A woman learning English by watching Netflix

So, you need to improve your English listening skills, but the idea of spending hours listening to BBC news fills you with horror. Don’t worry, we’ve come up with a great list of shows (in both British and American English) to help you improve your vocabulary and have fun at the same time! These 10 series are amazing TV shows for learning English, and can help you while you are taking an English course at BSC.


Best American TV shows for Learning English


1. Friends

Okay, so this is an obvious one, but you’ve probably watched Friends in your native language. When you start watching it in English, it’ll be much easier to follow because you already know the storyline.

Vocabulary to look out for: “We were on a break”
Meaning: This means to stop doing something for a while. When Ross and Rachel go “on a break”, it means when two people in a relationship are separated for a period of time.


2. Brooklyn 99

Brooklyn 99 is a fun twist on a regular American “cop show.” It’s a light-hearted sitcom made up of short 30-minute episodes and adorable characters. The fast-paced comedy might be a little hard to understand at first, but after series one, you’ll be speaking like a real Brooklynite (person from Brooklyn, NY).

Vocabulary to look out for: “Noice”
Means: ‘Nice’ spoken with emphasis. It refers to something exceeding the limit of nice, i.e. something really, really nice.


3. Stranger Things

You’ve probably heard of the addictive SCI-FI series, Stranger Things, but have you thought about watching in its original English? Yes, some of the kids’ slang words might be a little bit hard to understand, but, in general, children speak a lot slower and clearer than adults, making the series pretty easy to follow.

Vocabulary to look out for: “The Upside Down”
Refers to: ‘Upside down’ means something that is the wrong way – the top is where the bottom is supposed to be. This is the name 0f the parallel universe that is opened in the show.

You can also get started with this awesome guide to Stranger Things slang from Collins Dictionary. 


4. Modern Family

Like with ‘Stranger Things’, the best thing about learning English with Modern Family is that most of the cast are children. With the kids speaking a lot slower and using simpler vocabulary, you’ll find it easy to learn English with this hilarious show. The cast also explains a lot of English phrases to Colombian Gloria (played by Sofia Vergara).

Vocabulary to look out for: “Male cheerleader”
Meaning: Cheerleaders are performers at American Football games who are normally female. The joke in the show is that Phil was a male cheerleader in college.


5. The Good Place

Although the premise for the good place might be a little strange (it takes place in a fictional ‘Good Place’ that represents heaven) the Good Place is one of the best TV shows for learning English. As well as its fairly slow-moving plot, many of the stories are repeated – making it the perfect starting point for someone new to English TV.

Vocabulary to look out for: “Forked up”
Meaning: You can’t swear in the ‘Good Place’, so common bad language is replaced by similar sounding words. 


Best British TV shows for Learning English


1. The Crown

What better way is there to learn ‘the Queen’s English’ than from the Queen herself? The Crown follows the life of Queen Elizabeth from coronation as she deals with the pressures of life in the royal family. Not only will you pick up an incredibly posh (meaning upper-class) British accent, but you’ll also learn lots about the history of the British monarchy.

Vocabulary to look out for: “Sovereign”
Means: A supreme ruler. 


2. Downton Abbey

Much like the Crown, if you find ‘the Queen’s English’ easiest to understand then Downton Abbey is the perfect TV show for you. Despite being set in Yorkshire, all of the characters speak with posh British accents making it easy to follow the show’s plot.

Vocabulary to look out for: “Squiffy”
Meaning: An old-fashioned way of saying slightly drunk. You can also check out these Downton Abbey phrases for advanced learners.


3. Sherlock

Get to know an iconic British literary character in a fun and modern format. Although Benedict Cumberbatch speaks quite quickly, the show is a great example of British Television that you’ll find too captivating to turn off.

Vocabulary to look out for: “Got my eye on”
Meaning: When you have your eye on someone, you are paying close attention to them from a distance because you are interested in what they are doing. For a detective, this would usually be because they are suspicious that the person is going to do something bad.


4. Killing Eve

Killing Eve is an intense and addictive spy-drama that has won multiple awards at both the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. But aside from this, with Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) speaking in a clear, Canadian accent and Jodie Comer speaking slowly with a Belgian twang, it’s also a great show to start improving your English vocabulary.

Vocabulary to look out for: “You should never call a psychopath a psychopath”
Meaning: A psychopath is someone suffering from a mental disorder, but saying this to them would upset them. 


5. The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off is an excellent example of British Television. Twelve amateur bakers compete for the title of Britain’s best baker. There’s drama, competition and a lot of laughs. Not only will you learn a lot about British food, but you’ll also learn a lot about British humour on the way!

Vocabulary to look out for: “Soggy bottom”
Meaning: This is a regular joke on the show with a double meaning. When the bottom of a cake isn’t cooked properly it goes ‘soggy,’ meaning too wet. But a ‘soggy bottom’ also means that your butt (or to use a more British term, ‘bum’!) is wet.



Tips for using TV shows and Netflix to learn English

    1. Choose shows with shorter episodes so that you don’t get too overwhelmed with all the new vocabulary.
    2. Watch the TV shows with English subtitles NOT subtitles in your own language. Reading and listening to English at the same time is the best way to get your brain to absorb new vocabulary.
    3. Try not to pause and look up words you don’t understand, as this will stop you from enjoying the plot. Instead, try and work out the word’s meaning from the show’s context.


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