Bright colors, tons of action, animation, upbeat music, tons of humor—sounds like you’ve found some English cartoons!
Wait, don’t change the channel! There’s so much you can learn from children’s content.
Sometimes they’re even better!
We know what you’re thinking…
Aren’t Cartoons Just for Kids?
Not at all!
Many cartoons are fun for all ages to watch. Not all cartoons are for kids, either—“The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” might be cartoons but they both contain a lot of violence and inappropriate jokes that are definitely not for children.
Even some cartoons that are for kids have several layers that can give them a completely different meaning when an adult watches them. For example, just this one short clip from “Adventure Time” has themes of marriage, love, loss and scary stalkers (people who follow you everywhere). A child might find it silly, but an adult may think it’s even disturbing!
Why Learn with Cartoons?
So you’ve decided to watch a children’s cartoon to improve your English. That’s a great idea! Here’s why:
- Voice actors on cartoons enunciate clearly. That means they pronounce their words well so that everyone can understand them.
- Many children’s cartoons focus on social interactions, so you can hear some real world conversations and phrases.
- Children’s cartoons use words that are simple enough for low level English learners to understand, but also throw in plenty of challenging new words for more advanced learners.
- If you’re watching a show for very young children, these shows are often repetitive—they repeat words, phrases and even whole sentence structures.
- They’re usually short, about 20 minutes long. Sometimes each episode is split into two halves of 10 minutes each.
- There are cartoons that are made specifically for learning new words and phrases!
- Cartoons are perfect if you’re looking for a fun way to learn. And speaking of fun…
- They’re fun to watch!
So settle down and find a fun cartoon! You can start with these 13 recommendations:
The 13 Best Cartoons for Learning English
1. “Martha Speaks”
What it is: “Martha Speaks” is a show about a dog that learns how to speak after eating some alphabet soup. This show is meant for teaching new words, and each episode has vocabulary words explained before and after the episode. These words are used multiple times during the episode so you won’t ever forget them.
The best thing about “Martha Speaks,” though, is how clever it is. This show does not “dumb down” its content just because it’s for kids. Instead, it’s really funny to watch. Even the opening credits are silly!
2. “Word Girl”
What it is: “Word Girl” is another show that teaches vocabulary words. In this show, a girl superhero fights bad guys through the power of words. The episodes are drawn in a very unique style and they explain new English vocabulary words as they use them. It’s another silly show that’s very fun to watch at any age—just check out this clip and you’ll see what we mean.
What it is: It’s expedition time! An expedition is a voyage or a journey, and Doki and his friends go on one every episode. Doki and his team explore different parts of the world and learn about new cultures and words associated with them. This is a fun cartoon if you want to learn about not just new words, but also new cultures.
4. “Postcards From Buster”
What it is: If you enjoy learning about cultures and traveling but don’t like the style of “Doki,” you might enjoy “Postcards From Buster” instead. This show stars Buster, the bunny from another kid’s show called “Arthur.” “Arthur” is mostly about social interactions and friendship, but Buster’s show is about his travels around the world with his father.
“Postcards From Buster” has an interesting style that mixes cartoons with videos of real people, as you can see in this episode preview. It’s a nice way to see some cartoons and real people talking.
Where you can watch it: PBS Kids.
5. “Adventure Time”
What it is: “Adventure Time” is a very strange show. It’s the kind of show where, as they say, “you either love it or you hate it.” It’s an energetic cartoon about a young boy and his very stretchy dog, who go on adventures in a magical land together, fight monsters and learn the importance of friendship.
“Adventure Time” is one of those “layered” shows—sometimes it doesn’t feel like a kid’s show. It also has some made-up words, so watch out for those! Otherwise it’s a great fantasy show with natural dialogue that can go from normal to weird in seconds.
Where you can watch it: Cartoon Network has a few full episodes available, and plenty more can be found on YouTube.
6. “Regular Show”
What it is: “Regular Show” is another show that feels more like it’s supposed to be for adults. This cartoon is about human-like animals and other assorted characters who work in a park and get into all kinds of bad situations, usually because of their laziness.
Like “Adventure Time,” “Regular Show” is a little strange, and has some jokes that kids wouldn’t get (understand). Unlike “Adventure Time,” this show has very dry humor. If “Adventure Time” isn’t for you, this one might be!
Where you can watch it: Cartoon Network has a few full episodes available, and there are more to be found on YouTube.
7. Cartoon Clips on FluentU
What it is: Did you know you can watch children’s cartoons on FluentU? Watch videos, and see all the spoken words and their definitions on screen, right here on FluentU. There are many different cartoons to choose from, like this story about the zoo or this cute short movie about a raccoon that wants to go to school. Afterwards, all the vocabulary you learn from the videos will be integrated into vocabulary lists, flashcards and other engaging learning tools.
Where you can watch it: FluentU
8. “Dexter’s Laboratory”
What it is: Dexter is a boy genius with a secret laboratory where he invents all kinds of amazing technologies. If his sister Dee Dee doesn’t destroy them all first! This show is a bit older than the others, but it’s just as funny and charming today.
“Dexter’s Lab” doesn’t teach words but Dexter is extremely smart and he talks like it, using bigger and more complicated words (and a German accent!).
9. “Phineas and Ferb”
What it is: Phineas and Ferb are half brothers who are having one crazy summer adventure. Every episode follows the same formula, so it’s easy to keep up with, and it repeats a lot of the same phrases and words. Sometimes they even break into song!
Phineas and Ferb are always doing creative and scientific things that people tell them they shouldn’t do because they’re too young. It’s a good reminder that you can do anything if you try hard enough—a good thing to remember when you’re learning English!
Where you can watch it: Netflix Instant with a subscription.
10. “Inspector Gadget”
What it is: “Inspector Gadget” is clumsy and terrible at his job as a secret agent, but he’s also a robot so it’s not really his fault. This old cartoon has really fun animations and silly moments. This show has a lot of action!
Netflix brought “Inspector Gadget” back in an exclusive remake available only through a Netflix subscription. It’s just as much fun and silliness as the older version, and even throws in a lot of pop culture references—a must watch if you have Netflix Instant.
11. “Teen Titans” or “Young Justice” (and Other Superhero Shows)
What it is: You probably know Batman and Superman, but what about the smaller superheroes like Robin? There are a few shows that focus on younger, teenage superheroes—like “Teen Titans” or “Young Justice.”
These shows are full of action and are perfect if you prefer your cartoons a bit darker (especially “Young Justice”). There are lots of bad guys fighting and trying to destroy the world, but there are also everyday problems and themes like friendships and relationships. Thanks to that, the dialogue is very natural and easy to learn from.
12. “Avatar: The Last Airbender”
What it is: “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a fantastic anime. Anime is a type of cartoon that’s made in Japan, and it usually has a very recognizable style: huge eyes, not too many details in the face and crazy colored hair. Of course, not all anime looks like this, and “Avatar” is one of those anime shows that looks wonderful even if you’re not a fan of anime.
Avatar tells an epic story about a divided nation at war and a young boy who has the power to stop the fighting and bring peace to the land. It’s a wonderful show that’s loved by both kids and adults, and it has lots of conversations and plenty of action—and some silly moments, of course. Best of all, it has an interesting story that will keep you wanting to watch more.
Where you can watch it: Nickelodeon.
13. “The Wild Thornberrys”
What it is: Eliza is a normal 12 year old girl who can speak to animals. This is a pretty nice trick to know when your parents film nature documentaries, but it’s tough for her since she has to keep it a secret. She gets into some crazy situations with her family. Did we mention her best friend is a chimpanzee?
Where you can watch it: Hulu, with a subscription, or you can rent the two movies from the same series. Sadly, the series is no longer airing on TV.
Children’s cartoons are fun to watch and educational. Check out our recommendations to practice listening to English, and have fun while you’re at it!
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