Selecting Television Programs for Language Learning: Investigating Television Programs from the Same Genre

By Webb, Stuart | International Journal of English Studies, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Selecting Television Programs for Language Learning: Investigating Television Programs from the Same Genre


Webb, Stuart, International Journal of English Studies


ABSTRACT

The scripts of 288 television episodes were analysed to determine the extent to which vocabulary reoccurs in television programs from the same subgenres and unrelated television programs from different genres. Episodes from two programs from each of the following three subgenres of the American drama genre: medical, spy/action, and criminal forensic investigation were compared with different sets of random episodes. The results showed that although there were an equivalent number of running words in each set of episodes, the episodes from programs within the same subgenre contained fewer word families than random programs. The findings also showed that low frequency word families (4000-14,000 levels) reoccur more often in programs within the same subgenre. Together the results indicate that watching programs within the same subgenre may be an effective approach to language learning with television because it reduces the lexical demands of viewing and increases the potential for vocabulary learning.

KEYWORDS:

Comprehension, corpus linguistics, genre, incidental vocabulary learning, television, vocabulary coverage, word frequency.

RESUMEN

Los guiones de 288 episodios televisivos se analizaron para determinar el alcance de la recursividad del vocabulario en programas de televisión del mismo subgénero y en programas no relacionados de géneros diferentes. Se compararon episodios de tres subgéneros del drama americano: médico, de espías/acción y de investigación forense, con varios grupos de episodios elegidos al azar. Los resultados muestran que, aunque el número de palabras en cada grupo de episodios era equivalente, los episodios del mismo subgénero contienen menos familias de palabras que aquellos elegidos al azar. Los hallazgos mostraron que las familias de baja frecuencia (niveles de 4.000-14.000) se repiten con más frecuencia en los programas del mismo subgénero. En conjunto, los resultados indican que el visionado de programas del mismo subgénero puede ser un método efectivo para aprender el lenguaje por medio de la televisión porque reduce la demanda léxica de la proyección y aumenta el potencial de aprendizaje de vocabulario.

PALABRAS CLAVE:

Comprensión, Lingüística de corpus, género, aprendizaje incidental, televisión, cobertura del vocabulario, frecuencia léxica.

1. INTRODUCTION

Television is a valuable resource for language learning. English language television programs are widely available in English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL) contexts, and research indicates that foreign language learners are motivated to learn through watching television (Bada & Okan, 2000; Gieve & Clark, 2005). Research has also shown that L2 learners may incidentally learn vocabulary through watching television and short videos (d'Ydewalle & Pavakanun, 1995; d'Ydewalle & Van de Poel, 1999; Koolstra & Beentjes, 1999; Neuman & Koskinen, 1992; Pavakanun & d'Ydewalle, 1992), and that L2 viewers may learn as many words incidentally through watching television as they would through reading a script of the program (Neuman & Koskinen, 1992). Television provides authentic L2 aural input which contributes to learning the spoken form of words and is thus a useful complement to learning through reading.

In a corpus-driven study looking at the number of words needed to understand the vocabulary in television programs, Webb and Rodgers (2009a) found that a vocabulary size of 3000 word families plus proper nouns and marginal words provided 95.45% coverage of a corpus made up of 88 television programs from a variety of genres. They reported that knowing the most frequent 3000 word families may be sufficient for adequate comprehension of television programs and that a learning approach which involved regular viewing could lead to large incidental vocabulary learning gains. They suggested that for learners with the appropriate vocabulary size, increased viewing should lead to increased vocabulary learning because research on incidental vocabulary learning has shown that the more unknown words are encountered in context, the more likely they are to be learned (Horst, Cobb, & Meara, 1998; Jenkins, Stein, & Wysocki, 1984; Rott, 1999; Saragi, Nation, & Meister, 1978; Waring & Takaki, 2003; Webb, 2007).

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