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How to Learn English with TV Shows

There aren’t many skills you can improve just by watching television. But when it comes to learning English, you’re in luck!

TV is a very useful tool for improving your English. Watching TV shows you enjoy is a low-cost and fun way to learn new and relevant vocabulary and build your listening skills.   

Ready to learn how to use TV shows in your English practice? 

Let’s get started!

When to watch 

To learn with TV, the more you watch, the better. So, the answer to when is: whenever (and as much as) you can! 

But if you want to get a little more specific, consider watching before you go to bed, and then again about 12 hours later. There’s evidence that this study technique can help boost your memory—that means you’ll retain vocabulary from the show better.

What to watch

When you’re deciding what kind of show to watch, you should keep a few things in mind.

First of all, the shows you choose should be interesting to you. Obviously, it’ll be easier to stick with your practice if you’re watching a show you like. 

Secondly, you should pick something with a fairly simple, repetitive storyline. A sitcom like Friends is a perfect example of this. Yes, every episode features a different funny situation, but in general, you know that it will always be about six good friends living in New York. 

If you aren’t ready for a sitcom, try a children’s show or a cartoon (something with fairly simple language and a slower pace). You could also watch a game show: It’s a fantastic way to review asking and answering questions. 

Finally, the show you select should have English subtitles available, and it should be something you can watch over and over again. For this reason, live TV isn’t the best pick. Instead, try watching a show on a platform like Netflix, Crave, or YouTube.

How to watch

If you want to get the most out of watching TV, you should have a plan. Sure, you could turn on a random show and just start watching it, but you may never get the results you want—and if you do, it will take a lot longer to learn anything. Instead, try the following technique:

1. Choose an episode of a show you like. If you don’t want to watch a whole episode, a short clip (five minutes or less) is just fine. 

2. Get out a notebook and start watching with no subtitles. Write down any new vocabulary you hear.

3. Watch the episode again without subtitles. Write a description of what’s happening in the scene. You can do this in English or in your language.

4. Watch again, this time with English subtitles. Compare what you read on the screen with what you wrote down.

5. After watching, take some time to search for dictionary definitions of unfamiliar words or phrases. 

And that’s it!

Try television

By adding a little bit of TV to your English practice, you’ll boost your listening skills and learn new words and phrases. So follow the tips above and start watching!

Andrea is a Gabby Academy coach and education technolgy writer based in Vancouver, Canada.