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Can watching TV help you learn English?

Some teachers recommend watching TV shows as an instructional aid for students wishing to take their English to the next level. My favourite TV show are dramas and comedies such as Six Feet Under and Peep Show. I have used a lot of authentic materials in the classroom but I have never used TV shows to teach English. Is your teacher right? Will TV shows help improve your English?


Well, it depends on what kind of TV show you choose to watch and learn from. Scripted TV shows usually have spoken dialogue at a speed and rhythm that is ’natural’ for the actors. But speaking style can vary between regions, with American TV shows certainly falling on the slower end of the spectrum. Yes - Americans talk slowly.


For this reason, if you want to improve your listening skills, watching TV shows is certainly helpful for beginners - with or without subtitles. Also, the forms of English you hear will also vary dramatically between countries. American English is not the standard! In fact, British English has many wonderful forms and varieties, as well as the most entertaining comedies.


Whichever TV show you choose to watch, you will definitely hear (or hear, but not comprehend!) a lot of new vocabulary and gain exposure to intonation and other features of connected speech, even though the words you’re hearing have been scripted and rehearsed.


But. You will not hear many of the features of authentic communication in English:


We forget what we are going to say

We use the wrong word

We use curse words (a lot - well, I do)

We interrupt each other

We misunderstand each other

We repeat ourselves

We jump from topic to topic

We don’t talk about certain topics


I can offer you a range of original materials I have created over the years based upon authentic conversations between native speakers of English, that will build your ability to communicate with accuracy, confidence and authenticity. For advanced students in particular, studying with authentic materials opens up a whole world of learning about English varieties, pragmatics and sociolinguistic norms in English. If you would like to take your English to the next level, book a lesson with me at milanetc.com/book-online


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