A commonly available resource of the authentic English language is movies. Movies, in their entirety or in selected clips, are highly practical for English language teaching. Hardly any learner would complain about having a movie or video clip to watch as part of an English language class. But just how do you go about exploiting films and clips? What are the good aspects of using movies for English language teaching? Here are five ways you can use popular movies with your learners for English language practice and acquisition.
1. Varieties of English can be demonstrated
Want to know what British English is like? Australian English? How about the Englishes of India or the West Indies? Then movies are your salvation. Films produced in these regions can give you needed first-hand insight into connected speech elements, Rhotic or Non-rhotic pronunciation, idioms, expressions, and other aspects of regional Englishes.
2. Slices of culture can be demonstrated
An essential element of language learning is culture. So why not incorporate both into your language lessons at the same time? While viewing a film in British, American, Australian, or West Indian English you can see cultural aspects included in the plot to illustrate social customs from table manners to weddings and funerals, holidays, celebrations, and language idiosyncrasies. Don’t forget the use of “Classic” films either, as they can be a marvelous resource for the ELT classroom.
3. Historical change can be easily demonstrated
What were conditions, clothing, food, and the English language like 100 years ago? During the 1700s or even before? I’ve actually found the pre-tenth-century epic poem-saga “Beowulf” on DVD. Learning about or comparing historical changes can be enhanced by viewing period pieces, that is, films set in specific historical periods and locations. For example; Gone With the Wind, Humphrey Bogart’s stable of classics, in addition to the great literature of classic writers which have been converted into screen plays, film documentaries, or epic dramas (i.e., Dr. Zhivago, Wuthering Heights, A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, Moby Dick, etc.).
4. Using Audio – Visual elements aids learning
As repeatedly demonstrated in research by H. Gardner (1984) and D. Lazear (1992), an audio-visual approach is highly effective in both lowering learner affective filters (Krashen-Terrell, 1984) and in language acquisition and learning. Visual-Spatial, Musical-Rhythmic, Inter-personal, Intra-personal, and Verbal-Linguistic intelligence learners receive, process, and acquire communicatively-based language elements quite readily from movies. Virtually every type of learning style can benefit from language elements acquired from watching movies, films, and videos.
5. Movies are great fun to watch
Finally, no one, not the most dedicated English language learner, not even the teacher, wants a course consisting of only classroom rhetoric, typical classroom practice, grammar and drills. Movies can offer a welcome respite to “normal” class room activity while still continuing to promote English language skills acquisition and practice. A thoughtfully chosen film (or clip thereof) can breathe new life into a class of the most reluctant learners.
They’re simply great fun to watch. After all, they were produced for entertainment, right?
As progressive professionals in our continual search for additional resources, approaches, techniques, and methods for expanding our repertoire of English language teaching tools, movies, clips, and videos can offer us an easily accessible, dynamic resource to enrich and expand our English language teaching. The aspects mentioned here contain only a few of the many benefits we and our learners can experience. So, pull out your favorite flick, select a dramatic or emotional scene, plan a few activities around it, and watch the learner’s minds turn on.
A Final Note: In the companion to this article entitled, “5 Reasons to Use Popular Movies for English Language Teaching”, some justifications for the use of movies in English are reviewed.