Monday, November 12, 2007

Have Whoopi Goldberg Help to Improve Your English Language Speaking Fluency One Scene at a Time

Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Adolph Caesar and Oprah Winfrey deliver memorable performances in this 1985 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 (Danny Glover) house in this scene.

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, many such films, I’ll detail five of my English language learners’ favorites in this series of articles.

Discussion Points, Questions and Activities
The film, “The Color Purple”, is set in the American rural south. Sub themes of spousal abuse and social conditions of blacks during that era provide extensive basis for discussion, research and discourse on related and comparative cultural aspects. Your English language learners can compare the conditions pictured in the film with current conditions of ethnic or national groups in their country. Suggestions for changes and improvements can be made. How are the clothes, conditions and speech different from what your EFL learners may currently be exposed to? Why might any of these conditions and aspects be different?

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. And above all, remember to 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 with your English as a foreign language learners. If you have any questions or would like one of the worksheets I use to accompany the film scenes, just drop me a quick e-mail request. I’m always happy to help.

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 the lucrative, fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign Language, get your copy of his no-cost, full multi-media, hypertext-linked pdf ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know” by sending an e-mail to with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. Need professional, original content and photos or images for your blog, newsletter, e-zine or website? Want more information, have a comment or special request? E-mail the author for a prompt response.


Suzanne G. said...

OMG, you aren't showing that to kids, are you? Where do you teach? That film is loaded with many, highly disturbing scenes.

Larry said...

Many films contain objectionable content in one form or another. I am very selective about what I choose to use in the EFL classroom. For this and other reasons, I prefer using short scenes or clips from movies. These usually range from two or three minutes to six or seven minutes on the average. Rarely do I use longer ones. Doing this has several practical and didactic benefits. One of these is that I can use movies which as a whole would be absolutely inappropriate for use with learners of any age or profile.