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How to Get Great at English by Watching Your Favourite Netflix Shows

PLUS our Top Ten Picks

Screen time check! We’re all spending more time relaxing at home these days, which has given us plenty of opportunity to enjoy catching up on our favourite TV programmes. In fact, the popularity of streaming services like Netflix has surged over lockdown, meaning we’re spending about 40% more time in front of our screens each day – that’s almost 45 hours a week!

But the good news is you can use this time to supercharge your English skills while watching the shows you enjoy. Not sure how? Keep reading for our Brighter English top tips for learning English with Netflix.


Tip 1: Choose the Right Shows

Before you begin watching, you should choose a show with native English speakers and subtitle options. If you’re learning a particular type of English, e.g. British English, opt for a programme made in that country. The pronunciation and vocabulary will be slightly different for any variation of English you choose, so select a show that helps you to achieve your learning goals.

So, which type of shows are the best? The simple answer is, the ones you enjoy! If you’re a sci-fi fan, stick to that genre, don’t try to learn from programmes you think are boring. If you feel motivated, you’re much more likely to have a great learning experience and remember the information you hear. If you’re new to English, opt for sitcoms. They’re shorter, won’t overload your brain and they’re packed with everyday, useful language that’s easy to understand.

Here are 10 great series we think you’ll love:

  1. Sherlock (British English)

  2. The Crown (British English)

  3. Uncle (British English)

  4. The Great British Bake-Off (British English)

  5. Call the Midwife (British English)

  6. Kath and Kim (Australian English)

  7. Friends (American English)

  8. The Good Place (American English)

  9. Modern Family (American English)

  10. Stranger Things (American English)


Tip 2: Read and Listen

Now that you’ve chosen the right kind of show, don’t forget to switch on those subtitles. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start with subtitles in your own language, but as soon as you feel more confident you should change them into English. Studies show that reading and listening to a language at the same time is the best way to absorb new information, so you’ll be able to learn English vocabulary even faster with this one simple swap.

If you can’t understand all of the words, don’t worry! And don’t try to pause the programme to use a translator. Instead, try to work out the meaning of the words from the context – what does the rest of the sentence say? What’s happening in the programme? If you’re really stuck, just jot down the word or take a quick photo on your phone. You can come back to it later and work out the meaning, then rewatch the scene with improved understanding.

If you’re an Upper Intermediate or Advanced learner wanting to test your talent, you can watch the first episode with subtitles to get the gist, and then try removing them altogether. It’s a great way to see if your listening comprehension skills are on track, or if they need a little more work.


Tip 3: Learn in Chunks

When you’re feeling fired up and motivated to learn, it can be tempting to try and cram in hours and hours of content all at once. But don’t. Little and often is best, so choose programmes that aren’t too long and won’t tire out your brain.

If bite-sized learning works for you, split programmes into shorter sections. Or, if you like to delve into details, watch a show to get the gist, and then choose one scene to focus on. You might want to concentrate on vocabulary, so pull out all of the new words you can. If pronunciation’s more your thing, find those tricky tongue twisters, and listen and repeat. However you decide to challenge yourself, keep focusing on your weak points. This will help you get your English up to scratch in no time!


Tip 4: Extend Your Skills

When the show’s over, you can still keep learning and improving your English. Why not tell the world what you think about the shows you’ve watched by writing a short review? This is an authentic way to improve your writing skills, use the vocabulary you’ve learnt and get valuable feedback from real people. So, give it a try! Two of the most popular sites you can use to write your reviews are Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb.

Use this helpful guide to help you write a great review:

  1. Write a brief summary of the plot – what’s the show about, where and when is it set and who are the main characters?

  2. Write about the script – how well was the show written? How did it make you feel? Was the plot easy to understand?

  3. Write about the acting – were the characters believable? Why/why not?

  4. Write about the production quality – what was the camera work like? What did you think of the costumes and set?

  5. Write a short paragraph to sum up your main ideas and opinions, and finish with a recommendation – should other people watch this show? Why/why not?

  6. Go back through your work and see if you can add more adjectives to your descriptions. This will add excitement and help your readers imagine the film more clearly.


We’d love to hear what you think about learning English with Netflix. What great shows are you watching at the moment and which of our tips will you try?

And remember - if you need some extra support, Brighter English is here to help. We have a wide range of courses to improve your skills, boost your confidence and make friends with students all around the world. Want to make sure it’s right for you? No problem. Simply send us a message to book a free consultation.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Brighter English website for more great tips and advice to make learning English easy and fun.


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