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The 10 Most Entertaining TV Series That Can Teach You British English

Contrary to popular belief, watching TV can be good for you!

At some point, we have all heard that “TV will rot (ruin) your brain.”

But what if I told you that watching TV could actually help your brain?

Okay, hear me out. I am not suggesting that watching TV is always healthy. But watching the right English TV series can be a smart form of mental exercise for language learners.

TV is especially helpful for people who want to learn different dialects and accents. Learning American English is different than learning British English. Maybe you do not live in Britain and you do not regularly hear British phrases. So how can you learn British English?

That is exactly where TV comes in. By watching British TV series, you can pick up on essential British phrases. You can gain experience listening to and comprehending British accents. This is a fun way to improve your English fluency.

We have gathered the 10 best TV series to learn British English. So grab your crisps (potato chips) and flip on the telly (TV).
 


 
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Why Learn British English from TV?

  • Add common slang terms to your English vocabulary. Since British TV shows are generally created for a British audience, the dialogue will include common British slang terms. By watching these TV shows, you will hear casual language that you might miss in a language course.
  • Practice listening to and understanding British accents. British accents sound very different than Australian or American accents. As you watch British TV shows, you will become more and more comfortable with understanding British accents.
  • Learn more about British culture and history. Sure, learning British English phrases might be your main goal. But as you watch British TV, you will also learn more about British culture and history.

Who knows, by the end of this process you might be a major Anglophile (someone who is interested in the culture of the U.K.).

  • Achieve fluency in a fun and enjoyable way. Who does not love watching TV? This is a fun and relaxed way to learn a language.

Host a viewing party or simply put on Netflix for a night in. Either way, watching British TV series is an enjoyable way to work towards English fluency.

How to Learn British English from TV

  • Write while you watch. Before you start watching, grab a notebook and a pen. Or use a note-taking app. Either way, be prepared to actively take notes during the TV show.

Write down any common phrases you hear. Make a note about words or phrases you do not recognize.

  • Watch the same episode multiple times. Do not be afraid to rewind or pause the episode as you take notes. Repetition has been shown to help with language learning. As you rewatch, you will start picking up on key phrases and words that you missed the first time.
  • Host a viewing party. Pop popcorn, order pizza and invite some friends over. Watching with friends or fellow language learners can make this process a lot more enjoyable!
  • Be patient with yourself. Fluency takes time. So, be patient with yourself as you watch British TV shows. You might not understand anything they are saying at first. The jokes might not resonate with you. Their accents might seem impossible to understand. That is okay! It takes time.

Be patient and keep trying. Over time, this will become easier and you will slowly start to learn some British phrases.

best tv series to learn british english

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The 10 Most Entertaining TV Series That Can Teach You British English

Ready to binge watch (watch multiple episodes of a show in a row)?

Now that you know why and how British TV shows can help with fluency, where do you start?

We have created a list of the 10 best British TV series to help you learn key British phrases. As you watch these shows, you can practice listening to British accents and start picking up on British slang. (Also, these are some of our all-time favorite British TV shows, so we hope you enjoy them too!)

“Chewing Gum”

Chewing Gum is a British sitcom that first aired in 2015. This award-winning series follows the story of Tracey Gordon, a 20-something virgin who wants to explore her sexuality. This show is set in modern-day London, so you will hear current slang terms.

Like many of the shows in this list, Chewing Gum is available on Netflix (so get ready to binge!).

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • bum (buttocks)
  • innit (isn’t it)
  • pop in (have a quick visit somewhere)

“Sherlock”

Based loosely on the crime novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this series follows the story of Sherlock Holmes.

It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and is set in modern-day London. It first aired in 2010 and has since won numerous awards.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • trousers (pants)
  • putting me off (making me not like you)
  • you lot (you people)

“The IT Crowd”

This sitcom gained a cult following in Britain, meaning it became extremely popular among a small group of fans.

First airing in 2006, this comedy followed the IT (information technology) employees of the fictional Reynholm Industries. Later, this series was adapted into multiple American and German versions.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • brilliant (awesome)
  • go on then (come on/go on)
  • pounds (British currency)

“Jamie Oliver”

This popular English chef has starred in numerous TV shows. Pick any of his shows to learn some British slang. As a bonus, you may learn some new cooking techniques!

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • carry on (keep going)
  • Celsius (the British temperature measurement—Americans use Fahrenheit)
  • prawn (shrimp)

“The Fall”

The Fall is a British TV series set in Northern Ireland. This thriller follows the story of a serial killer and the detective trying to track him.

It originally aired in 2013 and has won numerous awards.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • mummy (mommy)
  • cross (angry)
  • solicitor (lawyer)

“Top Gear”

Top Gear is a popular British TV series that showcases automobiles. The original 1970s version of the show focused on explaining car features. The revamped 2000s series included automobile races and stunts.

The show is available on Amazon Prime Video, but if you do not have an Amazon Prime account, you can also watch clips on YouTube.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • lorry (truck)
  • kilometer (common British unit of measurement—Americans use miles)
  • liter (common British unit of volume—you will see this in the U.S. as well)

“The Office (British)”

Many Americans are familiar with Michael Scott and the American version of “The Office.” But this show actually originated in the U.K. in 2001. The British version stars and was created by comedian Ricky Gervais.

It is a mockumentary (a fictional show or movie that is presented as a documentary) that showcases the daily operations at a fictional paper company.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • holiday (vacation)
  • tippex (white-out)
  • queue (line of people, cars, etc.)

“The Great British Bake Off”

This is a baking competition show for amateur bakers. The bakers participate in a variety of competitions that test their baking and decorating skills.

This is an award-winning show that is extremely popular in the U.K. In the U.S. and Canada, it is called “The Great British Baking Show.”

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • chum (friend)
  • banging on about (talking about for a long time)
  • fiddly (difficult to do)

“Derren Brown: The Push”

This gripping social experiment was orchestrated by the mentalist Derren Brown. During the course of the show, Derren attempts to convince ordinary people to commit a horrendous crime.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • lot in life (life’s circumstances)
  • quid (money)
  • dash (leave quickly)

“Peaky Blinders”

Peaky Blinders gives us a look at Britain after World War I. This crime drama follows the story of the Shelby gang and their criminal activities around Birmingham, England.

This award-winning show first aired in 2013.

British phrases you will hear in this series:

  • learnt (learned)
  • thick (dumb)
  • pub (bar)

 

So what are you waiting for? Pop some popcorn, grab a notebook and prepare to improve your English fluency with the help of a British TV binge-watching session.


Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based freelance writer. You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.

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