Short Films in Language Teaching
Short Films in Language Teaching
Goose Bumps - How the Language of Film Enters into Language Teaching with Films
Part 1 of the following article outlines didactic reasons and directions of working with films and short films. Part 2 will take a closer look at the innertextual and intertextual qualities of a particular short film, showing how the language of film, its formal means and aesthetic techniques, is integral to language learning with film. Part 3 concludes that while film analysis is no end in itself, it is required in defining and fulfilling language oriented tasks.
1 Didactic Reasons and Directions of Working with (Short) Films
Why work with (short) films in language teaching? A simple answer to that question is: because they exist. We study music; we study painting; we study architecture; we study literature; so we study film. (We might even consider film a form of literature.) In any case, film is an art form with a history spanning well over a hundred years (see Faulstich 2005 ). Film has developed genuine aesthetic codes, for example cut and montage, and specific genres, for example the Western, the Road Movie, the Thriller (see Hickethier 2007 : 201 ff.; Kammerer 2009 ). And film has brought forth renowned auteurs and oeuvres - or slightly less pretentious: film makers and works. Think about Sergei Eisenstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, to name but a few. In his voluminous yet highly readable study The Big Screen. The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us , David Thomson ( 2012 ) traces more than a century in which films have been shaping our thoughts and feelings, about the world and ourselves. If one purpose of higher education is to open up legitimate cultural objects and processes, there is no way around film - unless we exclude film from an elitist concept of a supposed "high culture".
To pronounce film a legitimate part of our culture and the cultural heritage ( Bildungsgut ) is all very well. Yet in these days, education aims not so much at cultural goods (like Shakespeare's sonnets or Beethoven's symphonies) but at abilities and skills which enable us to fulfill tasks, to solve problems, to cope with our lives. This focus on competences rather than contents is basically a sound idea. Cluttering up one's mind with declarative knowledge makes little sense in a world in which knowledge evolves rapidly and becomes obsolete fast. On the other hand, competence-oriented education poses a latent threat to all things lacking immediate usefulness and to all abilities that have no tangible and measurable outcome. Art is such a thing; aesthetic sensitivity is such an ability. So why deal with films?
If the idea of film as a learning object will not suffice, film certainly qualifies as a learning medium, especially in teaching foreign languages and cultures:
Characters in foreign films speak foreign languages, so film may be used for listening to authentic native speakers.
Although films are never reflections but always models of reality (see Surkamp 2010 : 94 ), they still convey images of historical or contemporary realities. We watch the melodrama FAR FROM HEAVEN ( 2002 ) and get an idea of what 1950 s' suburban culture in the U.S. was like. We watch HOUSE OF CARDS ( 2013 to present) and get an idea of how contemporary politics and government (probably, and horribly) work in the U.S. 1
Films call for explanation and interpretation and thus provide occasions for speaking, reading, and writing: Is the ending in FAR FROM HEAVEN a happy one? What keeps the couple Frank and Claire