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


The following overview lists relevant categories to consider when planning to use a film to teach about culture. It may also help you decide whether a film is appropriate for a particular class.



1.           Students


The following scales provide key criteria for determining a film's suitability for particular 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





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 on receptive skills unless the film is frequently interrupted for activities


Selected clips 

from a film


- Short and poignant

- Can be watched several times

Contextualisation is required


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




-Tells a complete story in  a short period of time
-Can provide background information on a subject  
-Requires time to watch

-Time required for viewing

-Reporting bias may have to be exposed



-Short and often engaging

-Appeals to emotions

-Some commercials exploit stereotypes

-Tends to become dated quickly

- Its primary purpose is to promote a product or service

Educational film


-Available in a variety of formats and lengths

-Made by amateurs and professionals

Some educational films may not be engaging



- Presents information and facts in an interesting way

- Provides background information to a topic

- Risk of cognitive overload due to large 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)



Kommentar schreiben

Kommentare: 0