The word media (singular: medium) is used to describe ways of communication within a society. The media includes any technical tool and channel through which information, opinions, or cultural properties can be transported, stored, and delivered to people. These tools or channels can be analog (such as books, newspapers, radio, television), or digital (i.e., tools for digital data storage and distribution, like computers and smartphones). This also includes the internet itself as a medium of mass communication and any digital form of former analog media channels, such as e-books or online newspapers (Bonfadelli, 2002).

Furthermore, the word media also refers to the actual content of these media channels or tools, i.e., any form of online or offline information, opinions, or cultural properties stored and shared. This content conveys meaning and messages to members of a particular community, for whom specific codes and symbols hold specific meanings. As a result, codes and symbols enable communication between the communicator (here: creator of the media content) and the recipient (here: consumer) (Bonfadelli, 2002).

Often, a distinction is made between new media forms, i.e., the internet and any tool used to interact with online content, and old/traditional media forms, such as books and television. However, given that these new media forms have been available for over two decades, the present study will simply use the term media to describe any form of analog and digital media content, as well as all forms of web-based entertainment and information, and any form of technology used to access and consume information or communicate with each other. The terms media channel or media category will be used to refer to different tools or channels, such as movies and books.

2.1 Contact with English Media Content in Europe

Since World War II, the United States has dominated the entertainment industry. As a result, many of the most popular movies, TV productions, and books are produced or written in the United States. In addition, many of the most popular musicians and artists in recent years have been from the United States, and musicians from outside the United States often choose to produce their music with English lyrics as well, establishing a music industry strongly dominated by the English language (Berns et al., 2007). Since music is usually not translated, songs sung in English have been widely accessible for the European audience for several decades.

By contrast, contact opportunities with other forms of authentic English-language media content have not been evenly distributed throughout Europe until recently. This can best be seen for three of the most popular leisure time categories: movies, TV series (i.e., multi-episode narratives, organized in seasons), and TV shows (i.e., non-narrative television programs, such as game shows, sports programming, or news broadcasts).

Smaller language communities in smaller countries like Sweden or the Netherlands have long had the tradition of subtitling foreign television programs and movies since their small populations make dubbing inefficient and expensive. In subtitled content, the original audio track (most often English) is still broadcasted, while subtitles in the local language are displayed at the bottom of the screen. As a result, regular and intense contact with authentic audio-visual English input has been a normal part of everyday life in these countries (Kuppens, 2010).

By contrast, countries with a larger population usually dub international movies, TV series, and TV shows. With dubbing, the original audio track is replaced with voiceovers in the local language of the audience. In addition, these countries usually have a large number of national media productions. International broadcasting programs, like MTV, might even decide to produce additional local content for these regions with local hosts to moderate TV shows in the country’s own language, even though the music broadcasted is still predominantly sung in English. As a result, contact opportunities with the English language have been limited for audiences in bigger countries such as Germany in the past (Berns et al., 2007). This also applies to Switzerland, even though the country has a relatively small population in comparison, as the country shares three of its four national languages with Germany, Italy, and France. As a result, the Swiss audience traditionally has also had access to German, Italian, and French media content.

However, in recent decades, the rise of globalization and the emergence of the internet has transformed our way of consuming media content. For music, movies, TV series, and TV shows, the creation of online streaming platforms changed the way we listen to and watch audio-visual content. Streaming refers to the activity of listening to or watching sound or video directly from the internet” (Cambridge dictionary).

While music sung in English has been widely accessible even before the advent of the internet, platforms like Spotify, Deezer, and iTunes now provide listeners with the opportunity to listen to a broader range of international music online and offline. Some platforms even offer the opportunity to display the lyrics on-screen while listening to a song.

For movies, TV series, and TV shows, subscriptions to online-based streaming services, like Netflix or Amazon Video usually offer multiple language audio tracks for their content. Viewers can thus choose between different dubbed versions or watch with the original soundtrack (which is often English). The platforms usually also offer a broad selection of subtitles. For example, Netflix usually offers dubbed audio tracks and subtitles in the original language of production, majority languages, as well as several other popular languages for a specific area. Therefore, viewers can choose the combination that best fits their needs and language competences.

In addition to these streaming services, the internet offers a wide range of free options to stream or download TV series, TV shows, and movies. Through these free online streaming websites, users can also get access to the original versions of movies, series, or shows. The legal status of these websites has been a matter of debate from the beginning. For Germany, a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2017 made them de facto illegal (Focus online, 2020; Heckel, 2019; Wietlisbach, 2017). However, despite the ruling, an article in the German newspaper Die Zeit from 2019 reported the continuous popularity of these free streaming websites (Heckel, 2019). In Switzerland, free online streaming is still legal to this day, as long as the content is not downloaded (Wietlisbach, 2017). Therefore, free streaming websites and download servers might be a well-known option among adolescents in both countries. However, reliable empirical evidence has been sparse.

Apart from these online versions of more traditional media forms, the internet itself offers a vast amount of information, spanning a wide range of topics and themes. Among other things, websites can serve as sources for information or entertainment or can be used to sell and buy goods and services. In 2001 it was estimated that at least 50% of the content online was in English (Berns et al., 2007). This high proportion can again be explained by the status of English as a lingua franca and the dominance of the American entertainment and technology industry. While other languages have increased in frequency and importance in the last few years, English still serves an essential role in distributing online content to people from different corners of the world (Web Technology Survey, 2020).

The internet has also created the possibility to actively communicate and interact with other people through posting, uploading, and interacting via websites, blogs, message boards, and social media platforms (R. Ellis, 2008; Medrano, 2014; OECD 2001-01-01, 2001; Thorne & Black, 2007). While many websites might offer the possibility to communicate with other users, social media platforms have increasingly become the driving force behind online communities. Social media platforms can be defined as websites that allow people to construct and maintain a public profile, upload content, pictures, and videos, and connect and communicate online. Users can usually choose which information they wish to share with other users in their network. As such, social media platforms are egocentric-driven networks (boyd & Ellison, 2007; Götz & Prommer, 2020). Networks are usually comprised of people users already know. Connections are thus often bi-directional. However, networks also allow users to follow others without the other person having to follow the user back to see their content (boyd & Ellison, 2007). Users can leave comments and messages on each other’s profile sides, and most social media sides also offer private messages. Apart from allowing users to connect and communicate, social media sides usually also allow users to upload and share pictures and videos (boyd & Ellison, 2007). There are a small number of platforms, which dominate the market.

Facebook has established itself as the most important social media company over the last few years. The network offers users extensive possibilities to create and maintain an online profile and chronicle their lives. The platform also allows the sharing of pictures and videos. In addition to their network of friends, users can also follow and like profiles from, for example, brands or celebrities (Götz & Prommer, 2020).

In contrast, the platform Instagram is mainly focused on sharing pictures and (short) videos. The platform offers filters and other technological solutions to create high-end, aesthetically pleasing images. Users can comment on and like pictures and videos of other users, and follow each other.

Lately, the platform TikTok has gained widespread popularity, especially among the younger audience. The platform allows users to produce and upload short video clips, which are then presented to others through an endless video reel. Like Instagram, users can follow each other, like each other’s content, and leave comments (Götz & Prommer, 2020). For the present study, TikTok does not play a role as a possible source for contact with English for adolescents in Germany and Switzerland, as the app launched a year after data collection took place.

Video sharing is also the focus of YouTube. In contrast to Twitter and Instagram, users usually create and upload longer videos to the platform, covering a wide variety of topics, ranging from tutorials to music and dance videos or intimate insights into their private lives. The platform is the most popular platform for video content worldwide (Götz & Prommer, 2020). On YouTube, users can create their own channel and like and comment on each other’s videos but not send private messages. Therefore, it could be argued that YouTube might not function as a social media platform in the strictest sense, since users do not necessarily chronicle their lives or communicate with others directly. However, users on YouTube still share content, and in fact many use the platform to share information about their lives. In addition, users can use the comment section to interact with each other (Götz & Prommer, 2020), and video makers can address their audience through their videos or start a live stream and answer questions. For this reason, Götz and Prommer (2020) define YouTube as a social media platform as well.

Like YouTube, the platform Twitch allows users to upload videos or start a live stream; however, the focus here is gaming. Users record themselves playing computer or video games and comment on their progress (Götz & Prommer, 2020).

The platform Twitter is sometimes described as a microblogging platform. The platform allows users to post short messages, so-called tweets. Videos and images can be attached, and users can like, forward, or comment on these tweets. Users can also send each other private messages. The platform has become increasingly important in the political realm (Götz & Prommer, 2020).

Instant messengers, such as WhatsApp, are usually not defined as social media platforms. They focus on individual private communications and usually do not include creating a visible profile and sharing pictures or videos with a larger network of people. However, these online-based messenger services also offer the possibility of communicating with others regardless of geographic location, without the high costs of a long-distance phone call (Götz & Prommer, 2020). Snapchat falls somewhere between these categories. The messenger offers the opportunity to communicate with friends and send each other video messages or pictures. However, the messenger also offers the possibility to follow others (Götz & Prommer, 2020).

Studies show that the individual platforms differ in terms of their popularity in different age groups and that the popularity changes over time: In 2020, Facebook was still the most popular social media platform, yet its importance was significantly lower for younger people. By contrast, TikTok seemed to be only relevant for people under 30. YouTube’s popularity could also be shown to decrease by age. On the other hand, Twitter was mainly used by middle-aged people with high political interest (Götz & Prommer, 2020).

Social media has also become an important way to connect to audiences. As a result, many actors, musicians, athletes, and many broadcasting agencies and publishing houses (e.g., CNN, BBC) have begun publishing content on video platforms like YouTube and other social media sides. Again, American and British celebrities and production companies tend to be the most significant on the market.

With the rise of social media, a new type of celebrity, so-called influencers or content creators, emerged. They can be defined as

“[…] people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic [e.g., food, sports, fashion, music, and gaming]. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views.” (Influencer Marketing Hub, 2020).

Many influencers allow intimate insight into their private lives by vlogging (video blogging) and photographing their everyday activities. Others prefer to focus on a specific topic and only sparsely share private information. Instead, they create videos on specific topics, prefer to produce as a group, or work for bigger production companies that host their content on corporate channels.

English once again plays a vital role as the language of communication here. Some of the most famous influencers come from the US and the UK, and other influencers use English as their language of communication, although they are not native speakers, most likely because it increases their accessibility for a larger audience.

People follow, like, comment, and share the videos, posts, and pictures produced and uploaded by influencers. Successful influencers can have up to 100 million followers. Because of their influence, especially with younger audiences, companies often pay them to endorse specific products that fit with their content. In addition, successful influencers often establish their own product lines (e.g., clothes, cosmetics), write books, monetize on their number of views, and act in movies and TV series (Döring, 2019; Influencer Marketing Hub, 2018). This is also reflected in the definition of the term influencer used by the Cambridge dictionary. Here an influencer is defined as “a person who is paid by a company to show and describe its products and services on social media, encouraging other people to buy them.” (Cambridge dictionary). For influencers, social media is their profession.

YouTube is one of the most important platforms for influencers and content creators, as it offers the possibility of uploading long videos and provides the opportunity to directly monetize on the number of views a video gets (Bishop, 2018; Götz & Prommer, 2020). However, most influencers are also active on various platforms and usually have an account on Instagram, TikTok, and—to an increasingly lesser degree—Facebook. For the gaming community, the interactive video platform Twitch has also become important (Götz & Prommer, 2020). In addition, some influencers also produce other formats, such as podcasts.

As this overview shows, the technical developments in the last few years have made it possible for people to enjoy a wide array of authentic English-language media content and get in contact with people from all over the world (Medrano, 2014; Thorne & Black, 2007). All that is needed is internet access and a smartphone or a computer.

Nevertheless, there has been only limited empirical evidence for Germany and Switzerland on how much people use these contact opportunities to get into contact with the English language. The present study aims to close this gap by providing an in-depth overview of the frequency and forms of media-related contact to English as a foreign language by adolescents attending upper secondary education. In order to refer to this type of voluntary out-of-school contact with English as a foreign language, the study will employ the term extramural contact (Latin extra—outside, and mural—wall; Sylvén, 2019) as defined by the Swedish researcher Sundqvist (2009a, 2009b, 2011). Such contact is most likely strongly driven by an appreciation for the media content or a desire to communicate with others and not motivated or initiated by the educational system (e.g., in-class instructions, homework) (Sundqvist, 2009a, 2009b, 2011). The present study will thus not include any form of media-related English contact initiated by the school. Nevertheless, individual reasons for this contact may vary and might also include the possibility that learners might wish to practice their language skills outside of the classroom.

While empirical evidence for media-related extramural English contacts in Germany and Switzerland is scarce, several studies have investigated the general media use of adolescents in both countries. National media studies have repeatedly shown that adolescents in both countries use and engage with online and offline media content almost daily. The data also suggest that the usage of online media is steadily increasing. The remainder of this chapter will therefore summarize empirical findings for adolescents’ media use in Germany and Switzerland in general before providing an overview of the few studies concerned with possible media-related extramural English contact in both countries. This will be followed by a summary of results from international studies about extramural contact through media channels in young learners of English as a foreign language.

2.2 Empirical Evidence

In 2000, analysis from the Swiss sample of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that 43% of Swiss students spent time online regularly, and 37% used the internet to communicate. These numbers were significantly lower than in other countries participating in the PISA study but revealed an upward trend compared to former cohorts. Newer empirical data indicates that the numbers have increased dramatically over the past few years.

For Switzerland, the JAMES study (Youth, Activities, Media—Survey Switzerland) regularly investigates the media use and media habits of Swiss teenagers aged 12 to 19. Reports are published every two years. The data from 2016 is the most comparable to the dataset used in the present study. The data reveals that in 2016 almost all Swiss households had at least one smartphone and that 99% of adolescents even had a personal smartphone and used it every day. In addition, 97% of households had access to the internet, 99% had at least one laptop or computer, and 76% of adolescents owned a personal computer. A television was also present in most households (96%), although only one-third of the adolescents had one of their own (30%). The use of subscription-based streaming services had also already become more prevalent in Switzerland in 2016, with 38% of the households having a subscription (Waller et al., 2016, p. 13 ff).

Regarding media activities, almost a third of all participants in 2016 indicated that they read multiple times per week, yet digital media content was more popular. Almost all Swiss adolescents listened to music (93%), surfed the internet (95%), watched videos, and used social media platforms and the internet almost every day (Waller et al., 2016, p. 22). Thirty-two percent of the adolescents in Switzerland watched television daily and 41% at least multiple times a week (Waller et al., 2016, p. 13 ff). Popular movies included Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, The Hunger Games, and Star Wars. The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, Navy CIS, and Pretty Little Liars were the most popular TV series (Waller et al., 2016, p. 26 & 28). These results show that all of the most popular movies and TV series in 2016 were produced in the United States and the United Kingdom. Consequently, the language of production for all of them is English.

Data from the 2018 cohort confirmed the continued trend for digital media activities, and ownership of technical equipment still reached almost 100%. In addition, adolescents spent a considerable amount of time engaged in online media activities (Suter et al., 2018). One of the most noticeable differences to the cohort in 2016 was the increased percentage of subscriptions for streaming services for Swiss households (from 38% to 56%). Half of all participants in 2018 also reported having a subscription to a music streaming service (Suter et al., 2018, p. 21).

For Germany, the JIM study (Youth, Information, Media) investigates adolescents’ media use. The study is carried out annually and interviews teenagers between the ages of 12 and 19. The cohort closest to the last JAMES cohort and the data of this study is from 2017. The results reveal the widespread access to technological devices in Germany. Almost all adolescents in 2017 had a personal smartphone (97%) and access to a computer with internet at home (98%). Sixty-nine percent had a personal computer. Streaming services were also available for half of the German households (54%), and 28% had a subscription for pay-television (MPFS, 2017, p. 7 f).

These technical devices were already a daily routine for German adolescents in 2017: almost all adolescent used their smartphones (93%), surfed online (89%), and listened to music (83%) every day. Almost half of the students watched television (45%) every day. Sixty-two percent watched online videos daily. Watching via streaming services or free online streaming websites was not as widespread in 2017, as only 16% engaged in this activity every day (MPFS, 2017, p. 13). The Big Bang Theory, How I met your mother, and The Simpsons, were the most popular TV series in Germany (MPFS, 2017, p. 41). All of them are produced in the United States.

Apart from these online-based media activities, 40% of the adolescents also reported reading at least multiple times per week. However, 18% of the adolescents in the study stated that they never read books (MPFS, 2017, p. 19 f).

The newest JIM cohort from 2019 confirmed the upward trend for technical equipment and online media content. As for Switzerland, streaming services for music, movies, TV series, and TV shows had become more widespread in Germany, too. In 2017, the smartphone had already become an essential technical device for adolescents in terms of online media (MPFS, 2019). Despite the popularity of online activities, reading remained a popular leisure time activity for at least a third of German adolescents (MPFS, 2019, p. 13).

The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICIL) also confirmed the increasing importance of online media content among young people in Germany and Switzerland. The study investigated computer-related leisure time activities for 8th grade students in multiple countries. For Germany and Switzerland, the study could show that even younger adolescents regularly engaged in online communication via social networks or messaging apps (Germany [G]: 80%; Switzerland [CH]: 77%), listened to music (G: 78%; CH: 76%), researched things that interest them online (G: 62%; CH: 56%), watched movies, TV series, and TV shows (G: 54%, CH: 58%), sent voice chats (G: 48%; CH: 50%), played games (G: 48%; CH: 41%) and posted comments online (G: 46%; CH: 45%). Actively uploading or writing their own content online was slightly less popular (Fraillon et al., 2014, p. 138 ff).

As discussed before, there is little empirical data for media-related extramural English contact for Germany and Switzerland. An older study from Hasebrink et al. (1997) presented results for the English media habits of German adolescents before the turn of the millennium. Participants reported regular contact with English mainly through music (radio or records) (Hasebrink et al., 1997, 163 ff).

In a follow-up study, Hasebrink (2001) indicated that contact with English at the beginning of the new millennium for most people in Germany was still mostly limited to interaction during holidays. For younger people (9th grade), music and the computer provided additional sources for contact. One of the few broadcasting stations providing English input on television was the music channel MTV. English movies were less popular and not as easily accessible.

A few years later, Grau (2009) could show an increased out-of-school contact with English among 9th graders in Germany through music. In addition, her data also documented the widespread popularity of English TV series and TV shows on the music channel MTV. While MTV does produce localized content (see above), most of their original non-music-centered TV series and reality TV shows are from the United States and the United Kingdom. While German and Swiss broadcasting stations usually dub their international content, MTV adopted the tradition of airing these series and shows with the original English audio track and German subtitles early on. By doing so, the network provided one of the earliest contact opportunities with authentic English media content in Germany and Switzerland.

In 2017, the JIM study also included some questions about participants’ use of English media content. Overall, 23% of the participating adolescents said they watch English TV series, and 19% said they watch English movies at least once a week via platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. Older adolescents had slightly more contact, with 31% of the 16- to 17-year-old and 28% of the 18- to 19-year-old saying they watch English TV shows regularly, while 21% and 27%, respectively, say they watch English movies (MPFS, 2017, p. 42 f). At the time of this dissertation, the JAMES study had not included any questions about media-related extramural English contact for Switzerland.

Data from international studies have shown a high level of extramural English contact for adolescents in smaller countries, such as Sweden or the Netherlands.

Sundqvist found that almost all of the n = 80 Swedish students in her sample came into regular contact with English outside of school. Listening to music was the most popular activity (Sundqvist, 2009a). Sixty-six percent of the students also watched English TV series with Swedish subtitles almost every day, and 30% watched them at least once per week. Thirty-four percent of students reported watching English movies daily, and 41% watched English movies at least once per week. Fewer students watched TV series and movies without subtitles, and even fewer students chose to read newspapers or magazines in their leisure time (Sundqvist, 2009a, p. 125 f).

Nevertheless, Sundqvist’s sample also showed a high level of intra-individual variation: while eight students (mostly male) spent up to 40 hours per week with English media content, some students hardly reported any extramural English contact at all. The high-frequency users in her study were all frequent gamers, most of them involved in highly interactive online gaming, which brought them into intensive contact with other players throughout the week. They were also engaged in listening to English music and watching English TV series, but seldom read English books (Sundqvist, 2009a).

Olsson (2011) found similar results for her sample of Swedish students (n = 37). Almost all students listened to English music daily (86%). TV series with subtitles came in second (Olsson, 2011, p. 34 f). Olsson also attributes these high numbers to the dominance of the anglophone media in Scandinavia and the tradition for subtitled rather than dubbed TV programs. She concludes that “all [Swedish] pupils watch English-speaking programmes or films on TV, which is difficult to avoid if you watch TV at all” (Olsson, 2011, p. 44). In addition, 41% of the participants in her study said they speak English regularly outside of school (Olsson, 2011, p. 34 f).

Peters (2018) reported frequent exposure to English outside the classroom for his sample of seventy-nine 16 and 19-year-old Flemish students. The students came into contact with English via songs, movies, and TV series with and without subtitles. They also browsed on English-language websites and played games in English; however, these activities were less popular than the audio-visual input. Input through traditional written material, such as books or magazines, was the rarest form of contact with the English language (similar to the findings from Sundqvist and Olsson). The younger age group was more engaged in computer games than the 19-year-old first-year university students. By contrast, university students were more active in watching non-subtitled TV series and movies. These findings show that while the overall amount of exposure might not differ between adolescents of different age groups, the focus of activities might shift over time (Black, 2009; Peters, 2018).

Toffoli and Sockett (2010) investigated the extramural English contacts of n = 222 university students from Strasbourg. While their sample is slightly older than the rest of the studies reported here, the results offer an interesting insight into the media habits of French learners. In France, like in Germany and Switzerland, international movies, TV series, and TV shows are traditionally dubbed. In addition, France also has a rich and unique national media landscape with a high number of national productions. It is, therefore, interesting to see which role authentic English media content plays in such a media landscape. The results show that almost all students (90%) listened to English content at least once a month. Half the students even engaged in online listening activities at least once per week. Reading English content online was less popular among the respondents. Most students preferred a mix of English music, movies, and TV series. Fewer than 10% of students listened to English music only. Students also engaged in English online reading and communication activities, especially on social media. However, communication was most often short and personal (i.e., commenting or writing on friends’ walls) and took place between non-native speakers. However, students also indicated that their messages tend to get longer and more sophisticated over time. The results show very little oral communication online, for example, via video calls (Toffoli & Sockett, 2010, p. 6).

Toffoli and Sockett (2012) also conducted an in-depth qualitative study of five students from the original sample to further investigate the actual time spent on English content, the persistence over time, and how learning might have taken place. Results showed that learners spent up to 20 hours with English online content per month. They communicated with others regularly, both synchronously and asynchronously, via social media sites and chatrooms. All students watched English movies and TV series online on free streaming websites. One reason for watching the English version online was that students did not want to wait until the dubbed version was available. Once they had started watching the original, they did not want to switch back to the dubbed version. The students not only listened to music passively but also looked up song lyrics online. Websites visited by the students were often related to their field of study, and the same sites were visited multiple times (Toffoli & Sockett, 2012).

Similar to Toffoli and Sockett, Kusyk and Sockett (2012) asked 45 French students how often they engaged in media-related extramural English contact. Results showed that almost half of the students watched English TV series regularly (i.e., more than once a week). The most popular series were all productions from the United States. Most students watched with French subtitles, with fewer choosing to watch with English subtitles, while only 10% watched without subtitles. Most students obtained the episodes they watched by downloading or streaming them from then still legal free streaming websites.

Most learners were convinced that watching movies and TV series would help their vocabulary knowledge, thus pointing to the fact that learners might be aware of possible learning benefits of extramural English contacts. This is also evident by the fact that ‘improving one’s English skills’ was listed among the three most important reasons for watching English TV series. However, it is unknown if learners took active steps to foster their learning processes (Kusyk & Sockett, 2012).

2.3 Conclusion

Overall, the empirical evidence shows a strong trend for regular media-related extramural English contact for children, adolescents, and young adults in smaller European countries. Music has been shown to be the most popular media category, which is not surprising given the high amount of music sung in English. However, the data also shows the increasing popularity of watching TV series, TV shows, and movies in English. Here students often choose to watch with the original English audio track and subtitles. In addition, students also like to surf on English-language websites or engage in social media activities.

The data from France also shows that extramural contacts are popular even in countries with larger populations and a tradition of dubbing audio-visual content. These results show that contact with English-language media content nowadays is not solely dependent on national broadcasting traditions.

For Germany and Switzerland, reliable data on media-related extramural English contacts is still scarce. Nevertheless, data from German and Swiss media studies show that American and British TV series and movies are widely popular among adolescents and that adolescents have the necessary technical equipment to access authentic English-language online media content.

The results allow some conclusions to be drawn concerning possible extramural contacts in the two countries: First, adolescents in Germany and Switzerland traditionally have already had a high level of extramural English contacts via music.

Second, it can be assumed that the growing prevalence of legal and illegal streaming options is increasingly tempting young people to consume the original versions of TV series and movies. This development is most likely driven by the prestige of these original versions and their earlier release date. As studies from Scandinavia have shown, this can lead to a culture in which dubbing is seen as a distortion of the original work (Berns et al., 2007), and watching original versions becomes a lifestyle.

Third, the dominance of the English language on the internet and the fact that most adolescents use the internet daily will most likely result in a high rate of exposure to English content online.

Fourth, the increasing importance and popularity of social influencers, with the most popular one being situated in the US and the UK and others choosing English as their language of production, will probably lead to increased extramural contact via social media platforms among German and Swiss adolescents.

Although not the focus of the present study, it should be noted that teachers can also play a vital role in the frequency and intensity of students’ media-related extramural English contacts. They might make young learners aware of the opportunity for informal language contact through media content or introduce specific media channels and topics in the classroom, thus familiarizing students with them. They might also play a vital part in motivating students. However, teachers’ involvement will only lead to voluntary extramural contact if their involvement is limited to motivational advice. Any homework assignment or supplement material would mean the resulting contact would not fall under the definition of extramural contact used in the present study.

Following these considerations, it can be assumed that media-related extramural English contacts have a steady presence in students’ lives and that students engage in them at least multiple times per week. The first hypothesis for the present study is, therefore:


The majority of adolescents in upper secondary education in Germany and Switzerland engage in daily or almost daily media-related extramural English contacts via various online and offline media channels.