The root of successful language learning is undoubtedly motivation. If you are motivated, determined and have a clear aim, success is almost guaranteed.
Like everything, it takes time and lots of practice. Without living in a country full of native speakers it can be really hard to immerse yourself in a language! You have to find something in English that you are deeply interested in! Something that amuses you will also do nicely.
And what do you do if you find textbooks, your weekly homework or newspaper articles a bit boring? After all, the most common use of a language is speaking and listening to people speaking. Here’s the solution: Television Series
3 Ways to Improve Listening Skills in English for Beginners
For most of us watching series on a weekly basis, or in one block is the secret “guilty pleasure” after work or at the weekends. Even better, escaping into different worlds of TV series doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cast away your English studies. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Tips for watching series in English
- Use this opportunity to improve your English speaking and pronunciation!
- If you are not confident enough in your English language skills, watch with the subtitles in English. Note: If you watch with subtitles in your own language you will not learn as much!
- Don’t be scared to rewind and pause the shows. This can be annoying at first, but once you get used to the language you will be able to follow the show much more easily.
- Keep a notebook next to you for any new expressions you hear.
Below is a list of series that have been (or are still) popular recently. Read about them, choose any that interest you and start watching and learning! Note: These shows are recommended for adults!
1. How I Met Your Mother
HIMYM is one of the most successful ongoing sitcoms (situation comedies) not only in the United States, but all around the world.
It is about the life of five friends, Ted (Josh Radnor), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), Robin (Cobie Smulders), Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) that live in New York, focusing on their love life, work and of course their favorite free time activity: sitting in their favorite bar.
Besides that, it is hilarious. You get to know many modern American expressions and can enjoy a lot of slang that makes the show even more entertaining. Plus the ending is something you will not see coming…
2. Game of Thrones
Have you read the trilogy books Game of Thrones? You know, the one that everybody is always talking about. No matter what your answer is; you should really start watching the series if you haven’t already. The plot line is excellent, seven powerful families fight for the mythical land of Westeros.
Drama, conspiracy, love, betrayal and brilliant characters mark the show that involves actors from all around the world. The language is beautiful and easy to understand. Oh, did I mention that you never know what’s going to happen next? This is a must-see!
3. Once Upon a Time
If you like tales or have read many of them when you were younger you are going to love this show. The basic idea is simple but brilliant: what if all the characters that ever took part in the tales we adore were cursed and forced to live in our reality without knowing who they really were?
Who would Snow White be? And what would Little Red Riding Hood’s job be? Would they ever realize who they are and could the curse be broken?
You can find the answers and way much more if you let your imagination run wild into the world of magic and tales. The language is simple and easy to understand, all you have to do is enjoy the stories! Watch out: Magic is coming!
A British masterpiece. Is there any language learner who has not heard of Sherlock Holmes and his friend John Watson?
You might have read the original stories but if you haven’t, don’t worry. It is never too late to start! The writers placed the stories into London in the 21st century, so this is basically a modern version of the original stories.
Here you have everything that an English language learner and series lover could wish for: British accents, superb acting, London, long and playful conversations with a lot of humour and incredible stories.
5. House of Cards
The fantastic Netflix original series has gone from strength to strength in recent episodes. House of Cards was originally created in the UK for BBC television as a mini-series based on the book by Michael Dobbs.
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a member of the Democrats, is ignored for the promotion for which he has waited his whole career. Now he wants revenge and sets up a plan to climb right to the top of Washington D.C. with his wife Claire (Robin Wright).
The series is set in the modern era and it means you will never be able to look at your local politician again! It’s incredibly realistic and definitely makes you think about what really goes on inside those dark and shady rooms…
You’ll be hooked from start to finish. Already three seasons old, the show will be running for some time yet.
This is a great series to practice understanding American accents with a lot of technical business and political vocabulary. You will definitely need the subtitles, but thats okay! After watching this one you will certainly have increased your knowledge of the English language and also enjoyed a fantastic series.
6. Breaking Bad
Now, hold on to your hats for this one. Breaking Bad is easily one of the greatest series of the last few decades, if not the best of all time. Yes, that good.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) becomes fed up with his daily life. The world appears to be completely against him. He is diagnosed with cancer and finds himself desperately short of money as well as reasons to be alive. He wants a better life for his family and he wants to get even with the world.
The life he wants to escape consists of constant ridicule at his job as a teacher which he supplements with a part-time position at a local car wash. Despite this, he is an extremely intelligent chemist, and it’s these skills he uses to escape his misery… AND BECOME A METH COOK!
Yes, really! He teams up with one of his previous students Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and they start to build a meth empire.
They start a fantastic money making exercise along the way and things look great, but it’s not all easy. The pair’s relationship faces many trials and difficulties throughout the program. Walter finds it difficult to balance the life of a drug dealer whilst also maintaining a family and his own professional reputation. As the viewer, you see and experience lots of different emotions.
There are many other fantastic characters in the show that each add something to the story. You’ll grow to love some of them and hate others! This show is great for those looking for chemical vocabulary as well as streetwise slang and expressions. You HAVE to see this one, and apologise in advance for the obsession.
7. The Big Bang Theory
Onto a lighter note, The Big Bang Theory! Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) are two geeks whose life is turned upside down when Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) moves in across the hall. The socially awkward pair are forced to interact with the outside world with hilarious results!
Along with their friends at the local university, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg), they spend their days navigating the complicated social scene including relationship mishaps, not being able to talk to girls and an obsession with comic books.
If you are a self-confessed geek, then this series is definitely for you. It features guest appearances from iconic figures including Stephen Hawking, Stan Lee and Bill Nye plus many more! And even if you consider yourself relatively normal, The Big Bang Theory will always, always, always make you laugh at least once per episode.
For English learners this is perfect, there are lots of different American accents to hear and study as well as an Indian accent from Raj. You also get to see how Raj deals with speaking English as a second language with native speakers!
This is the series that has taken the world by storm and is widely regarded as the Friends of the modern generation. Speaking of which…
Everybody knows Friends and it definitely couldn’t be missed off of this list. It’s also an extremely accessible series and can be found on most streaming sites due to its age. It is still as fantastic as ever and very addictive. It is fantastic and will be watched for many years yet!
With many different accents to be heard and lots of slang, this is the perfect show for English learners. The plot is relatively simple to understand, six friends Ross (David Schwimmer), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Monica (Courteney Cox), Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow).
They all have their own story and battle with tough jobs, complicated relationships and life in the big city. The moral of the show is that they have each other to get through it all, no matter what is thrown at them! In parts of the show there are also British accents to listen to and practice.
The series that goes from strength to strength and great for students or budding lawyers.
The story: Mike Ross, who is a lot more intelligent than he looks, is running from a bad drug deal. He manages to stumble in on a job interview with the famous Harvey Specter and land a job at a law firm. Ross is an extraordinary candidate and appears to know the law inside out from his time at Harvard Law School. One problem – he never actually finished college.
The show follows the pair as they work together whilst also building a friendship. They run into many power struggles and hurdles along the way which is highly entertaining.
This is another one that is stuffed with new technical vocabulary, so keep a notebook by your side whilst watching! Unless you have Mike Ross’ brain that is!
10. The Simpsons
Fun for all the family, and it’s still going despite starting in 1989! You have probably seen The Simpsons in your own language, it’s that popular, but nothing is better than seeing it in English.
In case you have been under a rock for the past 26 years, The Simpsons follows the day to day life of Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie along with their Springfield friends. It’s a comedy and there are so many laugh-out-loud moments that never get old.
This will show you many aspects of American life with the usual slang and jokes that you can use for your own language. It’s also very simple to understand and there aren’t too many difficult words particularly if you use the subtitles.
Another point, as mentioned, most people in the world know The Simpsons and a lot of them enjoy it! This could be a constant conversation starter for moments when you don’t know what to say.
“Hey, remember the Mr Plow song from The Simpsons?” Works every time – most of the time – well, sometimes. Just watch it! You won’t be sorry.
One more thing: You may want to warn the people around you that you will be going into hiding for a while! This is a lot of watching! So, which one will you watch first? Are there any series you like that aren’t mentioned here?
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