Everyone and their dog watches Game of Thrones, and for good reason: it’s one of the best TV shows ever created (my personal opinion, of course).
Most people see it as an adult version of Lord of the Rings or a dramatised version medieval Britain. But beyond the nudity, violence and difficult scenes, there are some great English lessons in the show.
Recently, I’ve been catching up on the show. The dialogue from the show inspired me to write this article.
I know what you’re thinking: How can a show about kings, queens, drunks and wars teach me anything about learning English?
Well, read on to find out.
Tyrion is one of the most loved characters on the show. He is witty and quick-thinking, yet vulnerable. After years of being looked down on, he accepts his own flaws and doesn’t try to hide them.
When someone calls him a ‘dwarf’ or another insulting term, he brushes it off and doesn’t let it hurt him.
The lesson: Know your English language flaws. If you’re self-conscious about your accent or mistakes, you have two choices:
1 – Change them
2 – Accept them
If you can’t change something, don’t let it control you. Instead, focus on things you can change, like your listening skills.
If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know that Tyrion loves three things: women, books and wine. Wine is probably his favourite of the three though.
Now, I’m not telling – or even suggesting that – you go out and drink. BUT, if you have tried speaking English after having one or two of your favourite alcoholic drinks, you have probably noticed that speaking English is easier.
This is because as you drink more, your worries about making mistakes or finding the right words disappear. And without those worries, you just focus on communicating.
Can you replicate that without alcohol? Yes you can. It takes some practice and requires you to shift your mindset, but you don’t need alcohol to be a confident speaker.
Is this a good or a bad thing?
On the one hand, this quote encourages you to continually improve yourself. You can do this by never feeling like you know enough English. It’s the mentality you develop when you decide that you just love learning English.
The process goes like this:
You learn something -> you find another gap in your language -> you learn that -> you notice another gap -> continue
My training program shows you how to use this process to constantly improve your English.
On the other hand, if you constantly look for the newest and best way to learn English, your English will suffer. Find a system that works for you and use it until it stops working.
When Daenerys introduces herself, one of the titles she gives herself is: ‘The Breaker of Chains’. She calls herself this because she gives freedom to the slaves she saves.
Slaves are people who have had their freedom taken away. So, Daenerys gives the slaves their freedom by giving them the power to make their own choices.
Having English learning freedom is all about making your own choices and being happy. Do you make your own learning choices -or- does someone make your choices for you?
Every country has a story where a small number of soldiers fought a larger, stronger enemy. Take the story of the 300 Spartans who defended their city against the Persians
But this concept also applies to learning English.
Imagine there are two people:
Person one, Ahmed, does 30 minutes of focused practice with a purpose.
Person two, Julie, does three hours of English practice (ex. some videos, articles, grammar exercises) while watching TV and chatting on Facebook.
Who do you think would make the most progress?
If you said Ahmed. you’d be correct.
Disciplined and focused English practice is better than doing long learning sessions with no real purpose and filled with distractions.
Here’s another piece of wisdom from Tyrion (I did say he was witty, didn’t I?)
To understand this quote, you need to know what a whetstone is. A whetstone is a stone used to sharpen metal objects, like swords.
Tyrion is saying that you need books to keep your mind ‘sharp’. Tyrion isn’t a powerful warrior, yet he has survived longer than many of the powerful warriors in the show because of his knowledge.
If his mind is his sword, reading is his whetstone. This is true for English learning too. One of the best ways to discover new vocabulary, language patterns and methods of writing is through reading.
If you don’t read a variety of different material, you should probably start.
There is no lack of self confidence in Game of Thrones. Everyone believes they are more powerful, skilled or richer than everyone else. But one person who stands out above the others is Tywin Lanister, Tyrion’s dad.
While you don’t need to believe you are better than others, you should have the opinion that by learning English you are doing something great. If someone picks on you for making a small mistake, don’t worry about it.
If someone says something bad about your accent, pronunciation or word choice, don’t let it hurt you.
Petyr Baelish, also known as little finger, has two specific skills:
1 – Making money
2 – Manipulating people to do things for him.
He is not a good fighter or a strong warrior, but he is still an influential character. However, this quote reveals the secret behind his power: Taking control of life.
The quote is a bit deep for us to use it to talk about learning English, but we can adapt it. If we just change it a bit, it can be quite an important lesson:
“Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t worry about making mistakes, instead worry about your learning and take charge of it.”
It seems simple, but that’s basically one of the most important things to remember when you’re learning English.
So that concludes our Game of Thrones English lessons for today. What you can do now is:
Do you watch Game of Thrones? Which character is your favourite?
Sam is the founder and creator of English For Study. He's also a lecturer in EAP/Academic English. Apart from making Academic English easy, he likes learning languages, lifting weights and eating good food.