Thursday, September 20, 2007

Using Movies to Improve Your English Language Speaking Skills in One Week or Less

Oh Say Have You Seen …

Have you seen the “Star Wars” saga? Remember the funny, short, long-eared green character named “Yoda”? Well, he’s quite an interesting character for English as a foreign language teachers and learners to study because of the way he speaks English. He doesn’t speak incorrectly, but his word order in particular is specialized and unique. Can you tell why?

Who hasn’t seen any of the “Harry Potter” series of movies? While reading the books by J.K. Rowling can be more interesting, the movies lend themselves well to use by English language teachers and learners too. The groundskeeper, the giant Hagrid, speaks an exemplary version of northern British English that can serve as a distinct model.

The Plan

Whether on VHS or DVD, select scenes in which the character you wish to model speaks. You, the EFL English teacher, can prepare the script directly from the movie scenes or use the original dialogues from the book. A practical sequence might go as follows:

Play the selected scene and dialogue

Rewind and replay, but now you, the learner, are the character.

Mimic the character’s speech and dialogue

Repeat the mimicking process as much as you need to for improvement

Try recording your voice at the same time you’re speaking at the beginning of the process

Practice multiple times for at least three to five days

On the last day of your mimicking practice session series, record yourself again.

Now listen to your first efforts and compare them to your latest recordings. You should notice some considerable improvement. Select yet another scene from the same movie with a dialogue from the same character, if possible and repeat the process.

Don’t Stop There

Once you’ve gone through a couple of different scenes or so of mimicking the same or different characters, you’ll definitely have noticeably greater ease and fluency in speaking. Besides, it’s usually quite a lot of fun, especially if you work with a friend, classmate or partner. But don’t stop there, look for other scenes and movie clips that you can use.

Some of My Favorites

How about trying other films by your preferred actor or actress? A variety of English language speech models will help to broaden your range of listening comprehension as well as aid in rounding out your pronunciation of connected speech elements. There are a slew of actors and actresses with noteworthy speech in the English language who can have you speaking like a native in very short order. There are also, unfortunately, some whose speech is more reminiscent of something the cat drug in.

These actors are normally good English language speech models which I like to use with my EFL learners:

Harrison Ford
Sidney Poitier
Sean Connery
Pierce Brosnan
Clint Eastwood
Brendan Fraser
Danny Glover
James Todd Smith (aka LL Cool J)
John Travolta

These actresses are normally good English language speech models which I also like to use with my EFL learners:

Angelina Jolie
Sandra Bullock
Julia Roberts
Angela Bassett (pictured above)
Halle Berry
Cameron Diaz
Reese Witherspoon

Remember to check out the speech of Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies and Yoda in the Stars Wars saga. You’ll find them and many other characters excellent models of what to say (or NOT to say).

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on entering or advancing in the fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

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