Back in November 2015, FLAME was invited to attend the launch of the Project Report of Screening Languages held at the British Film Institute in London.
We made the trip down south to listen to the personal experiences of those who participated in the two-year long project and its outcomes. It was encouraging to hear from some of the 27 language teachers that were involved as they talked positively about film as a valuable educational resource in the language classroom and praised the project initiative to experiment with new schemes of work that incorporate film in their teaching practice.
The opening words from Baroness Jean Coussins, Chair of All-Party Modern Languages Group, contextualised the project and reminded those present of the invaluable importance of modern foreign languages in our society. She referenced how languages not only play a vital role in diplomacy, in the foreign office, in the defence centre of the UK foreign culture, but contribute to the future of the economy with a growing industry of dubbing, subtitling, interpretation and translation. She mentioned the health benefits learning a language brings in helping the brain and body stay sharper. She concluded by emphasising that modern foreign languages contribute to the completeness and quality of any child’s education, and in relation to education specification, said film is explicitly mentioned. This is where projects such as Screening Languages, in addition to our own research in Film, Languages and Media in Education, offer an innovative and relevant pedagogical approach to the educational context of today.
The value of using short films to teach languages was reiterated in the project overview delivered by Mark Reid, Director of Screening Languages and Head of Education at BFI. Over 800 pupils participated in the project, funded by the Mayor of London’s Schools Excellence Fund, with 19 different schools across London boroughs involved and over 150 lessons taught using short films.
The project outcomes that were presented at the conference reinforced our own belief in the overwhelming benefits that come from using film to enrich the teaching and learning of languages. Notably, film brings cultural interaction and encourages spontaneous conversation in the target language; pupils are greater engaged, motivated and challenged as evidenced by 76% of students that took part in the project saying that they enjoyed working with film. Not only did pupils’ confidence in the language grow but their ability across the four skill areas also increased. Teachers found that working with film enhanced their own subject and pedagogic knowledge, increased their confidence and led to greater professional satisfaction. Final remarks pointed to the importance of sharing resources and results online, with the next steps being to engage with the primary sector, academy trusts, local authorities, initial teacher training and PGCE providers to implement these developments in teaching practice in schools and professional training.
For more information about the project see http://www.screeninglanguages.org/