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Should MFL teachers show films at the end of term?

I gather that some schools and departments have a policy which forbids teachers from showing films to classes at the end of term.

I used to have slightly mixed feelings about this issue, but on balance I believe that showing a movie in the foreign language with subtitles, even without any attached work, is a valid activity. Pourquoi?

If a class has been working solidly for a year on comprehension, speaking, new vocabulary and grammar, it is quite possible that intercultural understanding may have been a little neglected. A good choice of film provides students with an excellent route into the target language culture as well as a pretty good source of authentic language, spoken at natural speed. I say pretty good, because ideally, the language would be basic enough and spoken at such a pace that students could understand it fairly well. This is not the case with movies, but even so, if the film is well selected, pupils will pick up bits and pieces of language, hear the language in real contexts and, maybe crucially, get the impression that the foreign language is not just a school subject, but a living entity used by real people. In addition, a well chosen film will leave a lasting impression on children and hopefully create a positive association with the language.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, most teachers are on their knees by the end of the year, so they need a bit of enjoyment and relaxation too.

There are copyright implications with showing films, but your school may have purchased a licence to allow it. In reality I suppose not many of us worry too much about showing a film we have paid for.

We all have our favourite movies to show classes. My particular favourites were Les Choristes (usable with all ages, charming, funny and always enjoyed), Au revoir les enfants (better with slightly older children, with language spoken clearly at a reasonable pace) and Etre et avoir (good for older classes, but probably too slow-paced for young ones). With younger learners I would avoid Jean de Florette/Manon des sources because the accents are too hard to follow. I would also, with younger viewers, stay clear of films with too much violence or sexual content - this rules out a terrific film like Amélie.

By the way, if you want some quirky short movies for classes, try this collection:

http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk/acatalog/info_17774.html

I showed this one to Y10 classes:



Comments

  1. With all the French films in my school's library and netflix, my French 5 class (17 and 18 year olds) was almost entirely movie based! I think film is a great way to learn and engage students of all levels :) keep up the good work!

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  2. Thank you for leaving a comment.

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  3. I totally believe in film as a teaching tool. As an American teacher, I show Disney films in French with English subtitles to French 1 students (usually 14-15 years of age). They know them by heart already. Then I wean them away from the subtitles. I graduate French 2 & 3 (16-17) to French films with English subtitles, then no subtitles.

    I'm currently doing an immersion program in Brest, France. Last week, we showed Astérix chez les Égyptiens with Depardieu as Obélix in French with French subtitles. This opened a whole new world to me. Somehow, it never occurred to me to use the French subtitles. But it made for a positive experience for students of all levels. I will certainly use French subtitles when I begin classes at home in August.

    Thanks for your post!

    Michael Heitz.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Michael. Thanks for commenting. Yes, French subtitles can work well for the right students. I wonder to what extent a film with English subtitles represents comprehensible input? Students understand what's happening and being said, but without doing much decoding.

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