, here are the reasons why you should learn English from your TV. can you learn English by watching tv

1. Be Familiar With Accents

Learning English is hard if you are not familiar with the different accents. They are a specific emphasis on the letter of words that people do while speaking. Accents vary from place to place, so learning them can be pretty tricky.

Yet, with the help of countless TV programs starring different accents, you can learn how to understand and reduce your accent in no time. By watching various shows and movies, you can familiarize yourself with a range of accents, including British, Irish, Italian, Australian, and many more. This will help you improve your accent reduction skills and become more confident in speaking English with different people.

2. Fills Your Curiosity

Have you ever watched your favorite movie series without any subtitles? We’ve been there before. We all know the feeling of being immersed in something. And the result? You can understand what the characters are saying even without the help of title captions. See, you cannot do these things at school because of the lack of interest. But, with hobbies like this, anyone can try hard enough to learn their second language.

3. Improve Listening and Speaking Skills

To understand your favorite celebrities, you must be a good listener. You may become more attentive whenever they are speaking. Sometimes, you even imitate them. By doing this, you wouldn’t know that you are enhancing your English-speaking skills.

4. You Can Pick Anything In Your Interest

The best advantage that you can get from TV programs is you have authority. You can pick whatever movies or series to watch. No one other than you can impose the rules, regulations, and strategy of learning a second language.

Moreover, the best way to learn in front of your TV is to enjoy its content. For example, if you love the romance genre, you can pick them to learn the English language. It is a good thing that there are so many choices out there that use everyday English.

5. Your English Can Become More Natural

Is learning a language by watching TV shows like Friends possible? Well, most programs aired on the screens impose colloquial language. Their scripts are written in a way that the audience will easily understand what the characters are saying. Each dialogue contains words that are used in everyday life communication. That means you are getting firsthand English lessons from the native speakers themselves.

Conservatively learning technical English has its downsides as well. When used by native residents of other countries, it limits your creativity to blend. All you can do is observe how they interact using their mother tongue. With this, not only you can learn their language but their culture too.

Steps in Learning a Language by Watching TV Shows

Now that we’ve established that learning a language by watching TV is possible, let’s now proceed to how you can use this method to expand your vocabulary. So, get comfortable, and let’s explore how watching TV shows can help you with vocabulary expansion.

  1. Prepare a note and a pen. Any ballpen and writing materials will do as long as you can use them. But, if you have a notebook, it is much better. Additionally, you must have an English dictionary with you.
  2. Select your favorite scene from a movie or any series. From that, please do your best to write down the words that you understand in their conversations.
  3. Then, watch this scene again without subtitles and make a paragraph (can be in English or your mother tongue) that explains the situation.
  4. Next, turn on the captions in your native language if possible. Compare and contrast the paragraph that you wrote down to the descriptions.
  5. Afterward, you can now turn on the subtitles and look for words that are new to your knowledge. Do not be afraid to guess their meaning using context clues.
  6. And then, look in the dictionary for the meaning of your listed words. Measure up how close your meanings are to the actual definition in the dictionary.
  7. After knowing the actual definition, use the words in a simple sentence.

The steps mentioned above are just a simple way of acquiring vocabulary in a TV program. It is not as systematic as the one taught at schools, but they are still effective anyway. It is up to you whether you enjoy learning or not.

Techniques to Master English Using TV Programs

can you learn English by watching tv

1. Spaced Repetition Technique

The first technique is rather an odd one and requires a long time. As the name suggests, it is an interval training technique that includes reviewing materials—for example, making flashcards for all the words that you don’t understand and reviewing them at the end of the day. As time goes by, your rest time gets longer.

In simple terms, you must set a day of the week when you will access the materials. After that, give it 2-3 days, depending on you, when you will recall the meanings without the help of the flashcards. This method helps you to retain the definition in your long-term memory.

2. Use Subtitles

Trying your best to understand how Americans speak is a good thing. However, learn to work smarter and use the subtitles instead. There are instances where you know the word itself but not its pronunciation. Without any aid from captions, you will never understand that the word they are speaking is spelled like this.

3. Try Educational Content

Yes, educational programs are also a great way to master your vocabulary. Especially for kids and minors, child-friendly contents are advisable. We all know that there are people who love studying. Fortunately, there are TV series that promote this kind of content. This is more of a reason why you should learn through it.

4. Watch in English as Much as Possible

In many video-sharing platforms like Netflix and YouTube, English subtitles are always available. Whether computer-generated or technically produced, captions allow you to understand the subjects better. It would be the easiest way to learn the language if you will use these options.

5. Discuss it with others

According to American Physicist Richard Feynman, the best way to learn is to teach. Based on his statement, discussing your knowledge with other people will boost your understanding of it. There is no better method than to apply it in real life. Practical applications also impose a real-life experience which is essential.

6. Enjoy it!

Watching TV programs sure is a fun way to learn the English language. But do not stress yourself out. Feel free to stop if you feel you are not enjoying it anymore. It will make you hate studying more because you are forcing yourself. Remember to enjoy and take your time learning in your mood.

Tips On How To Learn English Just By Facing Your Screen

Speak, Speak, Speak

No matter how good your understanding of English is, it is useless if you cannot put it into practice. So, it would help if you practiced yourself to form conversations in English. Moreover, there are specific lessons that you can learn by actually speaking. It is the best method to improve your skills. It also motivates you and boosts your confidence to use a second language.

Widen Your Vocabulary

Knowing how to use a specific word also enhances your speaking ability. However, be mindful not to employ any deep vocabulary as it only hinders your goals. Stay simple as possible and prioritize your message over style.

Take Notes

Always bring a pen and pad while watching movies. In case you encounter some unknown words, pause your TV and jot down a list. Later after the show, discover their technical definitions and use in everyday life. This way, you will not miss any English words and learn more efficiently.

Best Sources of English TV Programs

Now, the question is, where can you find the best TV programs to learn English? The answer is simple. Even if you have access to them now, they are the most convenient and decent source of international-level movies and series. Without further ado, here is the list.

1. Netflix

Many would agree that Netflix is the most popular movie channel today. With under a $10 monthly subscription, any can browse millions of movies and TV series. It also has an application that you can download from the Play Store.

What’s more, is that Netflix has a subtitle feature for more than 13 languages; you can switch to your English and native language anytime. In addition, it lets you watch your favorite TV shows on any device, from cell phones to televisions and more.

2. Cable Television

This option is a little towards the traditional method. Before the arrival of the internet, there were cable boxes and antennas that boost your TV’s signal. As a result, it broadcasts additional channels from many frequencies. Of course, they are a great source of programs too. For the English ones, there are a lot of choices depending on where you are from.

3. YouTube

Last 2005, a powerful media-sharing platform rose from some inventive minds. Together with the internet, this platform allows its users to upload videos of their original content. And yes, it is free. It does not have any monthly subscriptions or fees. You can even earn money from it.

YouTube is described as a versatile application with various video content online. From original to professionally made films, you find almost everything here. But, to watch movies, you have to pay a fair price naturally.

Best TV Shows That Can Help You Learn English

1. Friends

Hailed as one of the best sitcoms out there, Friends is an American TV show with tons of sarcasm. Unfortunately, the series aired its last episode in 2004. But all the episodes from its ten seasons are still available on Netflix. Expect yourself to laugh until your jaw hurts because this show is hilarious in its own right.

2. Grey’s Anatomy

For aspiring medical doctors out there, this is the perfect option for you. This show consists of 17 seasons with episodes that run for 45 minutes each. The plot discusses how stressful a doctor’s job is. It also shows you the struggles between each character to succeed in their career.

This American drama series is rich with medical jargon and terminologies. Although it is difficult to understand, you will learn a lot if you have the determination.

3. 13 Reasons Why

Disclaimer: This tv series is not appropriate for minors and needs parental guidance.

The show 13 Reasons Why’s plot tackles teen suicides. Even though it became controversial, the show does not stop on-trend. Its story revolves around a schoolgirl named Hannah that takes her own life. One day, her friend Clay discovers a box with a recording of the people involved. After that, heavy scenes sprouted one by one at the show and made the storyline intriguing.

4. Stranger Things

Here’s one for sci-fi lovers. Stranger Things is an American horror drama set in the 1980s. It is a tale of a young girl named Eleven, a research subject by some unknown laboratory. Then, she meets a group of boys in an old town. Afterward, some serious creepy events occur in the setting. If you want to know more about the English slang words in the 80s, this is an excellent start for you.

5. Sherlock

From the famous novel of Mr. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, this British TV series earns fame. It is a modern adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. This show runs through a total of four seasons with 90-minute episodes.

For those who do not know, it portrays a genius detective named Sherlock who loves solving crimes. With its main antagonist, James Moriarty, this series showcases actions and plot twists. You will also learn here how to distinguish between American and British English.

Can You Learn English by Watching Friends

“Language teachers say the show is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios that feel familiar even to people who live worlds away from the West Village.”

The sentence written above is from an article written by Mike Ives for The New York Times on May 29, 2021, about an English teacher from Turkey and how the famous show Friends changed her life.

Elif Konus loved binge-watching Friends on a mission to improve her own English. As a testament, she even included a question in one of her lessons about the show. It goes this way: “True or false: In the television show “Friends,” Monica Geller was invited to Rachel Green’s wedding.”

What a fan! Her habit of watching Friends is an international phenomenon that came into existence in the 1990s. It is related to young, non-native English speakers who appear to enjoy learning the language from watching Friends.

Well, it is not a big surprise as the renowned show flaunted numerous awards.

Let’s count them!

  • 62 Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations
  • Six Primetime Emmy Awards
  • Primetime Emmy Award Nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2003
  • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002
  • American Comedy Award
  • GLAAD Media Award
  • Golden Globe Award
  • Three Logie Awards
  • Six People’s Choice Awards
  • Satellite Award
  • Screen Actors Guild Awards
  • #21 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest Shows of All Time
  • 7th on Empire magazine’s The 50 Greatest Shows of All Time
  • Ranked #24 on the Writers Guild of America’s 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time
  • Ranked #28 on TV Guide’s 60 Best TV Series of All Time

At the same time, Friends consistently hit the TV ratings hard in the United States after ten seasons and 236 episodes. What a show!

Let’s take a closer look.

  • (1994-95) – Rank #8
  • (1995-96) – Rank #3
  •  (1996-97) – Rank #4
  • (1997-98) – Rank #4
  • (1998-99) – Rank #2
  • (1999-2000) – Rank #5
  •  (2000-01) – Rank #6
  • (2001-02) – Rank #1
  • (2002-03) – Rank #2
  • (2003-04) – Rank #4

The show never ranked below 10th place, leaving an indelible mark as one of America’s best shows of all time. Furthermore, its fame opened doors for non-English speakers to slowly but surely learn the language.

Friends’ Unprecedented Cultural Impact

There are many things in Friends that even today still exist. If you watched the show, remember how bouncy and square Rachel Greene’s (portrayed by Jennifer Aniston) hair was. “The Rachel” haircut became a worldwide breakthrough as many women in the 1990s started cutting and trimming their hair in such a style.

What about Joey’s “How you doin’?” catchphrase? This slogan is now widespread slang that was popularized by the show. It is so well-known that people often use it as a greeting or even a corny pickup line. Wherever you go, you will hear someone asking you (in Joey’s voice), “How you doin’?”

Moreover, Chandler has a habit of ending a sentence unfinished. It was purely for sarcasm, and it was hilarious! It has influenced the way its viewers talk and throw jokes. Even if it was purely for the spirit of fun, Chandler left an impact on everyone.

In 2012, a poll conducted by Kaplan International English Colleges says that 26 percent of its students claimed that Friends is the best show for helping them boost their English competency. On the same note, prominent figures like Liverpool F.C. manager Jürgen Klopp, RM of BTS, and professional golfer Thomas Pieters of Belgium state that the sitcom carved their English literacy.

On January 01, 2015, Netflix made all Friends episodes available on their platform. This move welcomed the new generation to the awesomeness that the show possessed. On May 27, 2020, Netflix halted streaming the show. Instead, it would air on Warner Media’s renowned video-streaming service, HBO Max.

If you’ve been influenced by FRIENDS, then you’re lucky. Otherwise, you shouldn’t have to worry because there are still lots of different movies, series, and shows that can help you learn the basics up to intermediate English.

A Recap

Watching the television is a waste of time, at least how most people think of it. However, it is a great way to learn English. Most people are visual learners. Hence, the pictures and actions make it easier to comprehend compared to reading books. Additionally, watching TV shows allows us to see the body language and expressions of the characters, which further aids in our understanding. In this post, we have covered the answer to the recurring question, “Is learning a language by watching TV shows possible?” and have discovered that it is not only possible but also an effective and enjoyable way in learning a new language.