How ‘Friends’ helps people around the world learn English

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

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

The class, and the teacher’s TV habits, illustrate an international phenomenon 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.

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

Over the years, several prominent celebrities have said that they learned English from “Friends.” The list includes Jürgen Klopp, the German soccer coach who helms Liverpool in the English Premier League; a number of Major League Baseball players whose first language is Spanish; and Kim Nam-joon, leader of the South Korean pop group BTS.

Fans and educators on three continents echo the sentiment, saying that “Friends” is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios that feel familiar even to people who live worlds away from Manhattan’s West Village.

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