Watching Television Can Help Non-Native Speakers Improve English Skills


Are you stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic? Spend your time improving your English. One fun way that technical professionals can improve their English skills—and their career prospects—as a non-native speaker is to watch television shows in English

A growing number of organizations see English fluency as an essential skill for technical professionals. This is especially crucial in today’s global environment since many technical professionals now work as part of an international team. Additionally, organizations not only expect technical professionals to excel in the technical aspects of their jobs, but workers are also expected to be adept at presenting and communicating complex ideas. What’s more, many top university engineering programs require prospective students to be proficient in English.

Some experts believe a basic-level understanding of English isn’t enough to become successful in the global engineering workforce. 

“On a more practical level, it is essential to develop the habit of speaking more slowly, pronouncing words carefully, and using simple, straightforward vocabulary and sentence structures,”  Robert Keim, All About Circuits’s Director of Engineering, told AAC. “Many people do not realize how difficult it is for language learners to understand ‘normal’ speech produced by native speakers. Both speaker and listener must actively attempt to facilitate successful, comfortable communication.”

How Does Watching English TV Improve Fluency?

Learning a second language as complex as English can seem daunting. However, watching television shows and films can improve your understanding of everyday colloquialisms and phrases that can be difficult for non-native speakers to grasp. Research shows that those who watch non-native TV shows gain improved listening, reading, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and comprehension.

According to a survey from the European Commission, people in countries where foreign TV shows and films are frequently featured in the original language with local language subtitles- including Denmark, Flanders, and Sweden- had better fluency than those in countries where the audio was dubbed in their native tongue.

Spending your free time watching foreign-language television combines learning with entertainment. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Find an English-speaking TV show you enjoy. 
  2. Watch the show while you read the subtitles in your native language.
  3. Be sure to watch the episodes in sequence from beginning to end.
  4. Once you finish, rewatch the show. 
  5. If you already speak a second language, switch the show to second-language subtitles, and watch it again. (This can help improve your understanding even further.)
  6. Keep rewatching the show until you no longer need to depend on subtitles to understand it. 
  7. By watching and rewatching episodes from beginning to end, you will gain deeper insight into English. Common subscription services like Netflix and Hulu offer a range of popular TV shows in English that can be viewed with subtitles. 

Television isn’t the only way to improve your English during the pandemic. Reading English books and articles, taking online courses, using English-language apps, and even playing dialogue-heavy video games in English can also help improve your skills. 

Improve English Language Proficiency

Now available on IEEE Xplore and the IEEE Learning Network, IEEE English for Technical Professionals is an online learning program that uses real-life interactive scenarios to provide non-native speakers with a working knowledge of English techniques and vocabulary that are essential for today’s technical workplace. Designed to help learners master essential English skills, this mobile-friendly program is ideal for both working professionals, as well as students who are preparing to enter the field. 

Connect with an IEEE Content Specialist today to learn more about this program and how to get access to it for your organization.

Interested in the program for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network. 


Peters, Elke and Webb, Stuart. (28 June 2020). Watching foreign-language TV during the coronavirus pandemic can help you learn a new language. The Conversation.

Fadelli, Ingrid. (20 March 2020). Is English Still the Universal Language of Electrical Engineering? All About Circuits.

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