TV Taught Me English

In China, you wouldn’t be surprised to meet a Chinese person who speaks English with a very authentic American or British accent, but has never been abroad before. If you ask them why they can speak English so well, they will most likely tell you it's because they watch a lot of American or British TV.

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Why are American or British TV shows so popular in China? The main reason is Chinese curiosity about America. In the 1980's, China opened up its economy to other countries and American pop culture became popular in China. TV shows, music and movies opened a door for us to learn about the world outside of China.

While enjoying pop culture and being entertained, American TV shows have also been a way for Chinese people to practice English. Many college and high school students watch TV as a way to to learn vernacular and slang and imitate the way people actually speak. Even today, the English teachers in college encourage students to watch Friends for learning English. In addition, some roles in the shows give them inspiration for their studies or life, like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. 

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Different age groups have different favorite TV shows. For instance, people who were born in the 1970’s or early 80’s watched Growing Pains. Those who were born in the mid-to-late 80’s watched Friends. Believe it or not, there are many Chinese people who have watched this sitcom more than ten times. Some big fans of Friends even claim that the show transformed their life. Fantasy TV series, like Game of Thrones and Vampire Diaries, are more acceptable with the younger generation.

The last few years, the most popular TV series in China are The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, Modern Family, House of Cards and Sherlock Holmes. With easier access to Western TV, there are more options to find one you like. Recently, detective, political, zombie and law-related series have been most popular.


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