Spoken language features (and anomalies) in films for ESL classes

  • 1 University of Camerino, Camerino (MC), Italy
Patrizia Giampieri
  • Corresponding author
  • University of Camerino, Camerino (MC), Italy
  • Email
  • Further information
  • Patrizia Giampieri holds a Master of Science in Applied Linguistics (Aston University, Birmingham, UK). She is a lecturer of English at the University of Camerino (Italy). She has written and published articles on audiovisual translation. She is also the author of “La traduzione cinematografica: successi, strafalcioni e censura nel cinema doppiato” [Film translation: successes, blunders and censorship in dubbed films] (Le Penseur, 2018).
  • Search for other articles:
  • degruyter.comGoogle Scholar


It is argued that learning a language through films is enjoyable, useful and motivating. At the same time, despite being scripted, film dialogues are claimed to mirror authentic conversational language. This paper is aimed at exploring whether films provide useful and interesting instances of spoken language. These can be used in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in order to foster second language (L2) learners’ communication skills. To this aim, a trial pedagogical intervention was carried out in which students were exposed to film excerpts and prompted to highlight spoken language features and anomalies. In order to foster learners’ noticing and comparing, the dubbed versions of the film excerpts were also addressed. The paper argues that the many instances of authentic colloquial language in film can be exploited in ESL classes. As far as the dubbed versions are concerned, this paper will demonstrate that not all dialogues are dubbed faithfully and many features of spoken language are unfortunately “lost in translation”. Nonetheless, exposing L2 learners to film sequences in both the original and dubbed versions can be useful in order to raise their awareness and foster noticing and comparing.

  • Alvarez-Pereyre, Michael. 2011. Using Film as Linguistic Specimen. In Roberta Piazza, Monica Bednarek & Fabio Rossi (eds.), Telecinematic discourse: Approaches to the language of films and television series, 47–67. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

  • Biber, Douglas, Edward Finegan & Geoffrey Leech. 1999. The longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow: Pearson.

  • Birulés-Muntané, Joan & Salvador Soto-Faraco. 2016. Watching subtitled films can help learning Foreign languages. PLoS ONE 11(6). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0158409 accessed 01 August 2018).

    • PubMed
    • Export Citation
  • Boers, Frank, June Eyckmans, Jenny Kappel, Hélène Stengers & Murielle Demecheleer. 2006. Formulaic sequences and perceived oral proficiency: Putting a Lexical Approach to the test. Language Teaching Research 10(3). 245–261.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Brown, David West. 2008. Curricular approaches to linguistic diversity: Code-switching, register-shifting and academic language. Ph.D. thesis., Univ. of Michigan. http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/61797 (accessed 01 August 2018).

  • Carter, Ronald & Michael McCarthy. 2006. Cambridge grammar of English: A comprehensive guide to spoken and written English grammar and usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Carter, Ronald & Michael McCarthy. 2015. Spoken grammar: Where are we and where are we going? Applied Linguistics 38(1). 1–21. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Clark, Urszula. 2007. Studying language: English in action. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Donaghy, Kieran. 2014. How can film help you teach or learn English? https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/how-can-film-help-you-teach-or-learn-english. (accessed 01 August 2018).

  • Donaghy, Kieran & Anna Whitcher. 2015. How to write film and video activities (Kindle version). ELT Teacher 2 Writer.

  • Ellis, Rod. 2002. Grammar teaching—Practice or consciousness-raising?. In Jack C. Richards & Willy A. Renandya (eds.), Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice, 167–174. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Ellis, Rod. 2005. Principles of instructed language learning. System 33. 209–224.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Freddi, Maria. 2013. Constructing a corpus of translated films: a corpus view of dubbing. Perspectives 21(4). 491–503.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Frumuselu, Anca Daniela, Sven De Maeyer, Vincent Donche & María del Mar Gutiérrez Colon Plana. 2015. Television series inside the EFL classroom: Bridging the gap between teaching and learning informal language through subtitles. Linguistics and Education 32. 107–166.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Giampieri, Patrizia. 2017. Racial slurs in Italian film dubbing. TTMC 3(2). 254–269.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Gilmore, Alex. 2007. Authentic materials and authenticity in foreign language teaching. Language Teaching 40. 97–118.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Gilmore, Alex. 2010. Exploiting film discourse in the foreign language classroom. In Freda Mishan & Angela Chambers (eds.), Perspectives on language learning materials development, 110–148. Oxford: Peter Lang AG.

  • Guariento, William & John Morley. 2001. Task authenticity in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal 55. 4.

  • Gumperz John, J., Gurinder Aulakh & Hannah Kaltman. 1982. Thematic structure and progression in discourse. In John J. Gumperz (ed.), Language and social identity, 22–56. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Kermode, Mark. 2014. Ken Loach: “What I’ve always tried to do is capture the truth of the moment”. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/may/11/ken-loach-capture-truth-moment-jimmys-hall-readers-questions (accessed 01 August 2018).

  • King, Jane. 2002. Using DVD feature films in the EFL classroom. Computer Assisted Language Learning 15(5). 509–523.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Knight, Dawn. 2011. Multimodality and active listenership: A corpus approach. In Woflgang Tuebert & Michaela Mahlberg (eds.), Research in Corpus and Discourse. London: Continuum.

  • Lavaur, Jean-Marc & Dominique Bairstow. 2011. Languages on the screen: Is film comprehension related to the viewers’ fluency level and to the language in the subtitles?. International Journal of Psychology 46(6). 455–462.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Leech, Geoffrey. 2000. Grammars of spoken English: New outcomes of corpus-oriented research. Language Learning 50(4). 675–724.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Leone, Paola & Tiziana Mezzi. 2011. Didattica della comunicazione orale. Lingue seconde e italiano a scuola e all’università, [Oral communication didactics. Second languages and Italian at school and at university]. Milano: Franco Angeli.

  • Long, Michael H. 1991. Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In Kees De Bot, Ralph B. Ginsberg & Claire Kramsch (eds.), Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective, 39–52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

  • McCarthy, Michael. 2003. Talking back: “small” interactional response tokens in everyday conversation. Research on Language and Social Interaction on ‘Small Talk’ 36(1). 33–63.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • McCarthy, Michael & Ronald Carter. 2001. Ten criteria for a spoken grammar. In Eli Hinkel & Sandra Fotos (eds.), New perspectives on grammar teaching in second language classrooms, 51–75. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  • McGrath, Ian. 2013. Teaching materials and the roles of EFL/ESL teachers. New York: Bloomsbury.

  • Mitchell, Rosamond F. 2011. Current trends in classroom research. In Mchael H. Long & Catherine J. Doughty (eds.), The handbook of language teaching, 675–705. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Morrow, Keith. 1977. Authentic texts and ESP. In Susan Holden (ed.), English for specific purposes, 13–17. London: Modern English Publications.

  • Mottram, James. 2010. Mike leigh – secrets and leigh lines. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/mike-leigh-secrets-and-leigh-lines-2119219.html. (accessed 01 August 2018).

  • Nunan, David. 1989. Designing tasks for the communicative classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Nunan, David & Jack C. Richards. 2015. Language learning beyond the classroom (ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series). New York: Routledge.

  • O’Keeffe, Anne & Svenja Adolphs. 2008. Response Tokens in Irish and British Discourse: Corpus, content and variational pragmatics. In Klaus P. Schneider & Anne. Baron (eds.), Variational pragmatics: A focus on regional varieties in pluricentric languages, 69–98. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

  • O’Keeffe, Anne, Michael McCarthy & Ronald Carter. 2007. From corpus to classroom: Language use and language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Pavesi, Maria, Maicol Formentelli & Elisa Ghia. 2015. The languages of dubbing: Mainstream audiovisual translation in Italy. Berna: Peter Lang.

  • Pavesi, Maria & Anna Lisa Malinverno. 2000. Uso del Turpiloquio nella Traduzione Filmica, [The use of foul language in film translation]. Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste.

  • Polanyi, Livia. 1978. False Starts Can be True. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. 628–639.

  • Poole, Mark. 2004. Improvisation – the Mike Leigh method. http://www.markpoole.com.au/articles/improvisation-the-mike-leigh-method.html (accessed 01 August 2018).

  • Proietti, Marta. 2016. La Crusca: “Il congiuntivo scompare ma non è un dramma”. [La Crusca: “The subjunctive is disappearing, but this is not a tragedy”]. http://www.ilgiornale.it/news/cronache/accademia-crusca-congiuntivo-scompare-non-dramma-1341414.html. (accessed 01 August 2018).

  • Pym, Anthony, Miriam Schlesinger & Daniel Simeoni. 2008. Beyond discriptive translation studies: Investigations in homage to gideon toury. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

  • Sabatini, Francesco. 2016. Lezione di Italiano: grammatica, storia, buon uso, [An Italian Lesson: grammar, history, good use]. Milano: Mondadori.

  • Sherman, Jane. 2003. Using authentic video in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Stempleski, Susan. 1990. Teaching communication skills with authentic video. In Susan Stempleski & Paul Arcario (eds.), Video in second: Language teaching using, selecting, and producing video for the classroom, 7–24. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Inc.

  • Swan, Michael. 2002. Seven bad reasons for teaching grammar – and two good ones. In Jack C. Richards & Willy A. Renandya (eds.), Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice, 148–152. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Thornbury, Scott & Diana Slade. 2006. Conversation: From description to pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Tomlinson, Brian. 1998. Materials development in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Tomlinson, Brian. 2003. Developing materials for language teaching. London: Continuum.

  • Tomlinson, Brian. 2012. Materials development for language learning and teaching. Language Teaching 45(2). 143–179.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Ur, Penny. 1996. A course in language teaching. Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Webb, Stuart & Michael P. H. Rodgers. 2009. The lexical coverage of movies. Applied Linguistics 30(3). 407–427.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Wheeler, Rebecca S. & Rachel Swords. 2006. Code-switching: Teaching standard English in urban classrooms, theory and research into practice. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

  • Willis, Dave. 2007. The logic of spoken English – and how to teach it. http://willis-elt.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Fullhandout_000.pdf. (accessed: 01 August 2018).

  • Wray, Alison. 2000. Formulaic sequences in second language teaching: Principle and practice. Applied Linguistics 21(4). 463–489.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Dope. 2015. USA, Rick Famuyiwa.

  • Fatso. 1980. USA, Anne Bancroft.

  • Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. 2001. GB/USA, Chris Columbus.

  • Jumper. 2008. USA, Doug Liman.

  • Kids. 1995. USA, Larry Clark.

  • Saturday Night Fever. 1977. USA, John Badham.

  • Ted 2. 2015. USA, Seth MacFarlane.

  • The Wolf of Wall Street. 2013. Martin Scorsese.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Journal + Issues

Language Learning in Higher Education, the journal of the European Confederation of Language Centres in Higher Education, deals with the most relevant aspects of language acquisition at university. It publishes contributions presenting the outcomes of research on language teaching, blended learning and autonomous learning, and language assessment, as well as aspects of professional development, quality assurance and university language policy.