How ‘Friends’ Helps People Around the World Learn English

How ‘Friends’ Helps People Around the World Learn English

Language teachers say the show is a near-perfect amalgam(əˈmalɡəm) of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios(səˈnerēˌō) that feel familiar(fəˈmilyər) even to people who live worlds away from the West Village(ˈvilij).

By Mike Ives

True or false: In the television show “Friends,” Monica(ˈmänikə) Geller was invited to Rachel Green’s wedding.

The question is part of an English lesson for international students in San Jose, Calif., that is based entirely on the show’s pilot(ˈpīlət) episode(ˈepəˌsōd). It was designed by Elif Konus, a teacher from Turkey who once binge(binj)-watched “Friends” to improve her own English.

The class, and the teacher’s TV habits, illustrate(ˈiləˌstrāt) an international phenomenon(fəˈnäməˌnän) that emerged in the 1990s and has endured across generations: Young people who aren’t native English speakers appear to enjoy learning the language with help from the hit sitcom(ˈsitˌkäm).

Seventeen years after the final “Friends” episode, students and educators say that the show, still seen widely in syndication(ˌsindəˈkāSH(ə)n) around the world, works well as a learning resource. The dad jeans(jēnz) and cordless telephones may look dated, but the plot(plät) twists — falling in love, starting a career and other seminal(ˈsemənl) moments in a young person’s life — are still highly relatable(rəˈlādəb(ə)l).

“It’s really entertaining(ˌen(t)ərˈtāniNG) compared to other sitcoms, and it addresses universal issues,” Ms. Konus, 29, said by telephone from her home in Monterey(ˌmän(t)əˈrā, ˈmän(t)ərā), Calif. “The themes, if you ask me, speak to everyone.”