Hello there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast  episode 5: 9 Best Tv Series to Improve your English Speaking Skills and how to learn with them

My name’s Ola and I teach English.

This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation,  and see how to have a tense-free conversation with english-speaking humans! Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Thank you for choosing to listen to this episode! I’ve prepared the worksheet, as always. You can download it and test yourself on: prefixes, collocations with the word ‘pure’ and idioms with the word ‘choice’. Go to teacherola.com/5. teacherola.com/5

Learning a language with TV shows is a really good idea. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times. And if you’re not sure how to do it, what are the steps or what titles to choose, since we’re spoilt for choice thanks to Netflix and HBO.  Well, stay with me, because I’ll give you step by step blueprint that will guide you through the whole process. 

Finally, I’ll also share with you my and my students’ list of the best shows to learn English with. 

At the moment all of my students learn with TV shows and it is a pure coincidence, really I do not pressurize them into taking that path just because I like it or I have materials prepared so it’s less work for me. In fact, we started with something easier, less time consuming, but then eventually, we wound up watching series somehow. Now I think it’s because at some point students become ready for it, because It is a challenge, and it is a demanding way of learning. 

Even though I binge watch serials and I consider it as a massive source of contemporary, natural language I’m not going to tell you it’s easy. I’m not going to tell you it’s for everyone.

So! My goal here isn’t to discourage you from watching series. Absolutely no! Actually, it would be a huge waste of such a great tool if you didn’t watch or at least try it.

First things first

Before I move on to the step by step guidance, I want you to ask yourself this question:

Why do you want to start learning with tv series? What results do you expect? Do you want to improve your listening skills? Or maybe you want to focus on your speaking skills? Is your goal to boost everyday conversational skills or do you want to learn the specialized terminology associated with a particular area of activity? Medical English, legal English?

If so, choose shows like Doctor House, Gray’s Anatomy, Ally McBeal or Suits, search for series built around the subject of your interest. Type in google legal drama or detective drama. Oh, by the way, in this group I like Broadchurch and The Fall with Gillian Anderson, both worth-checking.

Just before we dive deeper into how to do it right, let me tell you something. 

Learning a language with Tv series is not that much fun as you might suppose. What I mean by that is that it’s more time consuming than you imagine.

First of all, you have to watch it at least twice, but most preferably 3-4 times. If you want to see fast progress, if you want to find yourself understanding and most importantly using phrases from the show you have to invest your time and energy. Change your mindset as well. You’re not watching this particular episode to see what happens next and to quickly move on to another one but you want to untangle the language. See how people talk, find what’s relatable for you, for your purpose and memorise it. 

If your level of language is advanced you can watch anything without subtitles, and you can watch it just for the sake of entertainment. You’ll still learn new phrases, idioms, you simply immerse yourself in the target language. Today I’m not talking about such case. I’ll focus on students who want to learn to speak, eliminate the blockade, stop translating word to word in their heads. In fact, it applies to all speakers with blockade also to those with C1 level.

Now, I’d like to tell you step by step, how to do it right.

  1. Choose the series. I’ll talk some more about this point, because it’s the most important step, and I’m afraid I can’t recommend Game Of Thrones! But, we’ll be back on that really soon.
  2. Watch the entire episode without subtitles. See how much you can understand on your own, focus 100% on what you’re watching, don’t pause, don’t look up any words, don’t overthink it, just expose yourself to this material.
  3. Watch again, with English subtitles, let me repeat: watch again, with English subtitles. This might be controversial for some of you because it’s probable your teacher told you not to read any subtitles. What’s very often recommended is to watch in original as many times as you need until you fully comprehend all the words and phrases. You might have heard or read that when you read subtitles your brain switches off, stops thinking, you only practice reading and I agree. I couldn’t agree more. If you read subtitles, your lazy brain takes the path of least resistance and focuses on reading. This leads us to the conclusion that sole listening is a more demanding activity for your brain. By the way, that’s why podcasts are so great for boosting your language. In step 2 I recommended watching the entire episode without subtitles. This step is the active phase in which your brain works the most. But! You want to learn here. That’s the purpose I settled at the beginning. You won’t learn a new word, idiom, phrasal verb if you don’t check it. During second watching with subtitles pause as often as you need. Put it down in your notebook (use pen and paper).
  4. Check new words in a monolingual dictionary. You can go an extra mile and write in that notebook other example sentences, even make your own sentences. My tip here is to make them relatable so that you can easily remember the sentence because it’s very personal. You can also make it funny or scary, whatever works for you. That was point 4, check the meaning of new words and phrases. This is important: if you don’t have anything to put here because you understand all the words, write down something else. Jot down in your notebook all the phrases you find useful. Phrases you’d like to be able to use naturally in a conversation, without wasting time on thinking how to say it or just: what to say in a particular situation.
  5. Finally watch the third time, without subtitles. See how much you’re able to understand after all the work you’ve done.

This is it guys, five steps process, let’s recap, listen first and then repeat after me:

  • Choose the episode
  • Watch without subtitles
  • Watch the second time with subtitles and make notes
  • Translate new words or note down words you find relevant for you
  • Watch the third time without subtitles

And then my friend, repeat the whole process. Move on to the next episode.

This process I took you through works wonders. It doesn’t mean it’s fixed and you can’t change it. Of course, you can! Pivot, tweak it, adjust the method to your context. Maybe you feel very confused watching in original for the first time, so just go ahead and watch it with subtitles straight away. No pressure, just do it. I highly recommend the 5 steps system since I know it really delivers.

As I promised I’d like to talk a bit about the first point in my blueprint and it is: choose the series. 

First of all pick something short, approximately 20-30 min. You’ll watch it 3 three times, so keep this in mind. 

Now, title. Can you learn speaking English with series like Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, Breaking Bad, Black Mirror, House of Cards, Peaky Blinders? You surely can. But! Go back to your why. If you want to learn to speak, being able to talk fluently, use everyday phrases, then I do not recommend those titles. They are not relatable. You won’t find yourself in similar contexts and you won’t win a lot here. As much as I love Peaky Blinders I have to recommend other shows.

Choose shows that showcase families, friends, normal people living in a contemporary world. Shows with many dialogues are also a good choice. 

Now, let me share with you my personal list of the best shows for learning speaking English. The list is approved by all of my students. The order of the show titles is random.

  1. Friends. Number one is Friends. Definitely. Surprise, surprise, huh? Of course Friends.
  2. That 70 Show. Even better than Friends. Oh my world, you can pick up so many phrases for everyday usage. That 70’ Show.
  3. Full House. It’s great for beginners because it showcases family life.
  4. Something more contemporary let’s say because the previous three shows I mentioned are oldies but goodies. Grace and Frankie. Loads of dialogues.
  5. This Is Us. So This Is Us has longer episodes, more or less 40 min), but so relatable. I’m sure you can relate to at least one character in each episode.
  6. Modern Family 
  7. How I Met Your Mother
  8. Two and a Half Men. So funny
  9. Frasier, oh it’s my favourite, it’s for advanced learners and you should not start with Frasier but well, at some point, when you get bored with Friends, and 70 Show and Full House and all the stuff just move on to Frasier. You’ll have to check a lot of words in a dictionary and check out also the context, because sometimes the jokes they make are hard to understand nowadays, but still, still worth seeing.

Please never forget that your teachers are willing to help you as much as they can, so if you have any suggestions, ideas on your lessons, share with them. 

If you have a good teacher, he or she will be open to new ideas. Maybe you’ve never learned with tv series and this episode inspired you to do so. It would be great if you had an opportunity to discuss what you’ve watched and learned with your tutor, your teacher. Speaking is always the key! My students always prepare ‘My choice’ list and in this list, there are the most important phrases for them. What they’d like to be able to use anytime. This list is crucial, and that vocabulary is reused in homework for example. That’s how I do it, but you can ask your teachers and just work out what’s best for you.

Watch tv series in a language you learn, it’s one of the best ways to do so. Just like with songs, as I mentioned in episode 3. Currently, I’m watching Casa del Papel because I’d like to learn some Spanish. So good. 

Ok, what about you? Do you watch tv series without subtitles? What’s your favourite show? Let me know in comments: teacherola.com/5.

If there’s anything you haven’t understood or you’d like to check the spelling, for example, see the transcript available on my website, the same address: teacherola.com/5. Below the show notes, you’ll find the worksheet with exercises on prefixes, collocations with ‘pure’ and idioms with ‘choice’. I chose these three elements because I’ve used them in this episode. Overreact, reuse, and the collocation I used in this episode was ‘pure coincidence’ and the idiom with choice was to be spoilt for choice.

If you know someone who is interested in this topic, go ahead and tell him or her about this episode.

Make sure you’re a subscriber to this podcast. You can’t miss the next episode, it’ll be helpful if you struggle with small talks. Tell me who doesn’t…It’ll be about the weather. It’s such a common conversation topic! Perfect as a conversation starter, priceless when it comes to small talk. Because it can smoothly lead to more meaningful dialogue, than just small talk. If you’re really good at small talk, come next Wednesday anyway to boost your weather vocabulary.

We’ll get in touch really soon, thank you for listening and till next time! Happy learning. Bye!