Tips on Using Films to Study English
Films are a wonderful supplementary tool when you are learning a foreign language, so it’s great to bear this in mind as a language teacher. Whether you’ve been teaching English for years or you’re studying a CELTA course in London and about to prepare your first class, think about incorporating a range of media into your lesson plans.
At their best, films are fun, engaging, and great topics of conversation. Here are some tips to help you get the most from the movies and turn this great art form into a key learning aid!
Subtitles will help your class to keep up with the story, especially if this is a film they are not very familiar with. Just make sure that they don’t get too comfortable following the story as it is presented through the subtitles, or your students might miss out on all the natural language on display, as well as an opportunity to put their listening skills to the test.
The ultimate goal should really be to watch films without the subtitles – or at least without having to rely on them. After all, real life doesn’t come with subtitles!
Bite Size is the Right Size
Especially in the beginning, learning through films may seem somewhat daunting. There can often be multiple characters on screen at once, all having conversations. Background noises or events can distract too, making it hard to keep up with the dialogue and the story being told. Once you’ve lost the plot (literally!) then it can be hard to get it back.
So break the film up into scenes, or more bite-sized chunks. This is best to do with films that come on DVD or you have recorded from the TV. Pause if you need to, rewind, and even re-watch scenes to check understanding, or if there’s a particular area of language that is of interest. That said, do avoid repeat viewing too much. It’s fine to repeat view to check everyone’s understanding, but also remember to just enjoy the film for what it is – even if there are some conversations or plot points that were difficult to follow.
Children’s films are great for people starting out in learning the language. Because they are primarily made for a younger audience, it can be easier to follow the plot, and the characters interact in a way that is often entertaining, even if your class members don’t understand every word. Share some laughs, and even get people in groups to re-enact scenes or conversations!
Go to the Cinema!
There is nothing wrong whatsoever with watching the bulk of your films on DVD, on Netflix or however else – on the other hand, though, films have always been made with the cinema in mind.
If your class and school is willing, why not take them on an outing? They’ll have the opportunity to buy tickets and popcorn across the counter, have a change of scenery, and hopefully have a memorable bonding experience with their classmates – great for building up learners’ confidence at using English outside the classroom. The famous Leicester Square in London’s West End is home to some of the most famous cinemas in the world – you may even get to see some stars hitting the red carpet!
Share your Opinions
Finally, talk about the film with each other. Who’s your favourite Toy Story character? How would you have survived if you were shipwrecked on an island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away? What’s the funniest scene in The Hangover? Have you ever seen a ghost like in…. Ghost?
Films offer the chance of a shared experience, and it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to chat, exchange thoughts and feelings, and reflect on what you’ve just seen. You can decide to home in on some specific areas of language, or you may simply want to enjoy a natural bit of conversation practice – the choice is yours.