This week, I asked my English Leistungskurs in 11 grade to prepare a text for the next lesson. The text was, as everyone admitted, not difficult to “understand” (i.e. vocab and grammar were in pupils’ terms “ok”), but it was utterly incomprehensible (“I understood every word and every sentence, but I don’t know what it all means!”). The problem was quickly discovered: German pupils do not necessarily know English clothing sizes, they do not know English brands, they haven’t got a clue what literary characters English people have grown up with, — in short, they do not know the first thing about English Everyday Life.

How do you get to know another country’s / people’s daily life without actually travelling there and living there? You simply don’t. But you can play the “Peeping Tom” and cheat a bit by not “getting to know”, but “learning”. Here, of course, pupils always will think of the answer the teacher wants to hear: read English newspapers and watch English news; watch DVDs with the English language option. But — all those do not tell you about Marks&Spencer, cuppas, mugs and cups and… Hence, the answer I would like to hear from my pupils is: watch English (or US for that matter) telly, watch the adverts, not necessarily the actual programme; know what’s on on telly and radio; listen to an English on-line station rather than your local one. Not always all the time, but sometimes for some time.

So, here’s a very basic, very quick&dirty list of on-line resources one could use to take a look at English and American everyday life. I plan to collect and possibly annotate more links in the course of the year and might post a proper article here with more helpful “stuff”.

Telly: OnlineTVRecorder offers, amongst others, British and US-American TV stations. You might want/need to click adverts or pay a small fee, but it is worth the effort.

The Radio Times has a lot of information on current affairs in all sorts of media: and especially for TV, with schedule and all:

Radio: Apart from all the built-in lists in on-line radio players, here is a very helpful list of UK stations:

Digital satellite dish (for the brave):

Like most teachers of my age and above, I was absolutely convinced that children’s series like Bob the Builder and SpongeBob are not really furthering any valuable knowledge of our pupils. I was amazed at how many of my older pupils still watched what I used to call derogatively “that stuff”. Had I remembered how my parents had reacted to my liking the Simpsons when they were new, I might have spared myself a fall….

My English class in grade 12 was doing some research on different approaches to Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. We were sitting together in our school’s IT suite, most of the pupils eagerly studying academic websites and the like. Then, one of them got up, shouting happily: It’s SpongeBob! Of course, helpful as I was, I approached her, asked what the matter was, and was told about SpongeBob’s “Squeaky Boots“. Still absolutely convinced that nothing good can come from that direction, I explained(!) to my pupil that “that stuff” was not to be taken seriously, and that “those people” were not, unlike Mat Groening and Friends, caring for cultural cross-references. However, I was willing to make use of the teacher’s PC, which, incidentally, is the only one from which YouTube can be accessed, and let the pupil see with her own eyes how basic the SpongeBob series really was. — So much for my pride, then the fall. This episode really is the Tell-Tale-Heart, and it really is well made, and appropriately done for children (surprisingly so).

What have I learnt? a) Pride cometh before the fall; b) I should be more open to what my pupils watch anyway and maybe even use SpongeBob next time I teach Poe, it might be fun.

For future reference, and maybe for those of my colleagues who might want to show off with a nice SpongeBob episode as an opener to one their lessons/units, here is a list of SpongeBob episodes: —– and try out to enter names of Poe and Shakespeare into the Search field…