Tired of TV?
Does it seem like you watch more ads than shows?
Do you leave an episode midway because you have no time?
Or do you simply need different things to watch?
Well, as with everything else, the internet can help you.
A long time ago, it was assumed that good entertainment only existed outside the internet. Obviously, no one believes that anymore.
But do you know that the world wide web has shows of its own? Known as web series, they are videos with a basic story or theme and released as episodes. They can be fictional stories, documentaries, interviews or even cartoons released on a platform like YouTube.
Unlike in the past, the current web series can match any TV show in terms of quality of the story, characters and scripts. If you love “vegging out” (relaxing while watching videos) and learning English using videos, then you should definitely check out our recommendations for the best web series for English learners.
Why You Should Use Web Series for English Learning
- Web series are shorter than TV shows. An average episode of most web series is between three and 20 minutes, which means that learners can quickly re-watch an episode in one sitting. This makes it easier to memorize words and focus on details like intonation and accents.
- They are available for free. Unlike shows on Netflix or TV, you do not need to pay for these shows. They are created for the internet and the audience is meant to freely watch and share them, without paying money. All you need to watch a web series is a fast internet connection and some kind of device to watch them on.
- They are easier to follow. Web series are often simpler in terms of story and dialogue so that more people watch it. The episodes are also shorter so that people with less time can continue to follow a series, which they often cannot do with a TV series.
If you enjoy this type of English learning, you can take it up a level with FluentU.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "brought," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Enter the Web of Learning: 14 Entertaining English YouTube Net Series
These web series give you an authentic example of spoken English and they are valuable practice material. They are arranged according to the difficulty level of the English used in the shows.
The series in the beginning are good for learners who are just starting their language-learning journeys and those at the end of the list are meant for advanced learners.
Although the following web series were made for native speakers, any English learner can easily understand them if they turn on subtitles from the video settings. Just click on the “CC” button on the bottom right-hand corner of the video.
Description: If you have ever talked to a child, you know how funny they can be. Now imagine if that child became a grown man, but still spoke in the same way. This is essentially the story of this web series.
Created by the father of a two-year-old girl, each episode of this series shows a real incident that took place between them. However, the actors playing the kids are all grown men in baby clothes which makes it even more hilarious.
“Convos” is a casual short form of the word “conversations.” This is an example of slang—informal words or expressions that people use in informal contexts.
This series is best for beginners since the content is short, funny and simple, and the whole series is about conversations and interactions between English speakers.
Recommended Episode: “Playtime”
Description: FluentU English is a YouTube channel that helps learners master the English language, and it is a companion to—meaning it is something that can be used with—the FluentU language learning program.
On the FluentU English YouTube channel, you can watch many videos called “Learn English with Movies.”
This series does exactly as the titles say: You can learn English while watching movies. In fact, the video above features one of my favorite movies: “The Great Gatsby.”
The video starts with a clip of the film. “The Great Gatsby” stars famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man with a lot of money who throws many parties at his beautiful home. The clip used in the video features two other characters from the movie, Nick and Jordan, as they discuss who Jay Gatsby is.
After watching the clip, the tutor leads us through the informal vocabulary and grammar structures used in it. For example, in the clip from “The Great Gatsby,” character Jordan says, “I thought I might see you here.” While “see” often means to “view something with your eyes,” the tutor explains that Jordan is using the word to say, “I thought I might meet you here” in this case.
The tutor then goes on to explain what other slang words mean in this movie clip. There are many other videos like this one on the FluentU English YouTube channel, and they use clips from other popular movies such as “The Theory of Everything” and “Office Space.”
The FluentU English YouTube channel also has many other videos such as collections of resources for learning, speaking tips and learning tips. Subscribe today to be the first to see new videos when they are posted.
Recommended Episode: “The Great Gatsby”
Level: Beginner to intermediate (Note: Contains some explicit language)
Description: If you ever watch English channels on television, you will be flooded with cooking shows of every kind. This series intends to make fun of them in its own unique way.
The show is hosted by two women who are both named Kate, which is why the title is spelled as “Katering” rather than “Catering” (the correct spelling of the word). One of the hosts suffers from what is called “food intolerance,” which means that she cannot have certain kinds of foods. The other host cooks dishes for her with ingredients that she can actually eat.
Most of the comedy comes from their relationship, where they pretend to be best friends but they actually do not even like each other.
For English learners this is best for learning the various names of fruits, vegetables and dishes. Since this show is created in Australia, it is also good for learning Australian English specifically.
Recommended Episode: “Mexicana Festiana”
Level: Beginner to intermediate
Description: Humans have done impossible things. We have reached the moon, we have created airplanes and we have made medicines that can cure most diseases. Many people around the world are still doing things which may not seem possible at first, but are made possible by their hard work.
This web series wants to make all these individuals from different countries famous. They regularly make mini-documentaries of about a few minutes every week. So far, they have uploaded more than a thousand videos and the list is growing every day.
The show is mainly in English, but many times people speak other languages because they belong to different regions of the world. However, an English translation is always available. They might even have some videos in your native language. The best part is that they are never very long, which means you can repeat each video many times and practice your speaking and listening skills.
Learners from around the world can benefit from this channel in their English learning journey.
Recommended Episode: “For the Animal Lover in All of Us”
Level: Beginner to intermediate
Description: If you love horror, you might have watched movies that pretend to be real. This web series falls into that category, but it uses a format called the “vlog.” The word “vlog” is the short form of “video blog,” and it is a popular genre online where people talk about their own lives on a regular basis.
In this series a girl talks about her new house and the many ghosts that live in it along with her family. Although the quality is not equal to what you see in the movies, it is good for all those times when you feel bored.
The best thing is that since they are pretending to be real, all the conversations that the characters have with each other also sound natural. Most of the dialogues are short and casual and their videos are best for practicing everyday English.
Recommended Episode: “The Ghost Was Right Behind Me”
Level: Intermediate (Note: Contains some explicit language)
Description: Caleb Gallo is a gay man living in Los Angeles with his four other friends, and all of them want to be actors. Most of the series talks about the love lives of all these five characters and the various funny things that happen with them.
Unlike most other web series, these episodes are long. Each episode is around 20 minutes, which makes the story more complex and better than other internet shows. If you want something that is similar to conventional shows shown on TV, then you should definitely watch this.
The language tends to be more explicit and the characters use a lot of slang words. This is good for learning American English, especially if you want to update your vocabulary for the current times.
Recommended Episode: “Episode 4”
Description: With the rise of magazines, television, internet and other media, what we wear is increasingly being decided by what advertisers want us to wear. This series wants to talk about clothes not in terms of what others tell us is good, but in terms of what we like to wear.
This series interviews interesting people who have achieved something in their life and talks about how they select clothes and why they wear them. It is about the personal meaning that we express through our clothes.
This is definitely not for beginners because the language is often very complex. But since the series is all about conversing with interesting people, it is best for intermediate English practice. Not only will you learn English through this, but you will also get to know fascinating individuals who have very different perspectives on life.
Recommended Episode: “Her Modeling Agency Dumped Her, So She Drops the Truth on Them: Charli Howard”
Description: “J” is an African American woman who works at a call center and hates her job. She generally has problems connecting with people and is clueless about how she should to talk to them. In the beginning of the series she breaks up with the love of her life and, to overcome the grief, she starts writing rap lyrics.
The show is great for hearing different accents spoken across the USA. It is also good for learners who are fans of rap music and hip-hop, since this show also regularly features both these genres.
Recommended Episode: “The Icebreaker”
Level: Intermediate (Note: Contains some explicit language and mature content)
Description: The creators of this web series recommend that you watch it only with your headphones on and your lights off. They have a pretty good reason to suggest that since this series is a joy to watch and listen to.
Each season features a new character who is in some way related to the music industry in Canada. Filled with electronic music and plot twists, this series never stops being exciting. Every episode is just three minutes long and you can finish a season in less than half an hour.
The show can be a good guide to learning Canadian English and is ideal for practice because of its short length. The brilliant editing and beautiful visuals never allow a viewer to be bored, no matter how many times you watch the show.
Recommended Episode: “Episode 4”
Description: Are you an avid gamer who likes to talk to people through the internet rather than meeting them in person? Do you know people like that?
If the answer to either of those questions is “yes,” then you will relate to this web series a lot. It is about the strange and awkward life of a girl named Cyd Sherman who likes to play online games called MMOs.
MMOs are “Massively Multiplayer Online” games, and they are very popular throughout the world. Generally, gamers who spend a lot of time playing these games are seen as people with little social skills and very few real-life friends.
This series uses these perceptions to tell a funny story about Cyd, who wants to spend more time in the real world rather than the make-believe digital one. But she goes through various problems that are solved by her online friends rather than the “real” people she knows.
This series is also shot in vlog format, which means that the main character is talking directly to you. This series is good for learning casual English for intermediate-level learners.
Recommended Episode: “Zaboo’d”
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Description: What are borders? Why are they so important to us? How are they drawn? How do they affect the lives of the people living around them?
This series wants to answer all these questions. This new show takes us all around the world and asks very insightful questions about how particular borders have specific consequences. It takes us through history, politics, geography and even global warming to help us understand the lives of ordinary people divided by borders.
Most of the series has narration, so it does not have many conversations. This series is good for learning formal English. Learners who prefer a clear and steady background voice and use the visual information only as a guide in videos will love this show.
Recommended Episode: “Divided Island”
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Description: If you have ever wondered about when humans started farming, or who the Mongols were and how they became so famous, then you should definitely watch this series.
It is hosted by the brilliant writer and YouTuber John Green, who takes us through a journey of major world events. Although he is the only one who speaks in the show, it seems like he is having a conversation with you. The show uses animations and pictures to keep you interested, and it packs a lot of information into short videos. Although the videos are always more than 10 minutes long, it never seems too long.
This series is perfect for people who want to learn two things at once, namely English (or another foreign language), as well as the topic of a course. In their main “Crash Course” channel, you can also find other courses—all of them are in English, with subtitles in more than 34 languages.
Recommended Episode: “The Agricultural Revolution”
Description: This is the only fantasy web series in our list. The story takes place in a place called Remnant, which is filled with monsters called the “creatures of Grimm.” Humankind fights these monsters with something magical called “Dust.” It is used to make weapons and gain abilities.
The plot is about four girls forming a team to fight monsters called RWBY (pronounced as “ruby” in the series). Together they go on many adventures and meet various kinds of people.
The series uses a very sophisticated form of English often using complex words like “legends” (famous stories) and “wrath” (anger). But when the characters talk to each other they use a more casual kind of English, which is easier to understand.
Recommended Episode: “Ruby Rose”
Genre: Video Essay
Description: I am sure you have heard of an essay. It is a piece of writing which explores a particular issue or topic. They usually take a stand for or against something and list out arguments which support their position.
The video essay does the same thing through a video. The video’s most important component is the background narration, which replaces the text of the written essay.
The visual elements can include animations, pictures, some shots from other movies or videos and the voice recordings of other people the creator wants to quote. This category has grown in the YouTube universe and many popular channels only create video essays.
Perhaps the most famous of these channels is Kaptain Kristian’s. Like most other video essays, he analyzes one movie, TV series or animated show per episode. He usually talks about the themes in the movie, how it relates to the larger culture and what it seeks to do with its audience.
For learners who regularly use popular video resources such as films to learn English, these video essays can add another layer to your understanding. We learn the best when we can connect the new information with the experiences we already have in our head. This can be a way to deepen your understanding about a film and its relevance in society, while learning more English.
This channel uses formal language and is perhaps best for learners who want to get into academics or journalism, where this kind of English is common.
Recommended Episode: “Her: Building a Beautiful Future”
The best thing about web series is that even if you get addicted, it might only take you an hour or so to watch an entire series!
So keep watching and keep learning!
Dhritiman Ray is a writer of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. He specializes in topics like education, psychology and lifestyle. To know more click here.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.