Home » BRAVE Learning » Four TV Shows Which Will Help You Learn Languages

Four TV Shows Which Will Help You Learn Languages

Someone once counted that we spend 12 years of our lives watching TV. Once again, I find that my decision not to get one is one of the best ones I’ve made. But if you’ve already got one – or if, like me, you like to watch a show online every now and then – you’ll quickly find that some shows are more useful than others.

For language learners, almost every show in their favourite foreign language should be a huge incentive, but also a challenge. Watching TV in foreign languages improves your listening skills, and is a great way to absorb a lot of foreign culture along with the vocabulary. Sure, it’s hard at first – but very rewarding eventually (and it can be used to lower your language learning anxiety, as described here).

Here’s even more good news – certain shows (or kinds of shows) are useful to all language learners. They’re either universal, very popular (and translated), or – due to their unique focus and creativeness – appealing to any language learning enthusiast. Today I want to describe four such shows – I hope you’ll enjoy them and suggest some more!

1. TV News

This type of show is so popular that you should be able to find a news programme in any language you want to learn. For many students, watching the news is the backbone of their listening proficiency. There is a lot to be said in favour of this approach:


  • It provides a rich, visual context to the language,
  • It is challenging and spoken at a natural pace,
  • It allows learners to deduce / guess the meaning of many phrases from the context,
  • It relies on authentic and relevant language – which learners can discuss with native speakers almost instantly.

[/checklist]If you’re serious about learning a language – and happen to have access to TV news – make a point of watching it at least a couple of days per week. Recording the shows – or finding them online – is great for subsequent vocabulary practice.


2. Sesame Street

Yes, you got that right. This show can help you learn a language.

Sesame Street was turned into over twenty “co-productions” – localised versions of the programme, recorded and spoken in another language. It has been shown in over 140 countries. And the best thing about it? It’s really easy to understand and to follow – and its main function is to educate.

Watching TV News is great, but quite ambitious. If you’re a beginner in a language, you would probably prefer a programme in which things happen more slowly, people characters use a simple language and things get repeated to make sure you understand.

Sesame Street‘s got you covered. Sure, it may feel a bit awkward at first, but it’s bound to work. The whole programme was designed, planned and written with the help of psychologists and educators, to help kids acquire basic skills and develop their language. Which, as a foreign language learner, you will have to re-learn anyway, right?

No point resisting. Grab some popcorn and lemonade, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the muppet antics in another language.

Deep down inside, you know you want to.


3. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Cancelling this show should have been a punishable offence.

It was witty, unpredictable, hilarious, clever and creative. For a language learner – and a language teacher – it had all the right features of a classroom hit: it encouraged and celebrated the unconventional use of language, it found joy and brilliance in bending the usual rules of communication, and it enabled the participants and the audience to find out what happens when “everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.”

If you’re learning English, you should find some episodes of this show just to see how creative people can get with this language.

If you’re teaching a language – try using some games from the show to spice up your language lessons (my favourites here: “Questions,” “Scenes from a Hat,” “Limited Vocabulary”).

And if you’re learning a foreign language – get your learning friends / native speaker pals to play these games with you. They’ve worked for me on several occasions!


4. Fry’s Planet Word

Stephen Fry’s love of words is legendary and well documented. So when I found out that he was making a series of programmes about language, I was delighted, but not surprised.

The show is a lot more theoretical than the previous three: it focuses on the history of language, its origins and modern manifestations. But if you think it’s just a series of lectures, think again: Fry travels around the world searching for amazing languages, peculiar speakers and foremost linguists. He asks the right questions, and makes us listen in awe as answers are found and debated.

It’s light-hearted, chatty and extremely intelligent. My only wish is that it was longer (and that the last episode had a bit more structure). Watch it to fall in love with languages – or to rediscover a lost affection for them!


Right, language learners. Put away your remotes and head to the comment section – we need more awesome TV shows to help us learn languages!

You are here to read and learn. I'm here to write!
My three e-books are available for you to download.
I update them every year with bonus chapters, so you always get the latest info.
They all cost less than a fancy coffee. If you don't like them, you get your money back within 45 days.
And if you do like them, you will help me help my favourite charity, and motivate me to write more!
Get the bundle here.


4 Responsesso far.

  1. Zbigniew says:

    For me the TV series/show that has been most helpful in mastering English has been ‘Seinfeld’. I have also watched episodes of ‘Friends’, ‘House’ or ‘Californication’ to help me boost my vocabulary and recently to build my english classes around…

  2. Wiktor K. says:

    I tried teaching a class around “House” once – this was not the most communicative of classes, but at least my students could diagnose me for months to come.

  3. Zbigniew says:

    Haha oh that’s for sure, House comes off as not so well suited for class, Friends on the other hand is excellent, especially for a group class

  4. Kate Bell says:

    I agree that watching shows for pre-schoolers is a way for absolute beginners to get familiar with everyday language, especially if you’re not living in the country and don’t get a chance to observe conversation very much. Sesame street is a good example, but there are similarly educational shows for pre-schoolers in pretty much every country. They speak slowly, work on common vocabulary, and use simple expressions that young children will know. You also learn a bit about the culture because there are often segments on hygene, politeness, eating, etc. On the other hand, shows for older children are much more driven by jokes, irony, etc. and are in my experience not especially useful for adult language learners.

    All that said, I’m with you Wiktor. I don’t have a TV and am so glad.