When you can’t get yourself to a foreign country to really learn a language, watching TV is the next best thing. So, based on that statement, what fallows are 3 of my recommendations for the best series to watch in English.
There are several criteria that I used when selecting, and they are:
- Brevity. Hour long episodes are great, but when you have to concentrate all your attention to understand what’s going on, fatigue can set it. So if you’re looking for something to watch, favour shorter shows.
- Fun. They really should be very entertaining and especially, they should include humour that can be widely understood across cultures. Added slapstick is also a great advantage because, well, everyone gets it.
- A mix of accents. Everyone knows that English comes in a variety of accents, it’s important to keep that in mind when choosing something to watch. Now, I wouldn’t say that it’s THE criterion to trump all others, but it helps to understand a wider array of speakers.
- Simplicity. Don’t go for series where there is a lot of complicated language and specific slang. If you like House, that’s great, but remember, the show uses a lot of very specific medical vocabulary to seem authentic; most people struggle with this in their own languages, now imagine how it would be in a foreign language!
So here we go, my list!
This show is just funny. Very very funny. The actors were born of Saturday Night Live and so you also get that sense of improvisation that you don’t always feel from a regular sitcom.
Why do I recommend this one? Even though the language isn’t necessarily super easy, the accents are relatively neutral and the storylines easy to follow. The humour is very much cross-cultural, so most people will get a laugh out of it even if they don’t understand everything 100%.
Apart from that, it’s the type of show where you can turn on your TV and turn off your brain. It isn’t dumb in the same way a Ben Stiller movie will be, but it’s light and slapstick, so there’s something for everyone. Also, you can watch it with your kids; not the very little ones, mind, but from about age 9 I think they can probably handle it.
So what’s it about? A Brooklyn police precinct and the various silly things that seem to happen to and are orchestrated by, the staff.
The Good Place
Apart from being a comedy, this show is just plain nice. Its simple, unassuming plot can really be understood by everyone, and the short length of each episode means that it isn’t too taxing after a long day’s work.
What’s the premise? Three people die and wake up in Heaven. Two think they belong there, and one (the protagonist) thinks there must have been some mistake.
Again, this is one you can watch with the kids, though they will probably appreciate it much less than Brooklyn 99.
Why do I love this show? Because the characters are endearing, the plots always funny without being completely stupid, and the language relatively simple.
What’s it about? A family in LA: 3 generations across 3 homes. It’s a « modern » family in most senses of the word, since the grandad remarries a much younger Columbian woman (who already has a kid), the « typical » couple with three kids, a gay couple who adopted a little Indonesian girl, and from time to time guest star the ex-wife of the grandad as well as another older parent.
I even watch this with my 4 year old sometimes, who of course, doesn’t understand everything, but nonetheless manages to enjoy the slapstick humour.
So there you, go. Three easy-to-watch sitcoms for the whole family, in English. Remember, when you’re watching something in a foreign language, do these three things:
- Forget about understanding everything. Don’t sweat it, you need to learn to ‘let go’ and try to enjoy what you do understand. As time goes by, there’ll be more and more of that!
- Put on subtitles in English, this will help you follow along more easily and catch those things that the characters may or may not say a little too quickly. Plus, it’ll help you with your pronunciation, just wait for those « aha » moments.
- Enjoy yourself. This is not supposed to be a time for close study, you are meant to put your legs up and relax in your free time. So switch on the TV, and let the show carry you forward, whether or not you’re able to follow 100% of it.