Screening Languages: ‘courts-métrages’ in the foreign languages classroom

Year: 2015

Author: Lawes, Shirley, Carpenter, Jenny, Reid, Mark

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Film is a cultural medium that has much potential to enrich the foreign languages learning experience, in terms of what could be called ‘ethno-culture’, that is, aspects of daily life, traditions and folklore that give important insights to the countries and people where the foreign language is spoken. It is also an accessible form of ‘enrichment culture’ that is the notion of culture as that which enriches people’s lives through an initiation into the best that humankind has achieved – that is, universal human culture (Lawes: 2006). How film, and in particular, short films (courts-metrages) can enhance the motivation and attainment of learners at an earlier stage has hardly been explored, or indeed acknowledged, and is worthy of exploration in order to create ‘meanings that matter’ for learners through the unravelling of the conventions and layers of meaning that are unique to film as a cultural form. The current project involves teachers from over 20 London schools and focuses on pupils aged 12-13 years.
The technology that is now readily available in most schools makes film a much more accessible medium for use in the classroom to engage learners, to promote effective linguistic and cultural learning. This paper reports on past and on-going research, currently funded by the London Mayor’s Schools Excellence fund. The aim of the research has been to bring short film into the foreign languages classroom to regenerate the content of the curriculum, to develop pedagogical approaches using software to ‘pedagogise’ films, and most importantly, to encourage learners to see foreign language learning as an important part of their education. The distinctiveness of this classroom-based research is that it engages teachers in developing innovative pedagogical approaches which harness the potential of technology and the possibility of developing communicative competence through the exploration of film as a cultural form. Furthermore, the project brings together cultural and educational partners to enhance mutual understanding of our respective fields.