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.


Nina Liakos said...

Hi Ronaldo,
I am also a Real-English fan and have used this site with a beginning listening/speaking class at MEI, where I teach. I agree about the non-communicative questions of the classroom, too!
Cheers from warm, sunny Maryland


Ronaldo Lima Jr. said...

Hi Nina! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

The Real English® Blog said...

Hi Nina, Hi Ronaldo,
As I already mentioned to Ronaldo, I think this is the best review of RE that I have ever read. This is partly because I also teach in a very eFl environment myself, and I seem to have exactly the same teaching problems and approach as Ronaldo.
Bises from France,

Alex Case said...

I think you are right about the video being a good combination of practising the possibily unrealistic but still maybe useful for practising the vocab question and showing how our classroom use differs from real language. Good find!

Shilin said...

Why don't people just watch English TV? Even though I don't live in an English speaking country, English is everywhere.

Ronaldo Lima Jr. said...

Hi Shilin!

Thanks for the comment! I definitely agree that watching programs in English is an excellent way to improve your language skills. I personally do that a lot and, since I'm not a native speaker, I think this helps me continue improving.

I like the Real English Videos as a classroom resource for two main reasons, though. First it is completely authentic, in the sense that nobody wrote the scripts (as it happens in most TV shows). Secondly, and most importantly, the videos have exercises that were specifically designed for English learners.


Unknown said...

I think that these videos are a great resource for ESL teachers everywhere, as the activities lend themselves to beginners and low-level students who simply would not be able to follow English TV programs without subtitles.
It also helps that they hear the question being repeated again and again, with different responses each time.
Oh, and the variety of accents from all over the world (not just American or British) helps too...

Learn French in Switzerland said...

I think that these videos are a great resource for ESL teachers everywhere, as the activities lend themselves to beginners and low-level students who simply would not be able to follow English TV programs without subtitles.