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What aspects are relevant when using a film for cultural learning?

 

 

The following overview lists relevant categories that are worth considering when planning to use a film for teaching about culture. It can also help you to decide if a film is suitable for a particular class.

 

 

 

1.           Students

 

The following scales provide key criteria to decide if a film is suitable for a particular group of students. (Adapted from Lazar, Gillian: Literature and Language Teaching, p. 51 f)

 

 

 

Age of students

too young to

enjoy the film  

 

too old to enjoy the film

Topic of the film

 

 

very simple  

highly complex

Cultural context

 

 

highly familiar

very unfamiliar

Students’ linguistic proficiency

too elementary  

 

too advanced to be challenged

 

Students’ emotional understanding

too immature to relate to the film

 

 

too developed to

find the film engaging

 

Students interests

close to the themes of

the film

 

far removed

 

 

Length of the film

very short

too long to hold

students’ attention

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.           Type of film

 

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Feature film

 

Tells a complete story

-Time required for viewing (often more than one session)

 

- Watching a film in one sitting may lead to cognitive overload

 

- Class time is mainly spent with receptive skills if the film is not frequently interrupted for activities

 

Selected clips 

from a film

 

- Short and poignant

- Can be watched several times

Contextualisation is needed

 

Short film

-Short and often engaging

-Tells a complete story

Some short films are difficult to interpret because of condensed plot structure and/or a highly creative approach

 

Documentary

 

-Tells a complete story in a short space of time

-May provide background information to a topic

-Time required for viewing

-Reporting bias may have to be exposed

 

Commercial

-Short and often engaging

-Appeals to emotions

-Some commercials exploit stereotypes

-Tends to become quickly outdated

- Its primary aim is to promote a product or service

Educational film

 

-Available in different formats and lengths

-Made by amateurs and professionals

Some educational films may not be engaging

Animated

infographic

- Information and facts are presented in an interesting way

- Provides background information to a topic

- Risk of cognitive overload due to high amount of audiovisual content

 

 

 

3.           Availability of materials that can be exploited for previewing or after viewing activities

 

 

 

-      Articles

 

-      Reviews (print press, written reviews and video reviews on the internet)

 

-      Commentaries that form part of the bonus material of the DVD

 

-      Interviews with actors, the screenwriter or director

 

-      Trailer

 

-      Film poster

 

-      Transcription or film script

 

 

 

4.           Knowledge that students will acquire based on the film

 

 

 

-          Factual knowledge about another culture

 

 

 

-          Sociocultural knowledge (according to MCER, 2001)

 

 

 

Everyday living

e. g. food and drink, meal times, table manners; working hours and practices; leisure activities (hobbies, sports, reading habits, media)

 

Living conditions

e. g. living standards (with regional, class and ethnic variations); housing conditions; welfare arrangements.

 

Interpersonal relations

e. g. with respect to class structure of society and relations between classes; relations between sexes, family structures ad relations; relations between generations; relations in work situations; race and community relations; relations among political and religious groupings.

 

Values, beliefs and attitudes

in relation to such factors as social class; occupational groups; regional cultures; tradition and social change; minorities (ethnic, religious); national identity; religion; humour.

 

Body language

eye contact, body position, gestures and movement

 

Social conventions

with regard to giving and receiving hospitality, such as punctuality; presents; dress; refreshments, drinks, meal; behavioural and conversational conventions and taboos; length of stay; leave-taking.

 

Ritual behaviour

in such areas as religious observances and rites; birth, marriage, death; celebrations, festivals, dances, discos, etc.

 

 

 

-          Knowledge about global issues from multiple perspectives (as mentioned in Teaching English by Grimm, Meyer & Volkmann, p. 163 f), for instance, demographic aspects, social aspects, ecological aspects, socio-economic aspects

 

 

 

-          Intercultural awareness

 

Knowledge, awareness and understanding of the relation (similarities and distinctive differences) between the ‘world of origin’ and the ‘world of the target community’, including an awareness of regional and social diversity in both worlds (MCER, p. 112)

 

 

 

-          Reflection on values, attitudes and beliefs

 

 

 

-          Procedural knowledge

 

Strategies of negotiation of meaning; of dealing with conflicting situations of comprehension and communication; of changing roles and adopting different points of view; of self-access to information and learning aids. It also comprises a metacognitive aspect (knowing when to apply which strategy). (Intercultural Competence, Council of Europe, https://rm.coe.int/16806ad2dd)

 

 

 

 

 

5.   Communicative language competences that can be trained

 

-          Linguistic competence, e. g. lexical competence, grammatical competence, semantic competence

 

-          Sociolinguistic competence regarding the social dimension of language use, for example, using titles, first names or surnames, politeness conventions, expressions of folk-wisdom, register differences, and dialect and accent

 

-          Pragmatic competence, such as speech acts, for example, thanking someone, complimenting someone or asking for permission

 

 

 

6.   Acquisition of audiovisual competence – Study of cinematic techniques that help to convey the film’s message

 

 

 

-          Camera shots: long shots, medium shots, close-ups

 

-          Camera angles: bird’s eye angle, high angle, eye line, low angle

 

-          Camera movements: zoom, pan, tilt …

 

-          Film lighting techniques: key lighting, back lighting, side lighting, hard lighting, soft lighting, …

 

-          Music and sound

 

-          Use of colours

 

-          Story structure

 

 

 

7.    Time required for watching the film and for the students engaging in communicative language opportunities (reception, production, interaction, mediation)

 

 

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