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Literature, Film and Popular Culture: Free ESOL Courses & Lessons at your Fingertips

By Sophia, published on 25/07/2017 Blog > Languages > ESOL (English) > ESOL: Learn English through Literature, Film & Pop Culture

Unless you’ve dwelt on a remote island for the last ten years or so, you could hardly miss the global influence of English language entertainment in all forms.

Movies, music, and books now have the freedom to travel globally, more or less without restrictions, thanks to the World Wide Web. Even classic literature such as Lord of the Rings and Wuthering Heights are devoured and discussed by students of English everywhere!

In some countries – not just Britain, J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter are household names.

Even though some great music comes out of African nations, the Caribbean and Asia, overwhelmingly, the singers’ names on people’s lips the world over are either American or British: Taylor Swift and Adele being examples of such.

How does this abundance of entertainment help you learn English? Let’s find out!

English learning through Literature

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” Rita Mae Brown

Nowhere can you get a better picture of cultural development through the ages than by reading classic literature, and English authors abound!

  • As you learn English grammar and vocabulary, why not try some of the Brontë sisters’ works?

    • Emily, Sara and Jane all wrote sweeping epics as well as shorter poems – giving you classic English literature in small bites.

  • You could indulge in a dose of futurama by studying the works of George Orwell.

    • His works reflect not only a glimpse of the future but a hefty dose of social commentary from the time he wrote each book.

  • Do you like love stories? Are you of a mind to appreciate early science? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the first science fiction novel, blending alchemy with romantic overtones.

    • This story was allegedly written as a result of a bet between herself, her husband and his best friend. She won, of course!

Beware, as you read these classics, that the writing includes some English words and expressions that are obsolete – no longer used.

Reading these books and others to improve your English, you should keep an Oxford English dictionary handy. Highlight words and phrases you are not familiar with and look them up as you read.

As your fluency in English grows, you can build a list of new words from these stories to look up later.

A great site to download classic literature is Gutenberg. There you will find many titles that will help you understand not just the English language but also the culture that drove its evolution.

You can improve your literacy as well as listening skills by downloading audiobooks from Librivox. Neither site costs any money.

Jane Austin, the renegade writer of her time, is currently enjoying a resurgence of popularity. Her novels have seldom been out of print, even though most of her work was published more than two hundred years ago.

She only wrote six books, but they have often been turned into movies, sometimes with modern themes.

Learn the art of English dialogue by watching films Watching films is an entertaining way to learn English (Source: Pixabay Credit: Geralt)

How to Learn English by Watching Films

Movies give you a triple exposure to the English language and its culture: listening, reading (if you have subtitles turned on) and seeing how the actors are speaking.

Native English speakers make exaggerated mouth movements to teach their children how to form words properly. Actors copy that technique in order to enunciate – speak each word clearly.

You can benefit from actors’ diligence by imitating the way their mouths move, as well as their tone and inflection.

Arguably the best movie of all time is Citizen Kane. Although a product of American movie studios, even the British Film Institute finds it top-notch.

This film is notable for, among other things, extended monologues – one person talking at length.

Although American cinema is quite popular the world over, both their classic movies and new releases, Britain herself is famous for a substantial number of hits.

  • Do you like comedy? Monty Python movies highlight social absurdity.

  • How about action and intrigue? James Bond is the man for you.

  • Would you like a dose of sorcery? Two words suffice: Harry Potter.

Movies, especially new releases, are a great way to pick up on slang and idioms. Pause the movie to write them down for later study!

Be sure to use them in conversation once you have mastered them, preferably with native speakers of English.

Sites such as Primewire permit you to watch movies for free online, but they do not include subtitles. Still, watching them can help you improve your English comprehension as well as sharpen your listening skills.

You might be surprised to know that many Esl teachers recommend watching movies in English. Some teachers even show films in class!

One film you might watch if you are taking English courses is The King’s Speech, the true story of George VI, who was expected to address the British public via radio. However, his spoken English was marred by a terrible stammer!

He employed a speech tutor to improve his speaking skills. After several lessons, he became proficient in English conversation, speaking with a fluency that belied his speaking problem. Naturally, his first broadcast was a hit.

You can copy the king’s determination to achieve fluent speech by using some of the techniques shown in that movie.

Listen to the Radio to Improve English Comprehension

Generally, when one thinks about listening to the radio, music is the main idea.

You can improve your English vocabulary and increase your speaking ability by singing along with your favorite songs. Of course, you have to know the lyrics – the words to those songs.

There are many great sites to find song lyrics. All you need to know is the name of the song and/or the singer. A quick Internet search and you’re ready!

However, the humble radio has so much more to offer people who are learning English.

The British Council broadcasts on several radio channels. Music, of course, occupies one band; the others are programmed to help you learn and improve your English.

If you are preparing for Ielts or you wish to develop your business English skills, you can visit their site to get helpful study hints, take quizzes and register to learn Business English online. Learn about how English can benefit your career in business here.

Pop culture offers many interesting avenues to explore English Seek out icons of pop culture to help you learn English (Source: Pixabay Credit Geralt)

To date, Dr. Who has been broadcast in fifty countries around the world – from Algeria to Zambia, a country for just about every letter of the alphabet.

The Mysterious Doctor, as he is known in China, has such a loyal, global fan base that the show has endured for more than fifty years.

He is the crown jewel of English television!

Strange as it sounds, the appeal of this face-changing alien lies in his being so down to earth. He even helps non native speakers learn English!

Beware, though: not everything The Doctor says is general English. Tardis is an acronym describing his flying machine, and nouns such as Dalek and Cybermen do not describe real creatures.

The Doctor uses a lot of slang, and the idiom features heavily in his speech, as do similes.

Subscribe to English lesson podcasts for free The British Council records podcasts for English learners (Source: Pixabay Credit: Florante Valdez)

Learn how to make English learning easy with our guide to simplifying ESOL Courses.

Learn English Online via Podcasts

Nothing is more fashionable than boarding the tube or bus with earbuds in. You might listen to music, but more and more these days, people are downloading and listening to podcasts to learn English online.

Podcasts are short monologues or discussions that you can download from the Internet and listen to as often as you’d like. You can subscribe to a podcast (usually for free) and receive new segments as soon as they are available.

Here again the British Council serves its non native community, through their Learn English podcasts.

Rather than broadcast on random topics, such as the significance of prepositional phrases and the proper use of pronouns, each segment is a continuation of the previous lesson involving the same native speakers, who are engaged in ordinary, everyday activities.

Subscribing to these podcasts can help you:

  • understand verbs and their tenses, and conjugate properly

  • learn the difference between an adjective and an adverb

  • realize the importance of proper punctuation

  • improve your vocabulary

  • understand and use comparatives and superlatives

  • study tricky grammar rules

The English speaking on these recordings is standard Oxford English, spoken clearly and relatively slowly, so that you can follow along – the perfect way to improve your English pronunciation.

Besides recordings, there are transcripts of the podcast conversations for you to print out and follow along. Doing so will greatly increase your reading proficiency.

Copying the podcast text is a great way to improve your writing skills!

Books, movies, music and television: a treasure trove of materials that you, who are learning English as a second language can use in your English learning adventure and make English learning fun.

Get access to online educational materials and university education with the English language.

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