5 ways to use popular movies to teach English

5 ways to use popular movies to teach English

An often accessible source of authentic English is movies. Movies, in their entirety or in selected clips, are very practical for teaching English. Hardly any learner would complain about having a movie or video to watch as part of an English class. But how do you go about using movies and clips? What are the good aspects of using movies to teach English? Here are five ways you can use popular movies with your learners to practice and learn English.

1. Varieties of English can be demonstrated

Want to know what British English is like? Australian English? What about the English from India or the West Indies? Then movies are your salvation. Films produced in these regions can give you the necessary first-hand insight into the elements of connected speech, rhotic or non-rhotic pronunciation, idioms, expressions and other aspects of regional English.

2. Parts of the culture can be demonstrated

A key element of language learning is culture. So why not include both in your language lessons at the same time? While watching a film in British, American, Australian or West Indian English, you can see cultural aspects incorporated into the plot to illustrate social customs from table manners to weddings and funerals, holidays, celebrations and linguistic features. Don’t forget to use ‘classic’ films too, as they can be a wonderful 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? In the 1700s or even before? I actually found the tenth century epic poem-saga “Beowulf” on DVD. Learning or comparing historical changes can be enhanced by watching period pieces, that is, films set in specific historical periods and places. For example; Gone with the Wind, Humphrey Bogart’s stable of classic works, in addition to great literature by classic writers turned into screen plays, documentaries or epic dramas (eg Dr Zhivago, Wuthering Heights, A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace , Moby Dick, etc.).

4. Use of audio – Visuals support learning

As repeatedly demonstrated in the research of H. Gardner (1984) and D. Lazear (1992), the audio-visual approach is very effective both in lowering the emotional filters of the learner (Krashen-Terrell, 1984) and in absorption and learning in language. Visual-spatial, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and verbal-linguistic intelligence, learners receive, process and acquire communicatively based language elements quite easily from movies. Virtually any type of learning style can benefit from language elements acquired from watching films, movies and videos.

5. Movies are a lot of fun to watch

Finally, no one, not even the most dedicated English learner, not even the teacher, wants a course consisting only of classroom rhetoric, typical classroom practice, grammar, and drills. Movies can offer a welcome break from ‘normal’ classroom activity while still encouraging the acquisition and practice of English language skills. A carefully selected film (or clip from it) can breathe new life into a class of the most reluctant learners.
They’re just great fun to watch. After all, they’re made for fun, right?

As progressive professionals in our continuous search for additional resources, approaches, techniques and methods to expand our repertoire of English language teaching tools, films, clips and videos can offer us an easily accessible, dynamic resource to enrich and expand our teaching in English. The aspects mentioned here contain only a few of the many benefits that we and our learners can experience. So, pull out your favorite movie, choose a dramatic or emotional scene, plan a few activities around it, and watch your learners’ minds engage.

A final note: The appendix to this article, titled “5 Reasons to Use Popular Movies to Teach English,” reviews some rationales for using movies in English.

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