Sunday, April 12, 2015

Learning English from Movies

If you like learning English by watching movies or films check out the Video Clips at the bottom right of this page. The EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching or learning materials offered here are designed for use by classroom teachers as well as for independent language learners. Both independent learners and teachers of English as a Foreign Language can find an awful lot of resources available on the internet, free of charge. Unfortunately a huge number of these free resources are exceptionally dull, of terrible quality or come with little or no support as to how they can or should be used: as powerful teaching or learning tools.  The resources we ( offer are described in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, yet they are of a guaranteed quality in terms of production as well as content, and come with guidance as to how these resources can be most effectively used for independent language learners or classroom teachers
According to research, a number of factors make EFL learning materials effective, including their perceived relevance to the user, being of an appropriate level for the stage of learning of the user, containing appropriate target language or tasks the user intends to master, as well as being of interest and fun to use. lt is probably true to say that most learners view teaching resources from a different perspective to teachers, and vice versa, so we ( provide information about the resources that we think will be of interest to both learners and teachers.
Generally speaking, there are a few key factors that determine whether or not language learners succeed or not. Firstly, learners who are interested in, if not thoroughly engrossed by their learning materials are more likely to learn and retain what they have learned than those who are not. Secondly, learners who see the learning materials as relevant to their needs and who sufficiently understand the content, learn well.  While both of these factors are incredibly important for all learners, independent language learners need to know how to use the materials effectively, without the guidance of an actual teacher. This is something we focus on in the presentation of our learning resources.
Teachers, on the other hand, may consider other features and factors in their choices of teaching materials, as well as those considered by learners. Some of the most important factors that teachers may consider include the relevance of the language contained in the teaching resource with reference to the target language of the lesson, the level of difficulty their students might find with the material as a whole, whether or how the material fits the teaching objectives of a particular lesson, and ultimately how that material can best be presented and used for effective learning by their students.
Very few resources engage people more than video or interactive programmes and so our reviews are mostly of these types of materials. Attempts to create successful videos for the EFL market have often fallen short of the mark, in one aspect or another. Understandably, publishers try to neatly capture certain aspects of language and focus on these in their books and videos, but without realistic context for the target language or appropriate, realistic supporting language the target language cannot be learnt as it should: within an appropriate, realistic context supported by other realistic language. The content of many EFL videos is built around language functions or specific situations where those language functions are deemed to be used, such as language considered appropriate for business meetings within the context of the business meeting. Of course, anyone who has attended a business meeting probably agrees that even if some of the stereotypical ‘meetings phrases’ which are taught in EFL class rooms are used, there is also a lot of other language which is not typically taught.  Other EFL videos are intended to fit with specific language courses, or are tied to a series of text books. This can mean that the videos contain the target language again and again, which creates forced, unrealistic dialogues. In short, many videos produced by language experts or educational publishers aim to replicate specific target language to create a focus and purpose to the video, which unfortunately in many cases does not recreate realistic conversations and sometimes teaches language in ways that are inappropriate for the real world. Consequently, many of the resources available on the internet are at best ineffective, at worst abandoned or ignored.
The video clips we have chosen to review here are, at worst, exceptionally well-scripted, professionally produced, sometimes award winning pieces; while at best they are natural, realistic, unscripted, reflections of the real world. In all cases they do a much better job at providing EFL learners with realistic, natural, language placed within a variety of contexts, including some of those contexts that EFL publishers attempt to master, than the vast majority of designed-for-purpose EFL instructional videos. Among the videos we analyse in terms of the English language and culture there are Hollywood or independently-made  films, documentaries, panel discussions, interviews and public speeches, as well as other monologues or dialogues that we think would be useful to someone learning the English language and the peculiar ways of native English speakers. 
Our selected video materials were clearly not created to stress a particular language point, but rather to reflect language as it is really used. That does not mean that there are not useful, valid language and culture points to find and focus on as you view them, it simply means that the language is used in order to communicate a relevant message. Doubters may argue that scripted films are not a true reflection of reality, but in response ask yourself how easily we are fooled by the power of such films into believing they are true. How many times do our emotions get the better of us when we are at the cinema, or snuggled in front of the screen at home?  If the message communicated in these scripted films appears that real, the script-writers arguably have done an excellent job and we have been fooled into thinking that the characters and their words are real. That level of realism is good enough for most of us I think, don’t you? Why not take a look at some of the reviews, try some of the video links, then make your own judgement as to whether these clips are more useful, relevant, fun and ‘educational’ than the EFL specific educational videos you have watched in your classroom, or as part of an expensive course.             


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