Tuesday, April 3, 2007

ESL, "Friends" and Teaching Tools

I've taught quite a few ESL students over the last couple of years and I've noticed one interesting thing that advanced ESL learners from all over the world have in common. The one thing is that almost all of them watch the sitcom "Friends" in their home countries.

A couple of summers ago, I taught ESL to a class of about 20 high school students from France. Three of the students spoke almost like native English-speaking high school kids. Their American English accents impressed me most. I asked them how they learned to sound so much like Americans. All of them said that they watched "Friends" and "old" American movies (I was suprised to hear that "old" meant movies from the '70s!). They had never been to the U.S. before and yet their accents were nearly perfect.

I've learned from several other advanced ESL learners visiting the U.S. that they also watch "Friends" in their home countries.

I've started asking beginning students to watch "Friends." Even though beginning ESL student's English skills are limited, I've found that we are still able to effectively use episodes as discussion topics.

The one challenge I've found with using this particular teaching tool is that in my part of the country, "Friends" reruns are played back-to-back. But, the two episodes are from different seasons. There might be one episode with Monica and Chandler getting married and another episode with Monica dating Tom Selleck. This can be a little confusing for the student. And me!

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