Learning English as a second language can be a bit overwhelming and quite an arduous task. Most students have hard time understanding native English speakers especially if they have learned from books and are trying to apply their knowledge in the real world.
Thankfully, we live in an information age where we can easily access tons of resources in just one click. In this article, we have compiled a list of 5 forms of mass media which are, in our opinion, the most effective, hassle-free, low-cost and fun way to improve your English.
Movies are the all-time king of entertainment and watching them is one of the best methods for learning English. You can pick up many expressions and new vocabulary, a genuine accent, as well as the non-verbal communication that goes along with everyday conversation. If you are not very familiar with watching English movies without the help of dubbing or subtitles in your own language, you should probably start experimenting with watching your favourite Hollywood movies in English. By watching movies in English, you learn words in context and hear their pronunciation. You also learn real English, not simply textbook English, and you can pick up different accents and slang. If you have a movie you really like, watch it with English subtitles first. When watching it the second time, try to switch the captions off. This way you can develop the habit of watching movies as they really are, i.e. in real English.
The English you hear when listening to or watching the news will definitely deviate from the English you hear when watching movies. “News” English is quite dry, fact-oriented, and information rich, and those facts and information are being delivered within a short period of time. Most of the news is usually presented without subtitles, which makes it even harder for a non-native speaker to understand. If you want to improve at understanding the news, start by reading newspapers. Then watch high-quality news channels, such as BBC News, CBC News, CNN, Financial Times etc. You can also find news videos on YouTube, so that you can watch them again and again until you understand the gist.
3. TV shows
There are so many entertaining TV shows, programs and sitcoms (situation comedies) to watch. You can simply choose any that interest you. There are also many TV shows with famous hosts and TV presenters. The most popular ones are Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and others. A recent ILAC survey showed that most international students choose to watch the extremely popular TV conferences, TED Talks. TED.com is one of the most popular sites with tons of unique presentations in which people from different backgrounds share their ideas and knowledge. Best of all, you can watch it any time. The topics vary from top-notch robot technology to “the joy of surfing in ice-cold water”, so surely you will find something that inspires you. Most of the presentations last from 5 to 20 minutes. Some have subtitles. When watching these videos, you can also learn presentation skills and cultivate your vocabulary on a chosen topic.
Music is a universal language. Songs make it easier to learn the language. When singing and repeating lyrics to your favourite song, you are already working on your English pronunciation. Google the lyrics on the internet and follow along as a song plays. Karaoke is also a great way to improve your English, as it allows you to learn the lyrics and practice pronunciation while pretending that you are a rock star.
5. Radio and Podcasts
Radio and podcasts can be challenging to understand, because you don’t have visual support, as you do when watching movies or TV shows.
On the other hand, listening to the radio or podcast is quite useful, especially if you are preparing for the listening sections of IELTS or TOEFL exams. The more native speech you listen to, the more you understand.
Even if you don’t understand 100% of what is being said, your brain gets used to the rhythms of English and you can improve your listening skills without even noticing.
ILAC produces its own English podcasts to help international students learn new vocabulary and grammar, or just improve their listening skills. Subscribe to the ILAC educational podcast channel on iTunes and Podomatic.
If you devote enough time to every form of the above-mentioned mass media, you will definitely make your English fluent and have no problems understanding native speakers.
Alena Khabibullina and Ai Watanabe