I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.
As an English teacher, students are often asking me what they can do to improve their English. One of the things I recommend is watching TV in English, and I specifically recommended watching Friends.
I was a fan of Friends back in Canada. It’s a fun show and it was always easy to find reruns on almost any channel. For those who have been living in a cave, Friends is a show about 6 friends who live in New York City. All of the action takes place in only a few main locations, and the stories mainly revolve around relationships, family, and jobs.
In addition to being a fun show, Friends is a great tool for learning conversational English. The characters speak the kind of English that many students want to learn when they go to a conversational English school. The language is casual without being overloaded by slang, the conversation is about things that people actually talk about (the aforementioned relationships, family, jobs), and there is a lot of movement and physical humour to help provide context to the spoken language.
English students in Japan can all find something to relate to in the characters in Friends. Overbearing parents? Check. Working an office job that your friends don’t understand? Check. Divorced parent? Check. Apartment life in a big city? Check. While not everyone has a pet duck or an evil twin sister, there still are at least a few things in the characters that everyone can identify with.
As one final advantage of the show, Friends is easy to find. Reruns are shown on TV and the DVDs are easily available to buy or rent. The DVDs come with audio and subtitles in both English and Japanese. I’ve been encouraging students to watch in English with English subtitles if possible, and only to use the Japanese subtitles if they had trouble understanding something.
I know a few students have taken my advice so far, and I have been enjoying rewatching the show with The Penpal as a fun way to practice her English before she moves to Canada. That’s when we’re going to graduate to The Simpsons!