To DVD or not to DVD
- Is that the Question?
by Deniz Dündar & Adam Simpson
2.2 Insights into Culture and
Learners can increase their cultural competence
with regard to the language. As Peterson & Coltrane (2003)
'Using authentic sources from the native
speech community helps to engage students in authentic cultural
experiences... Teachers can adapt their use of authentic materials
to suit the age and language proficiency level of the students.
For example, even beginning language students can watch and
listen to video clips taken from a television show in the
target language and focus on such cultural conventions as
Kortner (1999) reiterates this by suggesting
that film communication offers a link between classrooms and
2.3 Authenticity - How can we assess
a film's relevance?
So, what issues do we need to consider when
choosing an authentic film for language learning purposes?
Having conducted a formal study regarding this question, Canning-Wilson
(2000) suggests that the length of dialogues, in direct relation
to the amount of on-screen action, will affect the ability
of the students to derive meaning from what they watch:
'Scenes where utterances were backed up by an
action and/or body language and that were relatively shorter,
were considered easier to understand by students. Less lively
scenes, which involved relatively long stretches of conversation,
were labeled as more difficult.'
Canning-Wilson also states that students like
using films in language learning, and that generally students
prefer action/entertainment films. This should obviously influence
the type of film chosen, i.e. films high on artistic merit
may not be as useful as those from the 'fast paced, shoot-em-up'
action genre. This issue will be raised again in section 4,
when we discuss opur approach to using films.
King reaffirms the importance of comprehensibility,
suggesting that films that need to contain a lot of action:
'It is important to choose (films) that
balance dialogue with a high degree of visual support.'
The appropriateness of content and the comfort
level of students also need to be taken into account in the
selection process. For example, films with explicit sex, gratuitous
violence and excessive profanity should probably not be used.
Furthermore, a certain level of language competence is necessary.
This is an issue that will be discussed in further detail
in sections 4 and 5.
3. The Benefits of Modern Formats
3.1 DVD and DivX
DVD has undoubtedly replaced VHS video as the
medium of the modern era. DVD is vastly superior to videotape
because its durability, compactness, audio-visual quality,
availability and other interactive features. Furthermore,
Chun (1996) notes that in educational settings, many classrooms
and CALL Centres have been upgraded from VHS to DVD. DivX
is a similar format to DVD, and holds many of the same advantages.
King (2002) notes that one of the most beneficial features of DVDs is scene access, i.e. specific scenes can be accessed without
having to watch the whole film. There is no rewinding or fast
forwarding. Another distinct advantage of these formats is
the availability of sub-titles. If we think back to the example
of Yoder in section 1.3, we suggested that there is some pedagogical
value in showing sub-titles to accompany the spoken dialogue.
Kikuchi (1997) suggests that captioned movies are more effective
than non-captioned videos in terms of improving overall listening
comprehension and helping EFL students' comprehension ability.
3.2 The Internet
The internet contains a wealth of information
and resources that can aid in the use of movies in language
learning. Many examples of the websites that we often use
are listed in the appendix at the end of this paper. Some
of the things that we use the internet for are:
- Pre-viewing materials - movie trailers.
- Background information - facts related to
the plot and the stars of a film.
- Webquests - assigning task to learners which
require research on the net.
- Movie Scripts - learners can find entire
scripts for such activities as role-plays.
- Sub-titles - sub-titles for all movies are
available on the internet, by using the DivX format, viewers
can see sub-titles in different fonts, colours, etc.
These things will be discussed in more detail
in section 4 of this paper, when we discuss how we can use
films in a preparatory school program.
4. What can we Do?
Firstly, we should describe the context in which
films can be used in a university preparatory program.
- Focus questions and a Q&A session: The
purpose of these activities is to get the learners thinking
about the genre of film, the kind of vocabulary they associate
with this genre, and the kind of action they will expect
to take place.
- Trailers: These aim to activate learner
schemata in a way that we would if we were preparing learners
to do a reading or listening activity in class. They give
learners an entry point into the movie, provide contextual
clues as to the content, and provide motivation to watch.
- Power Point summaries: These build on what
is achieved by watching the trailer, i.e. they can introduce
the main characters and provide a brief synopsis of the
- Reading / Listening questions: A set of
questions prepared by the teacher help us check listening
and reading comprehension of learners while watching the
film and reading the subtitles.
- Manipulated sub-titles: Some of the scripts
are deliberately changed and learners are asked to find
the mistakes and correct them. We can also omit some words,
phrases or sentences and ask learners to complete the blanks.
- Role-play: Scripts of different scenes
are given to different groups of learners and guided to
act out the scenes.
- Discussions: Some questions are prepeared
asking learners to reflect on certain aspects of the film.
For example 'Would you have behaved in a similar way to
character X in this situation?', or 'Were you satisfied
with the end of the film? If not, how would you change the
- Movie reviews: As an extension activity,
learners can write a film review. This can be a very fulfilling
activity, as there are ample opportunities for learners
to have their writing published on the internet. imdb.com
is a popular site for this, and one we've used with our
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