How to Study the English Language With Fun – A Case Study

May 27, 2021

Learning English by watching TV series

It all started with the TV series Friends. I tried several times to watch it in the original, but could not advance beyond a few episodes. My meticulousness got in the way. I wanted to understand absolutely everything, so I constantly pressed pause and looked for the meaning of each unfamiliar word. Boring stuff! Unsurprisingly, I quickly got fed up with this.

Over the past couple of years, I have figured out a different approach: when watching I try to grasp the meaning as much as I can while enjoying the show. I only look into the dictionary a maximum of 3-5 times per episode, skipping most of the unknown words while I am watching. As it turned out, this is enough to follow the plot, learn new words and enjoy the show.

After Friends, I watched many other series in the original, from Doctor Who and Sherlock to The Office and Vikings. I want to share several lessons learned with you:

  1. Many words and expressions are repeated from episode to episode and get subconsciously stored in my memory. The advantage is that you quickly remember exactly how and in what situations this or that word was used.
  2. For a long while, I did not dare to turn off the English subtitles. When I finally did it, I suddenly discovered that I understood speech much better. If you want to boost your listening comprehension, films and TV shows – are exactly what you need.
  3. When you combine learning with pleasure – you watch an interesting TV show, listen to live voices of actors, enjoy jokes, and at the same time improve your language – no additional motivation is needed.
  4. TV shows provide an opportunity to hear a live spoken language with slang words and modern expressions. The difference from the tedious English that we were taught in school is striking.
  5. You must take into account your level of language proficiency. For example, I did not watch Game of Thrones at first. If you don’t understand anything at all, search for a show with slower speech, shorter dialogues, and simple vocabulary and grammar. You can start with what you’ve already watched in your native language.

Don’t expect this process to be easy right away. Even if the first episodes are difficult, keep watching. After a while, you will see the result.

Find out how

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Learning English is more fun by listening to songs!

I find it super useful to learn English by listening to my favorite songs. Many people will agree that this is one of the most enjoyable and effective methods. You can try it yourself:

  1. Take one of your favorite songs. Listen slowly and thoughtfully, make pauses and rewinds, try to understand at least some phrases and separate words.
  2. Find the lyrics and read them out aloud. Look up in the dictionary any unfamiliar words and phrases. Pay attention to fixed expressions, phrasal verbs, metaphors.
  3. Listen to the song again, simultaneously checking with the lyrics.
  4. Sing along with the performer, imitating his pronunciation, as many times as you like.
  5. Listen to the song without reading the lyrics. Do you understand it? If not, repeat step 3.

With this method, you can memorize many words and idioms, improve your listening comprehension, and practice pronunciation. The main thing is to study the songs that you love.

Modern popular music, soundtracks from films, hits of foreign rock bands – everything should work. For example, I enjoyed learning the songs by Queen, Elton John, The Beatles.

What else?

TV shows and songs are examples of how you can combine foreign language learning with your hobbies. Here’s what else I am doing:

  • I watch TED Talks videos (I try to do that without subtitles). Short interesting lectures on a variety of topics are great for learning English.
  • I play computer games in their original language – English.
  • I watch, listen, read interviews with scientists, writers, and other interesting people.
  • I read articles in English. Recently I have been translating texts for blog posts.
  • I listen to audiobooks. Sometimes I read a book and listen to its audio version at the same time – it helps me keep track of the story. Alternatively, I listen to what I have already read in my native language. It is very important here not to get hung up on details. Understanding in general terms what is happening with the heroes is enough.

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