Written by Mike Ives
True or false: Within the tv present “Associates,” Monica Geller was invited to Rachel Inexperienced’s marriage ceremony.
The query is a part of an English lesson for worldwide college students in San Jose, California, that’s primarily based completely on the present’s pilot episode. It was designed by Elif Konus, a trainer from Turkey who as soon as binge-watched “Associates” to enhance her personal English.
The category, and the trainer’s TV habits, illustrate a world phenomenon that emerged within the Nineties and has endured throughout generations: Younger individuals who aren’t native English audio system seem to get pleasure from studying the language with assist from the hit sitcom.
Seventeen years after the ultimate “Associates” episode, college students and educators say that the present, nonetheless seen extensively in syndication all over the world, works nicely as a studying useful resource. The dad denims and cordless telephones could look dated, however the plot twists — falling in love, beginning a profession and different seminal moments in an adolescent’s life — are nonetheless extremely relatable.
“It’s actually entertaining in comparison with different sitcoms, and it addresses common points,” Konus, 29, mentioned by phone from her residence in Monterey, California. “The themes, in the event you ask me, converse to everybody.”
Through the years, a number of outstanding celebrities have mentioned that they realized English from “Associates.” The checklist consists of Jürgen Klopp, the German soccer coach who helms Liverpool within the English Premier League; quite a few Main League Baseball gamers whose first language is Spanish; and Kim Nam-joon, chief of the South Korean pop group BTS.
“I assumed I used to be form of like a sufferer at the moment, however proper now, I’m the fortunate one, because of my mom,” Kim, who performs beneath the stage title RM, informed tv host Ellen DeGeneres in 2017. “She purchased all of the seasons.”
The “Associates” reunion episode that premiered Thursday on HBO Max included a cameo by the members of BTS and scenes from the present that had been translated into French, Japanese and Spanish. Followers all over the world, from Ghana to Mexico, additionally reminisced about how the present helped them deal with private dilemmas or tragedies.
Measuring the recognition of “Associates” as a instructing useful resource is an inexact science as a result of so many individuals watch it exterior of formal school rooms. However educators, tutorial research and page-view information counsel that the present nonetheless has a large following amongst English-language learners.
“I’ve been on YouTube for 13 years and I’ve not been posting ‘Associates’ content material the entire time,” mentioned Rachel Smith, founding father of the training website Rachel’s English, primarily based in Philadelphia. “However I’ve undoubtedly by no means sensed that the time for it has handed.”
In a single obvious signal of that, “Associates”-based studying movies that Smith posted in 2019 have obtained considerably extra views per day on common — 839 — than these that includes different exhibits or films, she mentioned. After the USA, the most well-liked markets for her movies as a complete are Vietnam, India, Brazil, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.
Different seminal American TV exhibits can serve an analogous studying operate, Smith mentioned, however they are usually too specific for nonnative English audio system. The humor in “Seinfeld” is a bit too gritty and New York-specific, for instance, whereas “The Massive Bang Concept” might come throughout as an excessive amount of of a “scientific nerd factor.”
“Different exhibits do work,” she mentioned. “‘Associates’ simply appears to have the magic one thing that’s much more enticing.”
Followers and educators on three continents echo the sentiment, saying that “Associates” is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life situations that really feel acquainted even to individuals who dwell worlds away from Manhattan’s West Village.
Kim Sook-han, 45, identified in South Korea for her YouTube movies about instructing herself English, mentioned that the present helped her perceive the fundamentals of American tradition, together with which holidays are celebrated in the USA, in addition to how individuals there cope with conflicts between family and friends members.
“My favourite character is Monica as a result of I feel we’ve comparable personalities,” she added. “She could be very meticulous and clear and at all times insists on utilizing a coaster as a result of she hates when a cup leaves water stains on a desk.”
A couple of followers mentioned they may pinpoint exactly when and the place they noticed “Associates” for the primary time.
Konus was instructing English at a army academy in Ankara, Turkey, six years in the past when she seen that her roommate stored laughing whereas watching “Associates” on a laptop computer. Konus started watching “nonstop,” she mentioned, and realized way more about English than she had in years of grammar-based courses.
Jamie Ouyang, 30, found the present throughout her final yr of highschool in south-central China when she purchased a field set in her hometown, Changsha, for about $15. She was hooked from the primary episode, by which Rachel, performed by Jennifer Aniston, meets the opposite characters in a marriage gown after abandoning her groom on the altar.
Ouyang, who attended school in Ohio and now works as a movie producer in Beijing, mentioned that “Associates” gave her the boldness to make small discuss with Individuals. It was comforting, she added, to see Rachel make grammatical errors on her resume.
“However Rachel additionally grew loads: She did nicely at her job and located her personal path,” Ouyang mentioned. “Over time, I seen that individuals stopped teasing her about her grammar. I paid shut consideration to that.”
“Associates” could have endured as a instructing software partially as a result of the web has made it accessible to new generations of followers. YouTube, particularly, permits nonnative audio system to observe clips with out having to, say, purchase pirated DVDs beneath a bridge, as Ouyang did in China 12 years in the past.
One more reason, mentioned Ángela Larrea Espinar, a professor within the division of English research on the College of Córdoba in Spain, is that individuals who educate overseas languages have progressively shifted over the past twenty years from a “communicative” method that emphasizes grammar to at least one that encourages cross-cultural understanding and reflection.
“Tradition is a troublesome factor to show, and in the event you depend on textbooks what you get is stereotypes,” she mentioned.
To keep away from the textbook lure, Konus, the English trainer in California, constructed lesson plans across the sitcom’s 1994 pilot episode. Along with the query about whether or not Monica, performed by Courteney Cox, was invited to Rachel’s marriage ceremony (reply: false), there are workouts that ask college students to research scenes, idioms and character motivations.
Why, for instance, does Rachel breathe right into a paper bag? And what does Monica imply when she tells Joey Tribbiani, performed by Matt LeBlanc, to “cease hitting on” her good friend? (Solutions: “She is frightened of her choice about dwelling on her personal” and, “to attempt to begin a dialog with somebody that you’re inquisitive about.”)
Konus mentioned that her college students — who’re from Brazil, China, Colombia, Japan, South Korea and Turkey — typically just like the “Associates” classes and find yourself binge-watching the present on their very own. Additionally they slip strains from it into dialog, together with Joey’s signature “The way you doin’?” greeting, and mimic the depressive method by which David Schwimmer’s character, Ross Geller, says “Hello.”
After one class, a Turkish pupil noticed that her trainer’s English sounded not fairly native, but additionally “not Turkish.” Konus mentioned she took the remark as excessive reward.
How, the coed requested, might one hope to achieve the identical stage of English proficiency?
“Simply watch ‘Associates’ and attempt to imitate the characters,” Konus informed her. “You’ll get there.”