On today’s episode, I’m going to give you 7 amazing TV shows to help you learn and perfect British English! All language students can really benefit from watching TV. You can learn various British regional accents and ways of speaking, pick up new vocabulary and sentence structure, discover new information about British cultures and history, and enjoy yourself at the same time! Here are my recommendations for the 7 best British TV shows.
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Last week I recorded an episode recommending some books (which you can check out here), but one of my other favourite ways to learn languages is by watching different TV shows, sitcoms, and even documentaries. Although your parents might have told you that “TV will rot your brain,” watching the right English TV series can be an excellent way for language learners to mentally exercise.
TV shows are especially beneficial for people who want to learn different regional dialects and accents. Many students want to learn British English pronunciation and speaking style, but find it difficult to access quality materials and resources. If you don’t live in Britain, how can you learn British English?
Well, one way is TV! By watching British TV series, you can learn some interesting British phrases, practice listening to and understanding various British accents, and have fun while studying. As British TV shows are designed primarily for British audiences, the show will be full of commonly used British sayings, slang, and expressions. The UK is also a country of hundreds of unique and challenging accents: the accents of people from Essex, Liverpool, Birmingham, Aberystwyth, and the Orkney Islands are so different that you might think they are from completely different countries. You can also learn more about the culture and history of the UK!
How to learn by watching TV? First, take notes while you watch. Write down any phrases or vocabulary the characters keep using, anything you find interesting, or things you don’t understand. Second, try watching episodes more than once. Especially if you’re watching a short sitcom episode, it is quite easy to watch again and pick up things you missed the first time! Third, talk about the TV shows with a friend. And most importantly don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember to enjoy yourself!
I have selected a few TV shows which reflect different TV genres and different British accents. These are all shows I personally enjoy watching, so I really recommend giving them a try. Hopefully they are available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or even YouTube in your country.
When I was at high school, I remember being obsessed with Sherlock. It is a modern version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories, and features a brilliant and eccentric main character. The episodes are like movies, and have amazing plots with devious criminal masterminds. As Sherlock is highly intelligent, perhaps you can learn some new advanced vocabulary from the show.
The Crown explores the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s onwards, focusing on her youth, the early years of her reign, and her relationships with her family. It is a perfect TV show for binge watching. If you want to learn ‘the Queen’s English,’ then surely the best person to learn from is the Queen herself. You can learn the incredibly posh British accent used by the English royal family, and learn history at the same time.
The Great British Bake Off
This is one of my favourite TV shows, and is possibly the most popular TV show in the entire UK (it definitely was a few years ago!). The Great British Bake Off is an amateur cooking competition in which the contestants must bake different types of breads, cakes, and pastries as well as complete different challenges. It is really easy to watch and makes you feel good! The contestants come from all around the UK so there is a nice diversity of accents. Moreover, there are lots of jokes, puns, and innuendos – it is the perfect TV show to learn about British humour and wordplay.
Peaky Blinders is set in 1919, just after World War I, and focuses on soldiers returning home from the war. Different gangs are fighting to control crime in the centre of England, and the leader of the Peaky Blinder gang struggles to run his business and lead a life of crime. The characters in this show mainly come from Birmingham, so speak with a Birmingham accent (also known as a brummie accent). You might hear the characters using British vocabulary like ‘pub’ and ‘thick.’
If you want a TV show to make you think, then Black Mirror is certainly for you. Each episode is actually stand-alone, meaning that you can watch the series in any order you like. It is suspenseful, dramatic, and sometimes really thought-provoking. As the characters and actors are different in each episode, it is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself!
A group of young people at a juvenile detention centre (like a prison for teenagers and young adults) develop superpowers and must work out how to manage their new situations. This show is great for learners because the characters all come from different parts of the UK, which give a nice mix of accents, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
This show is a little different from the other recommendations. It follows Eve Polastri, a British intelligence agent, in her mission to find Villanelle, a psychopathic female assassin. It is an award winning TV show and really addictive. Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. The reason it is a little different is that, even though it is a British series, the main characters do not have British accents: Eve has a clear Canadian accent while Villanelle speaks with a slight Belgian style.