Can TV can help you learn another language?

May 24, 2012

Recently someone asked me if watching TV in another language is a good way to learn that language. The answer is… it depends. There are a number of benefits and also a number of factors that may not benefit the learner. Here’s my take on it:

The good

Watching TV exposes you to authentic language, spoken by native speakers. The vocabulary and grammar that students are exposed to in textbooks is carefully controlled to make the learning process methodical. However, real life is not so methodical. By watching TV, you can get a sense of what authentic language sounds like.

You get accustomed to the real rate of speech of the language. Languages are spoken at different speeds. Proper language learning materials will often slow down the speech so that learners can process what they are hearing more effectively. TV is an excellent way to get used to the regular speed at which native speakers talk.

You can learn colloquialisms and slang. Learners often want to master informal jargon and slang not only to understand native speakers, but also to sound like they “fit in”. TV shows often showcase popular slang at the time the show was produced. Slang is presented in a particular social context, among speakers who are likely to use it. The downside to this is that learners still have to master when and how to use the slang in an acceptable way in their own social circles.

The bad

The grammar and syntax of TV are not always correct. TV may represent authentic language, but let’s face it, the real world is far messier than a textbook. TV is a lousy place to learn proper language structure.

Learners can develop language habits that may cause others to laugh at them. TV characters often develop, in part, due to the way the writers script their characters. Sometimes they are given particular words or sayings that, after many repetitions, will become part of their character’s “brand” (Quick! Who do you think of when you hear, “Bazinga!” or “Beam me up, Scotty” or “D’oh!”) Language learners need to know how to distinguish between what is an accepted part of normal speech and what is peculiar to a particular show or character. If they miss the mark, they may find themselves the object of some ridicule.

The ugly

Frustrations can escalate quickly. Learners may find they become frustrated easily when they can not understand a TV program. This may be more likely to happen if they are watching a show with a group of native speakers or others who are more advanced. For the “Type A” personality who demands nothing short of absolute perfection from themselves, watching TV can be a frustrating experience because until your proficiency levels are high, it is unlikely that you will be able to absorb much of what happens.

My recommendations

Watch the news. Newscasters are trained to speak clearly and articulate their words precisely. They also do not use much slang. If you also follow the news in your native language you may have a sense of what some of the news stories are about, giving you contextual clues that can help you understand what is being said.

Avoid comedies. As much as we may love comedy shows in our native language, they are almost impossible to understand in a foreign languages, unless you are already very proficient. Comedy shows tend to use more slang and colloquialisms, making them harder for a language learner to decipher.

Use subtitles in the target language to help you. The “closed captioning” function of your TV to also project the written script of what is being said. Be aware that this service is not always 100% correct, but reading at the same time you are listening may decrease your frustration levels.

Use subtitles in your native language if you have to. If you are really a beginner and the TV show or movie is completely out of your grasp, then use the translated subtitles if your system allows you to. This is not the ideal situation, but it is preferable to sitting there in complete misery as you try to muddle your way through a program and not understanding a word of it.

Live interaction trumps watching TV – Get out and talk with people. For a language learner (or for anyone, really), social interaction with real, live people is probably a more effective way to develop your language skills. If you do not have access to native speakers in your area, then watching TV is not a bad way to get exposure to authentic language. But real-time face-to-face interaction helps you build both listening and speaking skills simultaneously.

Related post:

Learning to Talk Like Jesus: How TV shows in Sweden support the Aramaic revival in the Middle East –  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1q7

__________________________

Share or Tweet this post: Can TV can help you learn another language? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1pI

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Webinar recording: 101 Ways to Market Your Language and Literacy Program (#9)

May 23, 2012

In the eighth of ten webinars today on how to market your language or literacy program we focussed on the power of connections. We talked about

  • Building a system for effective follow-up.
  • What is the best way to follow up with someone – phone, e-mail or some other way?
  • How to use the “drip effect” without torturing the other person.

Here’s the recording of Webinar #9:

Please “like” the YouTube video if you find these recordings helpful!

Join us next week for Class #10. It will social media for marketing and building community. Get more details here.

Related posts:

101 Ways to Market Your Language Program (10 Free webinars) – Program overview and login instructions

#1 Webinar recording

#2 Webinar recording

#3 Webinar recording

#4 Webinar recording

#5 Webinar recording

#6 Webinar recording

#7 Webinar recording

#8 Webinar recording

__________________________

Share or Tweet this post: Webinar recording is up! Tips for Marketing Your Language and Literacy Program (#9) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1pB

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Language Register and Why It Matters (Or: Why You Can’t Write An Academic Paper in Gangsta Slang)

May 22, 2012

Language register is the level of formality with which you speak. Different situations and people call for different registers. This is a concept I was talking about recently with some of my graduate students who dislike the idea of writing with a formal tone. They were commenting that they preferred to write in a conversational tone. Since our class is about learning to write up their academic research, I countered by saying that a manuscript submitted to a peer-reviewed journal was less likely to receive a favourable response from the editors if the tone was too conversational.

Some of them were unfamiliar with the concept of language register, so I gave them a quick overview based on Joos’ (1967) definitions:

Frozen or “static” register

At this level, language is literally “frozen” in time and form. It does not change. This type of language is often learned and repeated by rote. Examples include biblical verse, prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance, and so forth.

Formal register

This style is impersonal and often follows a prescriptive format. The speaker uses complete sentences, avoids slang and may use technical or academic vocabulary. It is likely that the speaker will use fewer contractions, but opt instead for complete words. (Example: “have not” instead of “haven’t”).

Writing expert Rita Mae Brown might argue that a writer or speaker is more likely to use vocabulary with Latin or Greek roots at this register. For example, the writer of a scientific article may be more likely to use the word “female” (Latin root) than “woman” (Anglo Saxon root).

This is the register used for most academic and scientific publishing.

Consultative register

This is the register used when consulting an expert such as a doctor. The language used is more precise. The speaker is likely to address the expert by a title such as “Doctor”, “Mr.” or “Mrs.”.

Some sources say this register is the formal register used in conversation.

Casual register

This register is conversational in tone. It is the language used among and between friends. Words are general, rather than technical. This register may include more slang and colloquialisms.

Rita Mae Brown might say that at this register, speakers are more likey to use vocabulary words with an Anglo Saxon or Germanic root. Her book “Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual” has an impressive list of (pp. 63-65) English vocabulary words that have an Anglo-Saxon or Germanic root, and their Latin root counterparts.

Intimate register

The language used by lovers. It is also the language used in sexual harassment. This is the most intimate form of language. It is best avoided in public and professional situations.

Why it can be harder for English speakers to understand differences in register

Unlike French, Spanish, German and other languages, English does not have different pronouns for addressing others in different registers. For example, Spanish has “usted” for formal and consultative register and “tú” for casual and intimate register. I never quite understood why one would address dieties with the informal “tú”, but that seems to be what is used at the frozen register, too.

Nevertheless, modern English simply has “you”.

That wasn’t always the way. We used to have both formal and informal forms of “you” in English. “You” was the formal way to address another, not the informal, as many people believe.

“Thou” was informal. For example, Juliet addresses her lover informally with the famous line, “O Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou, Romeo?” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2).

Over time, we dropped our informal “thou” and opted instead to use the formal “you” in all situations and with all speakers. So, we ended up with one way to speak to everyone.

That leaves Native English speakers who have never learned an additional language at a disadvantage when it comes to learning and understanding register. There can be an assumption that all situations and all people are created equal. Needless to say, that assumption is false.

According to researchers such as Craig Storti (2001), Canadians tend to be culturally informal. They are more likely to address their boss by their first name and use a casual register more than any other. This does not mean, however, that Canadians (or anyone else, for that matter) are exempt from learning other registers and knowing when and why to change registers.

The importance of knowing when and how to move between registers

A speaker may move from one register to another with ease. For example, it is not uncommon for Canadian teachers to address one another casually in the staff room, and then adopt a more consultative register when speaking with a parent or school board trustee.

If one register is expected and another is presented, the result can be either that offense is taken (or intended) or a comic response. For example, on the TV show “Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon’s character often uses the higher consultative register with his friends, as well as everyone else. He sometimes seems “stuck” in the world of high-level vocabulary, unable to speak in the lower casual register that his friends use among themselves. The result is comedic. The audience laughs at his social awkwardness and inability to understand that he can (and should) adapt his speech to different contexts.

In contrast to Sheldon’s academic speech, some researchers have found that those living in poverty are more likely to be “stuck” at the casual register. They are less likely to have developed the skills at the consultative or formal language registers. Or if they do know how to use the higher registers, it feels inauthentic to do so, like wearing a suit that does not fit properly. As a result, those living in poverty may disregard the higher registers or simply refuse to use them in their speech and writing. This, in turn, may inhibit them from advancing in their work and ultimately, getting out of poverty. The same may also apply to professionals looking for advancement or aspiring scholars who wish to publish their work.

For professional and academic writing, the formal or at the very least, the consultative register, is appropriate.

Knowing what the various registers are, how to differentiate between them and when to use which one increases your chances of being accepted by groups and speakers in a variety of contexts.

References

Language registers – http://www.edmondschools.net/Portals/3/docs/LanguageRegisters.pdf

Language Registers – http://www.genconnection.com/English/ap/LanguageRegisters.htm

Understanding language registers as a means to more effective communication – http://slincs.coe.utk.edu/gtelab/learning_activities/30carc.html

Brown, Rita Mae. (1988). Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual. Bantam Books.

Fisher, D. and Frey, N., Academic Language in the Secondary Classroom. Retrieved from: http://www.fisherandfrey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/frey-academic-english-ell-handout-2.pdf

Kayne, R. A Framework for Understanding Poverty.

Concept 3: Sociolinguistics. King Abdul Aziz University, Dept. of European Languages. Retrieved from: http://bmdconsulting.com/ams/handouts/Concept%203%20Register%20&%20Style.pdf

Joos, M. (1967). The five clocks. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.

Storit, C. (2001) The Art of Crossing Cultures (2nd Ed.) Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

 

Check out these related posts:

__________________________

Share or Tweet this post:  Language Register and Why It Matters (Or: Why You Can’t Write An Academic Paper in Gangsta Slang) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1pr

January 2018 Update: This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Today’s free webinar on marketing literacy and language schools: Effective Marketing Follow-Up

May 16, 2012

We’ll have Webinar #9 on Wednesday, May 23.

Today we’re having the ninth in a series of ten free webinars on how to market and promote literacy programs and language schools.

Each webinar highlight different ideas from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program. Every week you get practical, low-cost ideas to help you promote your program. Best of all, you’ll get to connect with others on line who are also interested in the same topic, ask questions and interact.

The webinars are  30 to 60 minutes in length. Bring a pen and paper. I’m going to give you lots of ideas you can implement right away.

Webinar #9 of 10 – What to expect

Today’s webinar will focus on:

  • Effective follow up.
  • Building patience into your marekting.
  • Not giving up too soon.

Webinar time

Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012

There are some time zone changes coming up around the world, so double-check these times against your local area:

Point of origin – 14:00 (2:00 p.m.) Mountain Time, May 16, 2012 Calgary / Edmonton

16:00 (4:00 p.m.) – Eastern Time – Toronto / New York

20:00 (8:00 p.m.) – Greenwich Time – London, England

22:00 (10:00 p.m.) – Eastern European Time – Athens / Istanbul

05:00 (5:00 a.m.) – following day – Japan Standard Time – Tokyo

How to log in

There is no need to register. These webinars are free and open to everyone. Seating is limited though, so sign on early.

To join the webinar, simply click here: http://meet11548754.adobeconnect.com/saraheaton/

Will it be recorded?

You bet. I’ll record the program and post it within 24 hours or so. No charges or fees to watch these recorded programs.

What will future webinars cover?

Here’s what we’ll cover in our final program next week:

  • Week #10 – Social media for marketing.

All you have to do is block off Wednesdays in your calendar at your corresponding local time and then log in using the link above.

If you can’t make the webinar, and you’d like to ask a question about the topic, feel free to leave me a comment. I’ll do my best to answer questions that come in before the program during the webinar. You can watch the recording to get the answer to your question, or I’ll answer you back in the comment section.

Related post:

101 Ways to Market Your Language Program (10 Free webinars) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1j6

Recordings of past programs:

#1 Webinar recording

#2 Webinar recording

#3 Webinar recording

#4 Webinar recording

#5 Webinar recording

#6 Webinar recording

#7 Webinar recording

#8 Webinar recording

___________________________

Share or Tweet this post:  Today’s free webinar on marketing literacy and language schools: Effective Marketing Follow-Up http://wp.me/pNAh3-1ph

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Webinar recording: 101 Ways to Market Your Language and Literacy Program (#8)

May 16, 2012

In the eighth of ten webinars today on how to market your language or literacy program we focussed on the power of connections. We talked about

  • The importance of building trust.
  • Relationship marketing.
  • How “building” is more important than “doing” in marketing.

Here’s the recording of Webinar #8:

Please “like” the YouTube video if you find these recordings helpful!

Join us next week for Class #9. It will focus effective marketing follow up. Get more details here.

Related posts:

101 Ways to Market Your Language Program (10 Free webinars) – Program overview and login instructions

#1 Webinar recording

#2 Webinar recording

#3 Webinar recording

#4 Webinar recording

#5 Webinar recording

#6 Webinar recording

#7 Webinar recording

__________________________

Share or Tweet this post: Webinar recording is up! Tips for Marketing Your Language and Literacy Program (#8) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1pd

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


%d bloggers like this: