Learning a new language as an adult is not exactly the same as learning it from childhood, but it does share some features. Children and adults both learn actively and passively: they study in school, but they also listen to conversations around them, look at signs and books and other written materials, and talk with other people. So it makes sense that watching television shows for children might be helpful to people learning English as adults, too! This is even better if you have kids with whom you can watch, but don’t be afraid to check out these shows on your own as well. Many of these shows are available to watch online on YouTube, Netflix, or other streaming video services.
So here here are the top 9 children TV programs that we recommend to improve Conversational English skills for adults.
The Electric Company: This show started out in the 1970s but now has updated episodes. It has a great focus on language, spelling, and pronunciation, and explains words using visuals as well as narration. It’s perfect for intermediate and near-advanced English speakers who want to improve Conversational English skills. There’s also a little basic math. Each episode has a different theme and provides five new words to watch out for at the beginning of the show.
The Magic School Bus: Another classic show, this is appropriate for intermediate English speakers and teaches about a wide variety of concepts such as space, plants, animals, and weather, and offers great opportunities to increase your vocabulary and improve Conversational English skills.
Mother Goose Club: This is best for beginners. Using familiar stories and songs, this show is great for learning about words that rhyme and sound alike. Songs are good for memory practice because they use a different part of the brain than spoken language.
Octonauts: This one is interesting because the cast of animal characters come from many different countries, so their accents are different even as they are all speaking English to one another. I think this is helpful because not everyone that a new English learner encounters will speak English in exactly the same way. You might meet Australian, Indian, Mexican, or Chinese people whose English will sound different from someone who was born in the U.S. or the U.K. So it’s great practice! The show itself focuses on marine life including plants and animals that live in the ocean. Each episode introduces a new animal and discusses its habits, diet, and appearance. If you want to expand your vocabulary of animal words, this is the show for you.
Peg + Cat: This silly show about Peg and her blue cat is all about math: solving math problems using logic and storytelling. The language is appropriate for low-intermediate English speakers; the math itself will be too easy, but that’s not the point here: it will help reinforce counting in English and build a number-related vocabulary. Try this show and you will know it is a great way to improve Conversational English skills without learning boring grammar!
Reading Rainbow: This show is about more than just reading. Host Levar Burton does read stories, which are accompanied by pictures from the original book, and it’s fantastic because if you get the book at home, you can read along and hear how he pronounces each word. However, there are other segments to this classic show, including field trips to places like the fire department, the bureau of engraving (where money is made), or a toy car factory. It’s calm and intelligent without being condescending.
Sarah and Duck: If you’re learning British English, this one’s for you: it’s a delightful and simple show about a girl and her duck who learn new things and have small adventures. The language is intermediate and well-enunciated, so it’s easy to understand, and the narrator explains everything that’s going on in the show. The vocabulary includes everything from animals to vegetables to clothing, weather, and cooking. It’s also quite funny in a dry sort of way. Overall, a great way to improve Conversational English skills while having fun!
Sesame Street: This show is a classic for a reason. There’s a great mix of humor, music, seriousness and silliness. Often segments will focus on specific words or concepts that can be confusing or easily misunderstood, or on a specific letter of the alphabet. They help you practice counting, spelling, and reading through different approaches such as songs and pictures. The various characters (both human and puppet) have conversations about everything from manners to food to sports, games, and emotions.
Super Why: This show is better for beginner and low-intermediate speakers. It uses fairy tales, which often exist in other languages as well, to find answers to dilemmas and questions. It includes a read-along segment that’s ideal for live practice in reading aloud, and offers opportunities for audience participation and repetition.
If you watch one or more of these shows and have questions about anything you see or hear, you could ask about it at your next Skype English lesson with a native English teacher!