Thursday, October 04, 2007

5 Popular Films That Can Help to Improve Your English Language Speaking Fluency

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 here.

FRANTIC (1988)
This film stars Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley as a doctor and his wife who are visiting Paris for a medical convention when she suddenly disappears. The desperate husband, who doesn’t speak any French, eventually goes to the Blue Parrot Disco in his search for his missing wife but meets a smooth-talking drug dealer instead. The accents, idioms, expressions, slang, setting and dialogue in this scene are absolutely great.

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.”

Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold, Bette Midler are terrific in this satirical comedy. The film’s opening scene depicts Danny DeVito with his gold-digging lover in a fancy restaurant. How do we know she’s his mistress and not his wife? Watch the scene with your English language learners and have them answer that question.

Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Adolph Caesar and Oprah Winfrey deliver memorable performances in this film adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Alice Walker. A scene with the late Adolph Caesar in which a despondent man (Danny Glover) is consoled by his less-than-capable father (Adolph Caesar) who also tries to motivate his slovenly son out of the doldrums is priceless for use in vocabulary acquisition, and multiple verb tense use, among others. My EFL learners often gasp in disbelief at seeing the state of the son’s house.

Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino and Reni Santoni star in this classic police detective drama. In two different scenes, police Inspector Harry Callahan, the cop you love to hate delivers his signature lines:

“I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five?”
“Well to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.”

“… you’ve got to ask yourself one question … Do I feel lucky?”

“Well, do you, punk?”

This film is great for illustrating and practicing elements of connected speech in American English.

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 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:

No comments: