That’s probably the last thing you want to do when you get home from work. You’d probably prefer to just sit back, relax and turn on the TV. Why don’t you do both at once!?!
The beauty of learning English is that there are so many ways you can practice with popular media; one of the best being watching TV sitcoms (series). So, what are the benefits of watching sitcoms? Some of them include:
- Learning the language with practical and real life situations.
- The vocabulary can be colloquial and formal depending on the sitcom you watch.
- Your listening skills are enhanced and/or you have more contact with different accents.
- You can start to understand cultural references and different types of humor.
The goal of this article is to show you how a sitcom can not only help you with your vocabulary and conversational skills, but also give you more insight and a stronger connection to the culture that goes with it. This is what we tend to call lifestlye learning. When watching a sitcom like How I Met Your Mother, people often identify themselves with a character. I’ve seen this help peoples’ English skills, as they tend to copy the character as if it were their “English alter ego.” This can make the person feel more confident when speaking because they feel almost as if they were the character. When speaking English, they are a different person.
In this article, I’m going to motivate you to start using sitcoms for your English practice, using the legendary sitcom, How I Met Your Mother! You’re going to see how you can learn a lot about American humor, and the use of wordplay. TV series are a good way to understand foreign humor.
But first let me give you a quick summary of what the show is about:
CONCEPT OF THE SHOW (and what a student will get from watching the show)
How I Met Your Mother is portrayed as a father telling his children a story. The main character is Ted Mosby, who lives with a couple he met at college, Marshall and Lilly. Throughout the series, Ted has many relationships, one of them being with another one of the main characters, Robin. But one of the funniest and most eccentric characters is Barney. Ted met Barney in the bathroom one day and he has been friends with the rest of the characters ever since.
Because Barney is one of the most memorable characters, I’m going to uses his character to teach you about “catchphrases.” With this you’ll understand the humor of the show much better and become addicted to this great sitcom.
A catchphrase is a phrase or expression used repetitively by a person or character. These types of phrases are commonly used in American sitcoms for comical purpose and to grow character popularity. This is excellent for your English and understanding of native speaking culture.
Good examples of other famous catchphrases would be the character Joey from the sitcom Friends. Joey has a famous pickup line, “how YOU doin?” *this is a colloquial form of “how are you doing?”
For our Brazilian readers, a popular catchphrase here in Brazil right now is Sergio Malandro’s very repetitive phrase, “pegadinha do malandro… glu glu.” I’m sure this can give you a good idea of how quickly these phrases can spread.
The sitcom How I Met Your Mother also has used many catchphrases which have become very popular in American Culture. Most of these phrases are used by the character Barney. Although Barney is not the program’s main character, these few expressions have made him internationally famous and probably the most adored character on the show.
Barney’s most popular catchphrase since the first episode is, “suit up.” Barney uses this expression to tell someone to put on a business suit. You will notice that Barney wears a suit in every episode as if it were some kind of superhero costume.
During the series, Barney modifies his catchphrase to fit specific situations. Some of these moderations include:
SNOW SUIT UP - Telling the other to put on appropriate clothes for the snow
BIRTHDAY SUIT UP - Your birthday suit can be a reference to being naked in English
SLUT UP - Telling robin and Lilly to wear more provocative clothes (slut is word used to describe a woman who sleeps with many men)
[media url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCQsEKOVZFM" width="600" height="400"]
Another common catchphrase which is used from the beginning of the series is “Legendary.” This expression is generally used when Barney is describing one of his crazy plans or when he makes references to something he has done in the past… “that was legendary!” Using this phrase could make your English sound cooler.
A very common modification to legendary is when he pauses in the middle to add more suspense. On many occasions you’ll hear him say, “It’s going to be legen… wait for it… dary!” A more extended version of this one is when he says, “legen.. wait for it… and I hope you’re not lactose intolorent because the next part contains… dary.” Here he is using word play. The final part “dary” sounds like the word dairy (milk products), which can’t be eaten or drunk by lactose intolerant people.
[media url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEAmUduGurg&feature=fvwrel" width="600" height="400"]
Awesome is a very common slang used by English speakers all around the world. In How I Met Your Mother, Barney takes this expression to another level.
Barney thinks very highly of himself and believes he really is incredibly awesome. His most common catch phrase with awesome is, “When I get sad I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead. True story!”
A high five is common practice in American culture. This is when you put your right hand in the air and slap it with another person’s hand. This is most commonly used to congratulate or to express excitement about something with a friend.
In the series, Barney gives the most “high fives” out of any other character, and he often modifies the style of the high five to suit the situation. Some of these modifications have been:
- ARTHRITIS HIGH FIVE- A high five with your fingers all bent like an old person
- PHONE FIVE- Slapping the phone as if you were giving the other person a high five through the phone.
- HYPOTHETICAL HIGH FIVE- When the people don’t actually perform the high five, but both think about it at the same time.
- FREEZEFRAME HIGH FIVE- The two people stop with their hands together as if someone has pushed pause on a movie.
[media url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JO2EyC4tLIU" width="600" height="400"]
HAAAAVE YOU MET TED?
Barney is a single man who is always trying to pick up (term used for trying to get someone to have sex with you) girls, in English we can call this type of guy a “player.” In many cases, when Ted is single, Barney becomes Ted’s wingman (a named used for a friend who helps you talk to girls) to help him with women. The first thing he often says to break the ice is, “haaaave you met Ted?” As soon as he says this he usually walk away leaving Ted looking rather silly and awkward.
The funny thing about the catchphrase, “have you met Ted?”, is that many people have adopted this as a kind of jokingly way to talk to women in real life, changing the name “Ted” for the name of their wingman. If you’re ever in an English speaking country, try it one day and see if this catchphrase can make you more popular with the ladies in Real Life.[media url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA7UlASyS-Q" width="600" height="400"]
Are you making the most of television? I hope that with this one aspect of what you can learn with sitcoms, you can see how much deeper your English knowledge and lifestyle can go in comparison to a simple grammar or vocabulary exercise with no REAL LIFE connection.
Try it today!! Buy a DVD of How I Met Your Mother, or any other series and make it a consistent part of your English learning.
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