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Comedy: the Secret to Practicing English

Many people who are trying to learn English will watch as much American television as possible, read a ton of books written in English, etc. I want to make the case that instead of watching television to learn English, that you should instead read a few jokes. “What!?” You say. “I don’t really see the value in that.” Here are a few reasons why I see jokes as an incredibly valuable way to learn English:

Reasons to use watch/read comedy to Practice English.

  • Jokes and comedy sketches employ a part of the English language that no book will teach you- and that part is English slang. Listening to comedians and reading written jokes will help you grasp these often difficult expressions.

  • Each joke, each part of a comedy routine, becomes essentially a little mini quiz that offers instant feedback. Let me put it this way: when you understand why the joke was funny, when you laugh, you have accomplished a number of things. For example, you know you have understood the basic words and language: without understanding the words in the joke themselves, you have no hope of understanding why the joke is funny.

  • Listening to comedy is entertaining- this is very important. Because comedy is enjoyable, you will continue to listen to it and you will continue to accrue the benefits of immersing yourself in the language.

  • Listening to comedy also helps inform you about the culture in which English is spoken. The majority of comedy routines at least in some way examine modern life and the culture of the pertinent country.

Comedian Recommendations

Here are a few comedians to look out for to help you learn English. As a caveat, many of these comedians will deal will highly mature content.

  • C.K. Louis

  • George Carlin

  • Dane Cook

  • Dave Chappelle

  • Robin Williams

My personal favorite is George Carlin- I cannot think of a single comedian who, while still being absolutely hilarious, still managed to incite deep thinking and commentary about a variety of very serious issues.

Comedy Show Recommendations

Here are a few comedy television shows to look out for. The same caveat as the one above applies here.

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

  • Louie

  • Seinfeld

  • Arrested Development

My personal favorite from this list is Louie, but I will say that if you are learning English, few shows will give you a better look at English speaking cultures better than Seinfeld will. Seinfeld focuses on the small minutiae of everyday American existence in a way that is both insightful and very funny.

Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi
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