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Using film dialogue

This step explores how learners can pick up visual cues when watching a character speak, providing a 'scaffold' for listening.
We kind of think of it as “real French” rather than textbook French. In the classroom, you’re often offered a very toned down version of the language, and if you watch a film it’s very fast paced, so it gets you used to authentic French speaking. And it’s a challenge, because often if you’re looking at a textbook you can take your time with it, whereas with watching a film, it’s very quick and you need to be on it, otherwise, you’ll miss what’s going on. I think it allows people to apply the knowledge they already have of French into real life situations, and how people would use certain phrases and certain tenses in real life.
I think also it can really help with the accent, and how people pronounce certain key vocab that maybe they were struggling with earlier. All children become extremely inquisitive and very exact. They want to use the language correctly so they constantly ask me in the target language, Madame Chadier, [SPEAKING FRENCH] They’re very conscious of wanting to get the pronunciation right, as well as the written word. I’m very much a visual learner, so if I see something on screen and subtitles, and hear the words, then I’ll find it a lot easier to remember than if I’m looking down at a textbook and reading.
They’re hearing the word in a context, and they often can see the word too, because if you’ve got subtitles on in French then they’re going to read and see the word at the same time. And therefore, it’s well-documented that if you see a word in a context, you are going to remember that word much more easily than if you’re, say, learning a list of vocabulary, or in a more fake kind of situation. So I think with film you do find their recall of vocabulary is better, but also their pronunciation because they’ve seen it in the context. And that makes all the difference.
The way you pronounce it seeing it, is different than the way it is actually said, so you may pronounce a word and they pronounce it differently. And miscommunication could happen. So I think with movies, you could just use the accent with the knowledge of the words, and also use it in your speaking.

One of the benefits of working with film when learning a language is the opportunity to listen closely to spoken language while being able to watch people speaking. The addition of subtitles – as one of the speakers in the video in this step points out – is a further help, or ‘scaffold’, for our listening.

Language teachers talk about the ‘comprehensible input’ that helps with learning a language. This is the range of extra visual or verbal cues that give a context for talk, and the phrase comes from research into learners of English as an additional language, watching Sesame Street in America, with the English subtitles on.


Watch the video in this step and make a note of the different reasons learners offer for film being a rich resource for learning languages. Do your own learners think of film and film dialogue like this? Are there any other aspects of language learning that your use of film dialogue might support? Post any thoughts you have in the comments section.

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Short Film in Language Teaching

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