At the time of writing this, we are in week 6 of lockdown … and the implications of that are different for all of us. For some, we are busier than ever and the luxury of free time is something from the distant past. For others, we find ourselves in a surreal reality of being at a constant loose end* – and finding ways to pass the time is becoming a tad more* challenging as the days go on.
Whatever situation you are in, we all need to find time to switch off from the horrors and anxiety of the coronavirus and focus a little on ourselves. And why not soak up* some English while we are at it and kill two birds with one stone*?!
To do just that, I am recommending 7 British English TV shows for you to chill out to and at the same time brush up your English skills!
Here’s what I’ve been watching and I think you’ll enjoy them too!
to be at a loose end* = have nothing specific to do (IDIOM)
a tad more* = a slight amount
to switch off from* = stop paying attention (PHRASAL VERB)
to soak up* = to absorb (PV)
kill two birds with one stone* = achieve two aims at once (IDIOM)
to brush up (on)* = to improve your knowledge of something already learned but partly forgotten (PV)
7 Brilliant British English TV Shows for Advanced English Learners
At the top of my list is Shetland … and not just because of the sexy Scottish accents and frequent mentions of Aberdeen (my home town!) Admittedly, the first two seasons are a little bit slow, but still enjoyable (if not for the scenery alone!) Season 3 onwards is fabulous, and I guarantee you’ll soon become addicted like me.
Originally based on the characters from the novels by crime writer Ann Cleeves, Shetland follows DI Jimmy Perez and his team as they investigate crime within the close-knit island community.
Perfect if you like crime drama, soothing Scottish accents and spectacular Scottish scenery!
Watch it on Amazon Prime
Next up is Fleabag, a two series comedy–drama created and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Daring, brutally honest and relatable. Waller-Bridge stars as the titular Fleabag, a free-spirited and sexually active but angry and confused young woman in London. It received widespread acclaim from critics, particularly for its writing, acting, and the uniqueness and personality of the title character.
This one will make you laugh out loud and cry like a baby too.
Watch it on Amazon Prime, iTunes
3. Happy Valley
There is nothing happy about this TV show, but it is brilliant! This crime drama is set in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, in Northern England. The acting is superb, the background stunning and the accents are strong. Genuinely one of the best series I’ve seen in a long time.
Perfect if you like dark, messy and complicated stories.
Watch it on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime
4. The Last Kingdom
Go back in time and watch Alfred the Great defend his kingdom from Norse invaders. The focus is on Uhtred, born a Saxon but raised by Vikings, as he seeks to claim his ancestral birthright. I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did! The show covers one of the most turbulent periods in British history and to be honest, I’m not really sure how accurate it is… but who cares! It is definitely entertaining. (And Uhtred, let’s face it, is not bad to look at either!)
Perfect if you like historical drama. Be warned though – it gets gory!
Watch it on Netflix (Photo from Netflix)
5. After Life
After Life is a British black comedy–drama TV series created, produced and directed by Ricky Gervais who is also the star. I’m not a big fan of Gervais to be honest, however, I did enjoy this show. It’s sweet and easy to watch.
Watch it on Netflix
6. The Crown
Do I really need to say anything about this one?! You’ve probably binge-watched it already! However, I’m adding it to my list, because it deserves a spot here. I devoured season 1 and even if it took me a while to get into season 3, I would still highly recommend it to you all.
Perfect for anglophiles and history buffs!
Watch it on Netflix (Photo from Netflix)
If you can get past the ridiculous plot (a British Army nurse from World War II been transported back in time to 1743!) this is a highly entertaining show! Suddenly, Claire, the nurse, is transported into a mysterious world where her freedom and life are threatened. To survive, she marries Jamie Fraser, a strapping Scots warrior with a complicated past and a disarming sense of humour. A passionate relationship ensues, and Claire is caught between two vastly different men in two inharmonious lives.
To tell the truth, I loved the first 2 seasons (I think mainly due to the story line about the Jacobites which I find fascinating). However, I lost interest in it after that. Give the first season a try and see what you think!
Perfect for anyone who loves a bit of romance, Scotland and Scottish history.
Watch it on Amazon
Why watch British TV to improve your English?
Watching TV in English is not just for lockdown! Watching British TV series can be a smart form of mental exercise if you are learning English:
- it’s particularly helpful for people who want to learn different dialects and accents
- you can pick up on common naturally-spoken British phrases & slang
- you can improve your listening skills and ability to comprehend British accents
- you can learn more about British culture and history
- it’s an enjoyable way to achieve fluency
How to Learn English from watching TV Series
Here are various tips to help you get the most out of the experience
- Sit back, relax and enjoy it. (Watch with subtitles to take it easy!) Not everything has to be laborious!
- Watch something that you’ve already seen (without subtitles!) This way you are less concerned with following the story and more able to concentrate on the language.
- Watch short sections or watch the same episode multiple times. Don’t be afraid to pause and rewind the episode as you take notes. As you rewatch, you will start picking up on key phrases and words that you missed the first time.
- Write while you watch. Actively take notes of any common phrases you hear or words or phrases you do not recognise. Look up the meaning.
- Have patience, be kind to yourself and don’t worry if you don’t understand everything …
Don’t give up! Stick with it – do it regularly, and you WILL see results.
It was hard to cut it down to only 7 (and obviously there are loads of series I could have included here: Broadchurch, Game of Thrones, Killing Eve, just to mention a few more). I tried to include series that are filmed in different parts of the UK and include a variety of accents and themes.
Take action: choose one of the series from above and watch an episode!
I hope you find some inspiration from this list and remember to let me know which ones you like!
In the meantime, stay safe, stay home. Sending you positive vibes from the north of Italy
ps. What shows do you like to watch in English? Share in the comments
4 thoughts on “7 British English TV Shows for Advanced English learning”
Nice article, After Life and Fleabag really caught my attention!
Going by what kind of TV series you like @victorpereira I think you’ll love them! Especially Fleabag!!!
I have something to ask about The Crown. It is a good film, bit it has never occured to me to watch it to improve my English. I don’t want to sound so posh. Am I mistaken? Doesn’t it sound a bit too stiff and formal? Thanks for the article! The Last Kingdom and After Life have tickled my fancy.
Hi Elena, this is a good point to make. We speak about ‘received pronunciation’ (this ‘posh, formal’ English) in module 3 ‘Regional Accents & Natural Speech’ where we discuss how we perceive different accents; what the ‘British accent’ really means and the impact of accent discrimination. I think you’ll find it interesting.
However, I think watching TV series is more about improving your listening skills rather than your speaking skills. (So, I wouldn’t say you should necessarily copy the accent and pronunciation on The Crown – unless you mix with those people!) As a teacher, my job is to prepare my students to be ready for all kinds of ‘Englishes’ – Englishes refers to the different varieties of English and English-based creoles developed in different regions of the world. In other words, you can’t control the type of English another person uses, (it may be someone using ‘posh’ English, or someone who uses a lot of slang, or someone from South Africa, New Orleans, Liverpool! You get the picture!) So the more practice you have of listening to different varieties of accents, the better chance you have of understanding. You can think of watching TV series as a way of training your ear to understand different accents better.