In their scientific research for a cancer cure, Sean Connery and Lorraine Bracco have a great scene for using prediction when they are trekking through the Amazon with a native Indian guide. One of them gets “high” from a locally-produced medicine from the bark of the Yocco tree. The ensuing scene is simply hilarious. The following scene, when they suddenly face a “danger” together, is also a good one. You’ll love the dialogue line, “Go ahead, cry all you want.”
Photo: Embera Indian family on the
Using Popular Films to Improve Speaking Skills
During the course of my 15 plus years of English as a foreign language teaching, I have come across a number of popular films which not only aid EFL learners in improving their English language speaking skills, but are enjoyable for them to watch. In each of these films a scene is selected and the dialogue and setting are exploited for cultural, linguistic and connected speech elements. While there actually many such films, I’ll mention five of my English language learners’ favorites in this series of articles.
In the film, “Medicine Man”, two scientists are looking to find a natural medicine cure for cancer. When they think that they might have found one, the source of it is suddenly destroyed. Not only do they have to find the suspected source again, but also prove that it really works. In the meanwhile the local Indian groups are distrustful because the rain forests are systematically being destroyed by development in the name of progress. They are losing their homes.
Are there jungles or rain forests nearby to your EFL learners? What’s the difference between the two? What kind of wildlife and flora are common in your area? What is cancer? How does a doctor diagnose cancer? What are the treatments for it in your area or country? Are these treatments effective? Why or why not? Talk about natural remedies and medicines in your area. Have you or your learners ever tried any of them? Did they work? Is there a commercial form of these natural medicines available? What are they? How much do they cost? Do they work better than natural remedies?
Have your learners practice and act out the scene in pairs or small groups. Write in changes to the scene dialogue. Add dialogue to the scene as well. Update the dialogue into more modern or colloquial English language. May the dialogue funnier, more serious or use idioms and expressions common to the area where the EFL learners live.
Create vocabulary lists, puzzles like crosswords or word searches from the key vocabulary in the scene. The extent of possibilities are limited only by the imagination of you and your English or foreign language learners. Above all, have fun!
Key Film Elements
While many popular films contain selected scenes which could be used to illustrate cultural, linguistic and connected speech elements, these five have proven to be useful and well-received by a variety of English language learner profiles. If you can get a hold of any or all of them, give them a try and watch your learners’ motivation and English language speaking skills skyrocket.
By the way, let me know how well this works for you. If you have any questions or would like one of the worksheets I use to accompany each of these film scenes, just drop me an e-mail. I’ll be happy to help.
Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in