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Top 5 television shows to help improve English

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Tue Jul 01 2014


WHY memorise notes when you could be binge-watching television shows? Trinity College Foundation Studies students Jin Feng and Anni Wei compile a list of recommended shows that could help improve your English.


When students get home after a long day at school, the last thing they’d want to think about is study. Realistically, all we’d like to have is to lie in bed, turn on the TV, drink a cup of coffee and relax.

But who says study can’t be entertaining?

If you’re an overseas student studying in a country where English is the main language spoken, watching TV shows is one of the best ways for second language learners to expand their English vocabulary and to improve conversational flow.

We surveyed 50 students and interviewed two teachers, and obtained the top five television series that are considered the most entertaining and useful to improve English.

The Simpsons

Popular animated sitcom The Simpsons has had a long life in television and is still airing today! The currently 25-season series is a satirical depiction of middle-class American lifestyle epitomised by its family of the same name which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.

Why we recommend it: The show itself is an interesting and amusing cartoon and due its setting, the show contains a lot of words which are commonly used in everyday life.


Friends is a ten-season American sitcom that presents to audiences the daily lives of six close-knit friends: Phoebe, Joey, Monica, Ross, Rachael and Chandler. The show intersects with many real-life situations from love issues to career matters and is popular for its endearing characters and joyful humour.

Why we recommend it:Friends is a funny sitcom and the jokes are hilarious and often easy to get. The speed of the conversations is moderate and the words are pronounced clearly – strongly recommended to beginners who want to get a sense of conversational flow in English.

Desperate Housewives

Although it’s mostly a comedy, Desperate Housewives can dip into dark, dramatic territory on occasion. Following the lives of Susan, Lynette, Gabrielle, Bree, and Edie, the show details their domestic struggles and family life, while facing the secrets and crimes hidden behind the doors of their beautiful and seemingly perfect suburban neighbourhood.

Why we recommend it: Functioning like a soap opera, the show lends itself to various interpretations from campy fun to realism. The language used in the show is mostly proper and the vocabulary contained is useful in daily life.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is a British drama which navigates the different lives of aristocrats and servants at the estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire. Throughout the series, their lives are greatly influenced by significant world events such as the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War and the Spanish influenza pandemic.

Why we recommend it:Downton Abbey caters to those who want to imitate a strong British accent or pick up on vocabulary not commonly used in life. Far from your average American television show, Downton Abbey’s characters are shown to be more dignified and elegant.


Frasier is an American sitcom about psychiatrist Dr. Frasier who, after his marriage ends, returns to his hometown of Seattle and works as a broadcaster at a radio station whilst starting a new life with his younger brother and a female therapist.

Why we recommend it: This show is more suitable for those whose English levels are relatively high as it features a wider vocabulary than your usual American sitcom. Frasier is more for students looking to brush up on their English.

Further tips on watching shows as part of English improvement:

  • Do not watch subtitles in your own language.
  • Watch episodes more than once.
  • Focus on language rather than plots.
  • Notice that English in most TV series’ is social-level English, not academic-level English.
  • TV series’ with too much complicated vocabulary such as 24, Prison Break, House, Heroes or The Big Bang Theory aren’t recommended for beginners.