Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

CHAPTER 7: Teaching Compliments and Insults in the EFL Classroom through Film Clips

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

CHAPTER 7: Teaching Compliments and Insults in the EFL Classroom through Film Clips

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to show the benefits of using film clips and film language as multimodal resources in the foreign language classroom, especially for the teaching of pragmatic features of conversational interaction, focusing in particular on two complementary speech acts, complimenting and insulting. After reviewing the literature on the use of audiovisual material in the classroom, I will pinpoint some of the merits of using it and defend the authenticity of film language in a pedagogical context. In the second part, I will show some practical examples of multimodal transcription and analysis of some film clips and reflect on how to exploit these resources in the language classroom.

2 Audiovisual Resources in the Language Classroom

In our world images are pervasive in any moment and in any situation, be it formal or informal, private or public. Screens of different types allow people to access distant sites or reach distant people very simply by a mere click of a finger. Given the impressive power that media and visual images have, they should and are in fact more and more often introduced in the foreign language curriculum as a way of enhancing learners' proficiency in the foreign language and, at the same time, entertaining them by creating a stress-free atmosphere and proposing variation from the routine activities of the classroom.

Until recently, however, at least in Italy, the use of films in foreign language teaching has not, for the most part, been very frequent for two reasons. First of all, schools were usually badly equipped, with difficult access to multimedia rooms. The recent introduction of interactive white boards, which has strongly been favored over the last few years by the Ministry of Education, has slightly improved the situation, enabling teachers to access a whole wealth of multimedia resources. The second reason is linked to lesson preparation when video material is involved: teachers, until a few years ago, felt discouraged and thus avoided using films or video material in general because they thought they were time-consuming and too demanding to deal with. If it is true that a lesson involving video material needs to be prepared in advance and is more timeconsuming for the teacher than simply following the textbook, as previewing, selecting, careful lesson planning are all necessary steps (see, for instance, Stoller 1995,68), it is also incomparably more challenging for learners, as it stimulates their sensitivity and encourages them to broaden their imagination and creativity. Furthermore, these lessons are most of the time more rewarding in terms of results.

This contribution surveys the viability of audiovisual material in teaching students how to use some conversational routines. As the literature on the subject has shown, the advantages of the pedagogic exploitation of films in the elt classroom are various (Rodríguez Martín 2006).1 Films or audiovisual texts in general help non-native speakers to develop more natural-sounding pronunciation; they can be used to introduce students to avast range of linguistic varieties in context (Stoller 1995; Shawback and Terhune 2002), exploiting the communication of various semiotic codes at the same time (paralinguistic features, kinesics, oculesics, proxemics); they provide learners with informa- tion, both linguistic and factual, that they can strategically use again on other occasions; they are an excellent vehicle for the teaching of any structural (i.e., morphological, syntactic) or communicative aspect (i.e., semantic and pragmatic features of spoken interaction) (Massi and Merino 1996); they allow for the design of comprehensive and varied activities that can be implemented in the language classroom (Stoller 1995; Canning-Wilson 2000).

Usually, it is incomparably more convenient to watch ad hoc clips that the teacher has intentionally selected (Kaiser 2011): students have in fact many difficulties in following and understanding a whole audiovisual text, especially because they cannot keep their concentration for the length of a film, so they often do not understand much and get discouraged. …

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