November 7, 2008

Real-English videos

I have just become a fan of  Michael Marzio's website, which features ESL/EFL lessons using "authentic and natural videos of people speaking real English on streets accross the globe". 

I teach EFL in Brazil, where students have limited access to authentic and meaningful input, so I found Mike's videos to be very helpful for this teaching context. All videos have at least two versions, one with and another without closed captions. Also, all videos have grammar/vocabulary activities. And the best part is that everything is FREE.

It was only today that I watched one of his videos for the first time. I was looking for some interesting online resources to teach "clothes" to beginners when I found his lesson 38 video in youtube: 

I watched the video three times because, besides giving me ideas for my class, this video kept me thinking about about two concepts language teachers deal with: communicative language teaching and correctness.

The first one, communicative language teaching, came to my mind when I noticed that most people in the video, when asked "what are you wearing?", were somewhat surprised by the question, and some of them answer the questions laughing a little. This happens because the question "what are you wearing?" is not communicative, because we never ask someone we are looking at what they are wearing for the simple fact that we can see what they are wearing. However, in our so-called 'communicative' classrooms, we keep asking these not-communicative questions over and over: "what's your name?" (already knowing the student's name), "where is the book?" (everybody seeing it is on the table), "what am I doing right now?" and so on. With this video, though, we can expose students to the real reaction real people would have to our classroom questions. It is a way of getting a little away from the "let's pretend" environment typical of language classrooms.

Concerning the concept of correctness, I could also find in this video a reason for rethinking our concepts of what is correct and is incorrect in the target language, especially for non-native teachers teaching in a non-native country, which is my case. In a clothes lesson, when students started describing what they are wearing, something I would focus on would be the quantifiers. If they said "I'm wearing a T-shirt, scarf, hat, shoes and jacket", I would probably correct them and have them say "I'm wearing a scarf, a hat, a pair of shoes and a jacket". But why, if that's not necessarily how people would say it? With these real-english videos, though, we can, again, expose students to the real language real people use.