How to Improve Your English Using TV Shows and Movies (The Best Podcast for Learning English - Ep. 2)
There are lots of podcasts for English students, but most of them are just recordings of classes. I wanted to create a podcast that would really help English students to improve their listening skills and pronunciation. The Ivy League English podcast gives you the opportunity to listen to real English from real native speakers. If you have questions or comments, click "Comments" at the bottom of the page.
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Vocabulary from this episode:
Expressions from this episode:
Today we’re going to talk about a great way to improve your listening skills in English. Lots of students enjoy watching TV shows and movies in English because they’re fun and entertaining. But this is also a great way to practice understanding native speakers. Let’s be honest, native speakers can be really hard to understand. Sometimes we speak quickly. Sometimes we mumble. That means we don’t speak clearly. Here’s what mumbling sounds like: (example). Did you understand that? Yeah, that’s mumbling. Plus, native speakers use so many expressions and slang words. You need to practice listening to native speakers a lot if you want to be able to understand them easily.
When you watch TV shows in English, you’ll hear common words, phrases and expressions that native speakers use when they talk about everyday things like work, family and their personal lives. You’ll also hear references to American culture, so you can learn a lot about that from these shows too. As a matter of fact, most of my students who take private classes with me watch TV shows as part of their homework every week. But here’s a common mistake that a lot of students make. They choose the wrong show. So today, I’m going to talk about how to choose a show and which show my students have enjoyed the most. After that, I’ll give you some tips on how to really learn from watching TV shows.
First, I want to talk about some of the common things that students watch. Ted Talks videos are very popular. There are tons of videos available on YouTube and Ted Talks can be great practice. You can learn vocabulary and expressions from these videos, but you need to remember a few things. First, a Ted Talks video is usually a speech or a lecture. One person talks for the entire video. And the way people talk when they’re giving a speech is not the same as the way people talk when they’re having a conversation. Second, the thing that a lot of students need to practice as they get more advanced is understanding conversations where more than one person is talking to them. A lot of students need to improve this skill, especially if they work in a place where meetings are held in English. When you’re trying to listen to more than one person, things can get really confusing. And listening to speeches and lectures, won’t really help you to improve that skill.
Another popular show is The Big Bang Theory. I’ll be honest. I’m not sure why people think this is a great show for English students. Most of the main characters in this TV show are nerds. They’re very smart and they talk a lot about science and math. So, the way these characters speak is sometimes very complicated. They use advanced vocabulary that isn’t important for English students to learn and that can make the show more confusing. These characters also don’t have the best social skills, so the way they talk is not the best example of the English language, unless you want to sound like a nerd. So, yes, the show is funny, but it may not be the best show to use if you want to hear how most native speakers talk. The truth is most people don’t talk like the characters on the Big Bang Theory.
Game of Thrones is another show that’s popular with students, but again, native speakers don’t talk the way the people on this show talk. The accents and the vocabulary are different. So, watch it for fun if you want, but it’s not the best example of how people in the U.S. speak.
The last show I’ll mention is Friends. I think every English student that I’ve ever talked to about TV shows has mentioned Friends. So, here’s my advice on that show. You need to remember that it’s an old show. It’s about 20 years old. Of course, the English language hasn’t changed that much in 20 years, but there are some things that are different. The most common slang words today, for example, are different from what they were 20 years ago. Also, the references to American culture that you’ll hear are kind of old. Honestly, this is my biggest problem with a show like this. Watching TV shows is a great way to learn more about American culture, but culture changes over time. I always prefer that my students watch something modern that will introduce them to today’s slang and culture. I think that those shows are more useful and a better resource for students.
If you want to watch videos or TV shows that only have one speaker, are a bit complicated or are more than 10 years old, that’s ok. They’re still good listening practice, but you need to remember the things that I mentioned earlier. Now, I’m going to tell you about one of my students’ favorite TV shows and if you have access to Netflix or Amazon Prime video, it should be really easy to find. If you don’t have either of those, you can probably find this show online somewhere else, so look around. Maybe some of you know a great website for watching English TV shows. If you do, please share the link in the comments. I’d love to share it with other students.
Ok, I have two students, Steve and Jacky...If you’re listening, hey guys! Ok, I have two students who love this show. It’s called The Good Place. This show is about a woman named Eleanor who dies and goes to heaven, but she wasn’t supposed to go to heaven. She was supposed to go to hell. So she’s in a place where she doesn’t belong. Only one person knows and she needs to make sure that no one else finds out. She doesn’t want to let the cat out of the bag. Do you guys know that expression? Let the cat out of the bag means you tell a secret or you reveal a secret. So Eleanor has to work hard to keep this secret, but of course, lots of hilarious..That means really funny. Lots of hilarious things happen. The great things about this show are that it’s current (it’s only about 4 or 5 years old), there are lots of group conversations and the language isn’t too complicated. Also, even though the show happens in a strange place, there are still lots of everyday conversations. People fall in love, get in trouble, ask for help, things like that. So give this one a try.
The next show is one you should try if The Good Place is a little too advanced for you. This TV show is a cartoon, but it’s not too silly. It’s actually based on a really old computer game that I used to play when I was about 10 years old. The show’s called Carmen Sandiego and it’s about a young woman named Carmen, who grew up in a school for professional thieves. She learned how to steal things when she was a kid. As she gets older, she realizes that the people she grew up with are breaking the law, so she decides to use her skills to stop them. This show is great for a lot of reasons. First of all, it’s less than a year old, so the language is very modern or current. Since it’s a cartoon, the vocabulary and story are also simpler than what you’ll hear in adult shows. Finally, a lot of the shows that you’ll hear people suggest for English students are comedies. If you’re looking for something different, this show has plenty of action that you might enjoy.
Now, let me give you a few tips for watching TV shows in English. The first thing you should do is watch the show without any subtitles and see how much you can understand. Then watch the show as many times as you want with English subtitles only. Don’t use subtitles in your native language. That won’t help you very much. When you watch the show with the subtitles, you should try to read the words on the screen as you hear them. This will help you to learn how native speakers pronounce words when they’re part of a sentence. This is a good way to train your ears so that you can understand connected speech. This is how you can practice understanding real English from real native speakers.
Here’s another suggestion: The first time that you watch the show with subtitles, you should take notes on any words or phrases that you don’t understand. At the end, look up the words and phrases that you think are the most important for you to learn in order to understand the show. Then when you watch it again with subtitles, look at your notes so that you remember what these new words and phrases mean. This will definitely help you to understand more of the show. Over the next few days and weeks, make sure that you review the vocabulary that you learned. You need to look at it again and again so that you remember what the words mean and how they were used in the show. If you can remember what was happening when the word was used, it will be a lot easier to remember the word weeks and even months after you learned it.
Here’s one last tip for you: If you have to look up more than 20 words to understand a TV show, it’s too hard for you. Pick something easier.
Alright everyone. I’ve given you plenty of things to work on. Now, it’s time for you to go pick a show and get started. If you have questions about anything that I talked about today, make sure you leave a comment so that I can help you. Also, don’t forget to answer the question that I asked earlier:
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