5 TV programmes to help you learn English

“Which TV programmes could I watch to practise listening?”

I´m often asked this question, and this post aims to make some useful suggestions.

“Why is watching a TV programme in English useful, rather than, say, listening to the radio or doing traditional multiple-choice exercises online?”

First and foremost, we should enjoy the TV programme we´re watching, as here we can kill two (or more) bird with one stone, whereas often times listening practise can be a tedious drag.

Moreover, we can use body language as a clue to speech content, which is not possible in audio-only listening, learn to recognise and understand a wide variety of accents, and hear sentence intonation and word stress in real context.

Lastly, if you´ve already seen the episode in your language, it´s simple to make sense of what´s happening, which leaves you free to focus on the English.

“Should I put the subtitles on while I´m watching?”

Ideally no, as the purpose here is to be listening rather than reading. If absolutely necessary for general understanding, they should be in English, so you can visualise the words being pronounced.

“How much should I watch at one time?”

With so much language entering the ears, this is a really good workout for your brain. So as with exercise, start shorter (maybe 5 minutes or so) and increase time gradually. It could take a while to enjoy a whole episode in one sitting, but build up to it and stay patient!

“So which TV programmes do you recommend? Why?”

  1. Friends

(Comedy series about six friends living in New York)

– American English easier to understand for many.

– Everyday situations and colloquial language.

– Body language and gesture is used a lot, and this helps the viewer to understand.

  1. The Big Bang Theory

(Comedy series about a group of scientists at the California Institute of Technology)

– Mostly American English.

– Raj´s Indian accent is a tricky one to get. Nevertheless, there are around 1.3 billion Indians in the world today, and 1.5 million people of Indian descent in the UK alone, so learning to understand this accent will allow you to communicate with many more people.

  1. Downton Abbey

(Historical drama about life in an English manor house in the early 1900s)

– Received Pronunciation (´the Queen´s English´). Although only an estimated 2% of the UK population use this accent, the slow speed and exaggerated pronunciation of all sounds is often easier for learners to understand.

  1. The Daily Show

(News satire and talk show programme about current affairs)

– You will understand content more easily if you already keep up on current world events.

–  Presenter Trevor Noah´s South African accent is one to be able to recognise and understand.

  1. [Specialist programmes for work or leisure…yes, this is cheating the Top 5 concept!]

– Many programmes contain a vast quantity of specialist vocabulary that you could already be familiar with and/or could be useful in your job or free time. Some suggestions:

House – Medicine

Suits – Law, finance

– Orange is the New Black – Law, crime

Breaking Bad – Drug taking, drug dealing

“Where can I watch these online?”

Apart from thousands of ‘less legal’ websites in the Internet and others that require registration like Netflix, you can find many of the programmes above on www.ororo.tv.



Any other ideas or comments on my suggestions, please leave a comment.


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