Like many other people learning English, you might also think that if you can master grammar and writing you can master the English language. But you may be wrong thinking that as the English language is so much more than just grammar and writing. Popular culture, or as we like to call it ‘Pop Culture’, is the biggest part of learning English.
The term pop culture became famous around the 1980s and is defined as the accumulation of the cultural products, such as music, art, literature, fashion, dance, film, cyber culture, television and radio that are consumed by the majority of a society’s population. Back then, pop culture varied across different regions and was different all around the world. But with the advent of the internet, and multimedia devices such as smartphones and TV, it has become much more globalised now. When a certain trend pops up in a movie or a TV show, it is quickly adopted around the world and can be a good source of learning that particular culture.
So now back to the important question, i.e. how can we use pop cultural material that is easily available all around the world to help us learn the English language? Well good news, because we have got some tips that can help your language learning process and help you with real life situations instead of just teaching you business English.
Everyone has access to a smartphone these days and spends a lot of time on YouTube. Well why not use it as a teaching tool and help yourself learn the English language? From music videos, popular songs, reaction videos to ted talks etc. everything on YouTube is a great source of learning the English language especially for young learners. It might surprise you to know that, lyrical videos are one the best ways of learning English, so who knew that Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran could be better mentors than your ESL teacher?
There are countless other online resources you can use to learn pop culture, and if I started naming all of them, it would probably take me all day, but there is no denying that they can be a great source of learning pop culture references. Have you ever faced a situation where you were talking to a native English speaker and they mentioned a reference which you had no clue about? If yes then great because you’re going to learn a thing or two about those references today. You can try searching it in a dictionary but you won’t find it because most dictionaries don’t include pop culture references. Why? you may ask. Because they constantly change and are not considered to be aa appropriate way of speaking. But they’re still very common.
Here are some of the free online sources that you can use to learn pop culture references;
1. Urban Dictionary: Ever came across someone that used a reference you didn’t understand? Look no further. The urban dictionary includes all the slang and pop culture references there are in the English language and those too with user written definitions. It is also one of the best resources to look for common acronyms that English speakers commonly use during texting like ‘Lol’, ’Btw’, ’Ftw’ and many more.
2. BBC’s “The English We Speak” podcast series can help you learn the English language that is spoken in real life and that includes all the idioms and pop culture references.
Movies and TV shows:
Movies and TV shows are another great source of learning the English language with pop culture references included. You can learn all the references and idioms there are to learn in English language because that is where native English speakers pick them from, also talking about your favourite movies or TV shows can be a great conversation starter when talking with an English speaker and these conversations can go on for hours. That way you not only learn more and more about pop culture and the English language but also get to make new friends.
The advertisement industry is one of the biggest industries in the modern world, perhaps even bigger than Hollywood and it can teach you a lot about the English language. Millions of pounds are spent to make these campaigns highly effective to sell products in a market that is already saturated. Understanding these ads can provide an awesome opportunity to pick up some new references or even master the language of sales and persuasion.
Memes are an invention of the modern social media culture and exist in almost every society. It is usually an image shared over the internet that can express different ideas, or describe many different situations that the viewers can relate to. One thing about memes is that you will see the same words and phrases used repeatedly with similar meanings or the same structure. These are not just a great way to learn those new words and add to your vocabulary, in fact memes are one of the easiest ways to learn about a culture or find similarities between your culture and theirs which can help you adapt to the newer culture quickly.
Know when to use informal speech:
Pop culture is an amazing way to tap into the secrets of learning a new language and can help your English communication with your friends and make you sound like a more natural, native English speaker. But you need to know when and when not to use these references and idioms in your conversation.
Pop culture references and idioms will definitely come in handy when chatting with your friends on social media apps, or meeting your new classmates, hitting up a conversation in a party but if you’re at work or a professional setting, it is not usually appropriate to use any of them. This also means when writing emails to a professor or your employer, never use these references. You shouldn’t shorten words in the above mentioned situations.
Learn the pop culture references but save them for after work!