Teaching and Learning ESL from The Simpsons

Since its debut in 1989, The Simpsons has been embedded in popular culture and entertained millions of viewers across the globe. Sometimes called the “encyclopedia of the US in the 20th and 21st century,” this cartoon has a broad coverage of all parts of American culture and society. Thus, it is more than ideal for understanding American English like a native, keeping in mind that the parody in the cartoon is unusual in real life. We have picked several video clips from The Simpsons for ESL learners and teachers. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Bart vs. Australia

When the Simpsons go to Australia, Bart releases a bullfrog, which escapes and brings disaster to the whole country. This story is informative, for it teaches us terminology about the environment. Lisa Simpson interprets the sign after Bart questions it: “You cannot bring in outside plants or animals.” Therefore, we can understand that the sign’s description of “foreign florae and faunae prohibited” corresponds to “outside plants and animals are not allowed.” Other useful terms from this clip include “environmental balance” and “reptile.” The video is useful in ESL classes because it encourages students to guess the meaning of phrases. “Environmental balance” is an ideal condition of which all elements of the ecological systems are in the appropriate proportions, while “reptile” refers to the class of animals including bullfrogs. Even if you can’t be 100% certain of the meaning, the video can help you identify the main idea of these keywords.

Don’t Fear the Roofer

Homer insists that he befriended someone named Ray, but everyone else claims that they’ve never seen such a man around. That’s why Homer is sent to a mental hospital. Marge Simpson tells Homer with confidence that Ray exists nowhere else but “in his head,” and his daughter Lisa demonstrates the spelling of “imaginary” for him. Connecting the definition and the word together, students can ascertain that “imaginary” is something that is not real and is only in one’s mind. Or you may refer to Homer’s statement that the subconscious is a genius at creating something imaginary. Do you know how to describe something or someone that may not be real in reality now?

Lisa the Vegetarian

Lisa Simpson meets a cute lamb, which triggers her compassion and results in her decision to become a vegetarian. At the dinner table, she explains to her family why she no longer wants to eat any meat, especially to Bart and Homer.

How does Homer suggest her daughter stop being too sensitive?

This is LAMB, not A LAMB.

When the word “lamb” is countable, it refers to the animals that are cubs of sheep, as it actually is in the latter part of the sentence. When it is uncountable, however, the meaning narrows to the meat of the animal.

There are a lot of words about food and the kitchen in this clip as well. How many have you identified? Are you able to make a list of words mentioned? For instance, “broiler,” ”chop,” “chicken breast,” and “hot dog.” If you are not sure about what they mean, check back at the clip and match these words with the vivid demonstration.

Besides ESL, you will be able to gain knowledge of several other fields from The Simpsons, such as physics, psychology, environmental science, and many more. You can find educational moments on these topics and from other popular TV shows and movies on ClassHook!