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How to learn and improve any language by watching TV series

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Watching your favourite TV series or shows in your target language can be a great and fun way to learn and improve a range of your language skills - from vocabulary and speaking to listening and grammar. The big advantage is that this way you can listen to how the actual native speakers use the language, and notice many significant patterns. However, it's important to use the right approaches to make the most out of your watching experience. We have gathered some useful tips from several language learning and linguistics YouTube channels like Bob the Canadian and ETJ English:

Watch a trailer for a new TV series first

If you want to get into a new TV series and watch it in the language you are learning or improving, you need to familarise yourself with it first. Like with learning the language through stories, the essential thing is to get the main plot right, understand where a narrative takes place and who the main characters are, without getting into too much details. Watching a trailer will help you to establish all of these important things from the get-go.

You can also read the plot summary and the description of an episode you are about to watch on websites like Wikipedia to get the major plot points, characters, and conflicts.

Learn some genre-related vocabulary

Before watching a particular TV series, you can prepare by learning some key words and phrases that you need to know to better understand what's going on in this particular type of story. For example, if you're planning to watch a detective series you can learn words like 'deduction', 'forensic', and 'sleuth.' You can also write down and research key words you encountered after you've watched s particular scene or a whole episode.

Watch the first episode in your own mother tongue

TV streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have subtitles in different languages. You can also use tools such as Language Reactor to watch your TV series with subtitles in two languages simultaneously. Doing this for the first time will help you to make sure that the main elements of the plot are clear.

Rewatch is learning

However, in order to progress with your language learning, you will need to rewatch the same episode without the subtitles. And the more you rewatch this episode the better (you can do it as many times as you can if possible!). As a YouTube language enthusiast DFNS points out, repetition leads to noticing more and more meaningful things and gradually increasing your comprehension, until whole phrases from the episode stick in your memory.

While you're rewatching the episode, be more intentional and try to dig deeper into the particular scenes you liked. Pay attention to the details (like new interesting phrases and grammar) and take notes as you go along or repeat after the speakers to nail down the pronunciation. And, of course, don't forget to review your notes afterwards!

Some great Brtitish TV series to learn and improve English:

Doctor Who


Black Mirror

The Crown


Have you ever used this tip before? What level of English do you currently have? Take our free online assessment of your English level here and check out our English as a Second Language courses here.

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