Hold the phone! Watch Netflix?! Watch YouTube videos? What are you talking about?! Isn’t watching TV the opposite of what we should be doing? Isn’t it counter-productive rather than productive?!
Generally speaking, watching Netflix, YouTube, or TV is considered a waste of time. Lots of people postpone or procrastinate doing things they should be doing for various reasons – and it seems that watching online content is increasingly topping the list of reasons as to why they do so. It’s understandable; with cheap subscription prices, widespread availability, and an enormous selection of programs, the Netflix/YouTube combo has got massive amounts of people watching and following their content. How do we not fall prey to the distractions these platforms have to offer? How do prevent these addictive programs from dictating our behaviors and use them to our advantage instead? How do we resist the temptation of unlimited content that’s so easily available and so addictive?
To answer these questions, I suggest some counter-questions. Why not turn it around?
What if that box that millions of people seem so heavily addicted to could actually be useful? What if it could be used as a learning aid – rather than a tool to kill time and postpone doing more important things? What if you could kill two birds with one stone and enjoy yourself as well as learn a thing or two about the English language (and, additionally – depending on what you choose to view – perhaps about some specific subjects)? What if you can truly embrace the spirit and definition of edutainment and absorb the language in the process?
EDUTAINMENT. Say what? EDU-cation. Enter-TAINMENT. Edutainment is Education and Entertainment in one. This means learning while being entertained. It is learning yet does not feel like it. It is learning. Yet, it does not FEEL like learning. It bears repeating as this is the crux of the matter. Let it sink in.
What does this really entail? Conventionally speaking, most students hate studying for hours on end. Understandably so. It’s exhausting. It’s a lot of effort, stress and strain on the brain. We get tired after a while, but not when we watch TV. This is a breakthrough. THE breakthrough. I can only hope you recognize how huge this is. It would be a shame to let such a learning opportunity go to waste. Only you can decide if it is worth a go. In other words, keep watching! Yes. Keep watching! Keep doing what you are already doing. The main exception would be if you are watching hours and hours of silent TV or programs where there is little or no conversation taking place.
I love watching Mr. Bean, Cam & Leon and Shaun the Sheep with my four-year old. However, it doesn’t improve your English language skills. Other than that, everything else is fair game!
What do you find interesting? What subjects are appealing enough to you to learn more about? I love travel shows, so I like to focus on anything travel related. The documentaries with Ewan McGregor, “Long Way Up”, “Long Way Down”, and “Long Way Round” and also anything by Charles Boorman were a great starting point for me.
If this sounds right for you, find something to watch that interests you. It might be useful to turn on subtitles, provided they are of good quality, and jot down any unfamiliar vocabulary, words and expressions that you deem interesting, noteworthy or useful. You don’t have to jot down all sentences in which the words or expressions occurred. It would be useful to remember the context in which they were used though.
This can provide you with a deeper understanding of the words and idioms themselves. It will also be easier for you to include them in your active vocabulary, so eventually you can use them in your own conversations or written word. This way of learning is fast. This way of learning is efficient. This way of learning is fun, sustainable and affordable. You will be surprised by how many words there are that you are not familiar with. The best way to go about it is jotting them down in a notebook and/or on Post-It notes. These work better than a piece of paper (these tend to get lost) or a phone (which is distracting enough as it is).
Find a notebook that you can easily carry around so you always have it handy. If you have a way of attaching a pen or pencil to it, even better. That way, you always have all your new vocabulary with you, and you are always ready to jot down new words. Ensure the notebook is large enough for you to write down notes by your expressions or words. By doing so, you can remember them easier later on.
Another idea is to have some notes on pronunciation. I urge you not to use this method exclusively. Nor do I want you to rush into it. Consider this article for a moment, let it sink in for a day. Then prepare yourself mentally to try it out. Take your time. Buy a notebook today or tomorrow, grab a pen or pencil somewhere, and get comfy. If your favourite show is coming on in two days – good! Don’t rush it and watch something you dislike today just so you can get started quickly. Take your time. You have time to spare. Make it as enjoyable as you can, with the maximum amount of fun you could possibly have. This is the right way because it is a joy rather than an effort. The English language is too beautiful to get stressed out about.
Go on now, young Padawan, and when you realize what I have tried to convey to you here we shall meet again. You shall bamboozle me with your new English skills. Till then!