Movies and TV Shows in Second Language Classes.


With the addition of televisions in classrooms, the second language classes were already taken another dimension. With projectors and now with SMART Boards, the image and sound is better than ever.

By putting a movie or a TV show in their classroom, ESL teachers give a chance to their students to hear “real-life” communication of native English speakers (if we take Quebec students as the example in this article). Plus, a student always hear the same person talk in their L2 (the teacher), so it gives them an opportunity to hear other people with different ways of speaking and different accents.

I was an elementary/secondary student and I can tell that most students take movies and TV shows as a free time where they can relax and enjoy. It makes them happy, but what it really does is that it makes them improve on the hearing level of their L2.

Some teachers even tell their students to watch a TV show or a movie and do a little summary or analysis on it as a homework assignment. It makes me wonder if it is a better homework than giving a written exercise to do.

Depending on the level of the students, putting subtitles can be a good idea. For example, if it is an English movie, putting English subtitles can be great because the students can read and hear how the words are pronounced at the same time. (This point is subject of debate, see why on this blog).

By watching actors speak, you can learn what the expressions and slang words are in your target language. You will not learn about slang in school, and if you do, you won’t spend lot of time on it; but when it comes to real-life situations, you can face someone using slang terms and you might not understand if all you did was to go to your L2 classes. As a French learner puts it:

“People always say that you should watch movies to help you learn a foreign language. I think it’s useful because you get to hear lots of slang and cool expressions – it’s how people really talk. I love cinema as well, and French cinema, in particular, is awesome.

Watching all these movies is definitely going to improve my French and will make it much easier next time I go to France!”

Though it might seem obvious, the choice of movies and shows can be quite delicate. Some might consider “The Hunger Games” as a movie with too much violence in it. To be sure the choice of movie is correct, a teacher might refer to their superior. There has been some cases where a teacher had problems after making an inappropriate choice of film. For example, a substitute teacher of Ohio decided to present a horror movie (The ABCs of Death) to her 14 to 18 years old students, and she is now facing felony charges (to see the article and the trailer of the movie click here). This is a proof that you have to watch the movie before showing it or at least you have to be sure the content is conventional for a class of elementary or secondary level.


By watching movies and shows, students also acquire useful and interesting knowledge their teachers might have never told them (e.g. we say “I do” when someone ask to get married or we say never mind when we mean “laissez-faire”). Those are all little language details that I never heard in my elementary/secondary English classes, but that could be useful to know if I travel to other countries like the USA or Australia (even in the English cities of Canada).


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