10 English TV Shows to Improve Your Language Skills

The back of a man's head as he stares at a tv screen showing various tv show titles

You may think that sitting in front of the TV is not the best way to be productive. While this is probably true if you need to study for a math test or finish some chores, it’s not the case if you want to practice English. In fact, people learn with English TV shows all the time!

However, you can’t just put the TV on in the background and expect to learn a lot. Not only will you struggle to follow the story, but you won’t see much progress with your English! So, what can you do to learn English with TV series?

5 Tips to Help You Learn with English TV Shows

Before we talk about some fun and interesting English series to watch, it’s important to know how to get the most out of every English TV series. After all, mindlessly staring at your screen won’t help you improve! So, let’s take a look at 5 tips to help you learn with English TV shows:

  1. Research the show beforehand – If you’re worried about feeling lost or confused while watching a new English series, you should research the show before you sit down to watch. Naturally, you won’t want to spoil everything that happens in the story, but reading a summary of the show will help you put things into context right from the start.
  2. Try watching without subtitles first – Subtitles are a great way to visualize words as you hear them, which can help you remember them. However, relying too much on subtitles can detract from your ability to practice listening comprehension. However, there’s no shame in using subtitles; just try to phase them out once you feel confident enough to do so.
  3. Go back to catch things you missed – Even native English speakers have to use the rewind button to catch dialogue or story events that they missed. So, if you find yourself zoning out (not paying attention) or simply don’t understand what is happening, don’t be afraid to go back and watch it a second (or third) time.
  4. Take notes – If you’re watching an English TV series, you will probably hear quite a few new words, phrases, and grammar structures in each episode. You can’t expect to remember them all, so it might be useful to hit the pause button and jot (write) down things that you want to remember. However, if you’re watching with someone else, make sure that they’re fine with the interruptions!
  5. Choose your shows wisely – Finally, it is important to choose your TV shows with care. Some shows are not well-suited for English learners at certain levels. Additionally, some shows or characters might use improper grammar or words that will only confuse you. But how will you know which English TV shows are right for you? Don’t worry, because we have you covered!

10 American and British TV Shows to Help English Learners

Though it’s useful to get accustomed to different forms of English, you may prefer learning with an American accent or a British accent. So, we’ve provided a list of some of the best American and British TV shows for English learners:

Best American TV Series to Learn English

FRIENDS

  • What is the show about? Friends follows a group of 6 friends (go figure!) as they navigate their careers and relationships in New York City.
  • Why is it useful? Not only is the show full of funny American pop-culture references, but it also relies heavily on different tones, like sarcasm, cheerfulness, sadness, etc.

THE OFFICE

  • What is the show about? The American remake of The Office focuses on Michael Scott (the inept regional manager of a paper supply company) and his unenthusiastic employees. The show is a mockumentary (parody of a documentary) that pokes fun at “office culture” in the United States.
  • Why is it useful? Even though the characters discuss a wide range of topics throughout the series — from rabies to beet farms — The Office is a great way for English learners to pick up business lingo.

MODERN FAMILY

  • What is the show about? Much like The Office, Modern Family uses the mockumentary format for comedic effect. The story follows three generations of a diverse family living in Los Angeles.
  • Why is it useful? Modern Family addresses a lot of issues that families face on a daily basis, which can help English learners develop useful vocabulary and understand common grammar structures.

BREAKING BAD

  • What is the show about? As the only American drama on this list, Breaking Bad is a much darker show than the others. This English TV series is about a cancer-stricken teacher who decides to start producing and selling drugs to provide a good life for his family.
  • Why is it useful? Unlike sitcoms (situational comedy shows), Breaking Bad relies on realistic dialogue and (generally) serious interactions between the characters.

GLEE

  • What is the show about? Glee follows the lives of a high school music teacher and the students who sing in his glee club (choir).
  • Why is it useful? Not only does Glee use a lot of popular American lingo and idioms, but it also features dozens of English songs. As a result, it combines the benefits of practicing English with both music AND television!

Best British TV Series to Learn English

THE CROWN

  • What is the show about? The Crown retells the life story of England’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Why is it useful? The Crown is considered one of the best shows on Netflix and one of the best TV shows of all time. It features British actors speaking Standard English with impeccable (perfect) grammar and pronunciation.

PEEP SHOW

  • What is the show about? Peep Show is a comedic show about two flatmates (roommates), Mark and Jeremy, living in London. Mark is an uptight office worker, while Jeremy is an unemployed musician and free spirit.
  • Why is it useful? Peep Show is full of British history and pop culture references. The casual, informal conversations also utilize hundreds of British colloquialisms.

CHEWING GUM

  • What is the show about? Chewing Gum follows the daily life of Tracey Gordon, a 20-something girl from a deeply religious family. Despite her naivety, Tracey wants to explore London and experience everything that life has to offer.
  • Why is it useful? Chewing Gum exposes viewers to a wide range of British accents. Much like Peep Show, it also has a lot of informal speech that you probably won’t hear outside of the UK.

BLACK MIRROR

  • What is the show about? Black Mirror is another one of the best British TV shows on Netflix. It is a science fiction anthology show (each episode has a new setting and characters) that explores the darker side of technological advancement.
  • Why is it useful? Black Mirror works well for advanced English learners, as it examines complex themes and relies on technical vocabulary.

FLEABAG

  • What is the show about? Fleabag is a comedy-drama that tells the story of a London woman who has to deal with her disapproving family and underwhelming (disappointing) romantic partners.
  • Why is it useful? Fleabag features natural, fast-paced English conversations on a wide range of topics.

We hope you found this English series list helpful! If you’d like to learn more about English TV shows or how to learn English with TV series, visit Magoosh Speaking today. Additionally, if you are looking for a highly qualified English tutor online to help guide you, try an introductory lesson!