When you were younger your parents probably told you that ‘you won’t learn anything watching television’. We’re here to tell you they weren’t completely right - as studies have shown watching shows in a foreign language can actually help the viewer learn.
The biggest advantage of learning a language this way is that it allows you to hear native speakers talking in a normal and natural way. You won’t hear Chandler, Rachel or Ross asking for directions to the train station or telling their mum about a trip to the cinema! Instead, they’ll be using the everyday words and sentences you’ll actually want to know.
And there’s even more good news: Netflix has lots and lots of English-speaking shows which are perfect for students learning the language. We’ve picked out some of the best ones.
Everyone knows this iconic 90s sitcom starring Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Monica. It’s the perfect show for any English student to start with because the plots are easy to understand and the vocabulary used isn’t very complex. The show also covers important topics that are important to everyone, such as relationships, work and family.
The best thing about Friends is that there are 236 episodes, and they’re all very rewatchable. This means you can keep seeing the same episodes over and over again without getting bored, which will help you get a good understanding of the vocabulary being used.
Fun fact: Liverpool football manager Jurgen Klopp watched Friends to help him learn English.
Watching The Crown will help you get better at English AND give you a history lesson at the same time. The show, which has won a number of Golden Globe and Emmy awards, follows Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events of the second half of the 20th century.
This show, a Netflix original, is perfect for anyone wanting to learn how to speak traditional and ‘proper’ English. Most of the characters are members of the Royal Family, so they speak with posh accents. Some of the vocabulary might be a bit advanced for the average viewer, however, the characters speak quite slowly and very clearly, so it’s still a good learning tool.
Even if you aren’t learning English you should watch Stranger Things - it’s fantastic! The show, set in a small American town in the 1980s, starts when a young boy vanishes. His friends then begin uncovering a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl.
The beauty of this show is that all the main characters are children, so their vocabulary is fairly basic. This means that even if you’re an English beginner you should be able to watch Stranger Things and understand a good amount of what is said. However, the show is action-packed so some of the dialogue is fast and frantic. Don’t be afraid to put the subtitles on if you’re struggling.
This is the funniest show on the list and maybe the funniest show on Netflix! Brooklyn Nine-Nine is about a brilliant but immature police detective who must learn to follow the rules and be a team player when his squad gets a new captain. It’s not your typical cop show, with gunfire and violence, but more of a workplace comedy like The Office. The show’s never-ending jokes and comical storylines will keep you entertained for all six seasons.
As an English learning tool it’s perfect because of the simple vocabulary used and clear speaking voices of the characters. Brooklyn Nine-Nine also tackles important, modern topics such as inequality, racism, homophobia, mental health and toxic masculinity.
Maybe you’ll even develop a New York accent!
This is the only documentary series on the list and is better suited to more advanced English language learners. Explained has 30 short episodes, which all cover a different topic. Some of the subjects include marijuana, cryptocurrency, political correctness and esports. Each episode is between 16 and 18 minutes and includes interviews with experts.
Due to the subject matter, some of the vocabulary is advanced and can be challenging. Don’t be afraid to pause the episode so you can catch up! We recommend Explained to anyone who wants to learn how to talk about specific topics in English, or anyone who has been learning the language for some time and wants to get to the next level.
It's time to get the popcorn ready and prepare yourself for some Netflix inspired learning! Use our top LevelUp tips to help and make the most of the experience:
Subtitles (in English)
This enables you to match up the English words you’re hearing with what you’re reading on the screen. This is really useful for beginners.
To understand a series in a foreign language and to learn as much as possible from it you’ll need to watch it over and over again. This might sound boring but it’s really important.
It’s difficult to learn well if you’re scrolling through Instagram while watching... It’s important to focus on what you’re doing! You might even want to try and talk along with the characters or make notes on a piece of paper.
By Barnaby Kellaway
LevelUp Blog Writer
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