Your students may have heard stories of celebrities like actress Mila Kunis learning English just from watching TV shows. And although it’s not the norm to learn a language from subtitles alone, when you’re already learning English, watching a TV series can help you soak up everything from the newest slang to an authentic-sounding accent. Here are my picks for the ten best lighthearted TV shows to learn English with.
A little piece of us all died when Friends ended in 2004 after 10 years on the air. It’s perhaps the best-known American sitcom in the world and rightfully so – it’s a mix of sarcasm, deadpan humour, and lessons of what NOT to do in relationships and friendships.
Your students will love learning: “Oh. My. Gooooooooood!”
2. Game of Thrones
Even if they’re not fans of fantasy, medieval battles, or dragons, your class still need to watch this. The show literally has everything good entertainment requires: sword fights, zombies, love stories, monsters, and posh British accents. So, so much to love!
Your students will love learning: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
3. Keeping up with the Kardashians
The family everyone loves to laugh at (and not always because they’re being funny) also happens to be one of the best sources of learning modern English slang – when we’re not trying to figure out why they’re buying another new car or handbag, obviously.
Your students will love learning: “Like, literally.”
4. Sex and the City
Anyone who’s ever wanted to live in New York needs to watch this romantic comedy series about four female friends and the absurd situations they find themselves in (usually hilarious, sometimes sad). As a bonus, your students will know where the good brunch places are in Manhattan – which is important for any future study trips to the U.S.!
Your students will love learning: “I couldn’t help wondering to myself…”
This sweetly funny show set in rural Tasmania follows self-questioning Daniel and confident Emma, best friends (played by real life best friends) who have found themselves in the town of Rosehaven and have to navigate the oddities of rural life, never-ending quirks of the local community, and intense mood of Daniel’s formidable mother.
Your students will love learning: “It’s very complicated and I’m a genius.”
Sherlock Holmes became cool again when this British series started in 2010. It helps that lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch is now super-famous around the world too. It’s a very useful watch if you’re thinking about becoming a novelist or genius secret detective.
Your students will love learning: “Everybody shut up!”
7. The Simpsons
Nothing really beats The Simpsons for casual, fun viewing. The language is uncomplicated and relatable, even if you don’t get some of the in-jokes (don’t worry, sometimes I don’t get them either). It’s also 28 years old, so your learners will literally never run out of episodes to watch. Score.
Your students will love learning: “Doh!”
8. Home and Away
This Australian soap has everything your learners imagine a Sydney beach town would: sun, sea, sand, surfing, and impossibly good-looking people. Once they’ve finished wishing they lived at Summer Bay, your class will learn some key Aussie slang, too.
Your students will love learning: “How’re ya going?”
9. Summer Heights High
Australian comedian Chris Lilley made this cult hit show where he plays a host of different characters ranging from the hilariously fabulous drama teacher Mr G to spoiled schoolgirl Ja’mie and rebellious pacific-islander Jonah. It makes me wish my schooldays were funnier, and not just because I constantly embarrassed myself.
Your students will love learning: “Welcome to the magical world of drama!”
10. Shortland Street
Want to improve your New Zealand accent? Try this long-running hospital soap opera set in Auckland. The characters are a diverse bunch that include Maori actors as well as some famous faces who have made it big in Hollywood. Your students wil end up impressing their friends with their medical knowledge, even though I’m sure it’s only slightly more complicated in real life than on TV.
Your students will love learning: “You’re not in Guatemala now, Dr. Ropata!”