La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

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Documentary films for young learners in Content and Language Integrated Learning

Daniel Stotz

Cet article se propose d’expliquer l’intégration à l’école primaire des médias audio-visuels dans un enseignement des langues étrangères orienté sur les thèmes et basé sur une approche actionnelle. Que ce soit dans des activités entraînant la réception ou la production langagière, les courts films documentaires offrent la possibilité d’apporter dans la salle de classe certains aspects thématiques, qui pourraient dans une moindre mesure être compris à travers des textes ou des images. A travers des exemples tirés des DVD du manuel Explorers, l’auteur explicite ce concept. Au centre de la problématique se trouve la question de la différenciation dans les exercices tout comme l’importance de la diversité des activités communicatives qui accompagnent les séquences audio-visuelles. L’objectif de cette démarche est entre autres de rompre avec une simple consommation des médias.

Content and language integrated learning and audiovisual reception: a rationale
In numerous small projects and medium-scale implementation efforts, a fresh approach to learning foreign languages in primary and lower secondary school is currently being put into practice. It has come to be known under the somewhat technical label CLIL/EMILE for Content and Language Integrated Learning. The idea of linking language learning with subject study may not be new. It first saw the light of day when philosophy, religion and science were studied through the academic and clerical language of Latin. English or French-medium instruction was long a feature of colonial and post-colonial education, for better or worse. In fact, in many situations of diglossia such as in German-speaking Switzerland, the standard variety of a language is often primarily acquired through schooling and use of the language of instruction across most or all of the curriculum.
However, what makes the present-day trend towards content and language integration in foreign and second language education exciting is the set of options available to learners, teachers and materials writers with respect to the range of themes to focus on, of media to use and of ways of interacting they offer. By interacting, I refer both to how learners and teachers can engage with each other within and beyond the classroom, and ways in which they can get a handle on new knowledge and fresh ideas. Auditory input through dialogues and mini-lectures on tape or CD has long been part and parcel of the foreign language classroom. Cable radio with international stations and, more recently, podcasting have contributed to freeing listening activities from that slightly paradoxical situation when a whole class sit glued to their chairs and listen to disembodied voices coming through loudspeakers. Just like the mobile phone has individualised communication habits, the personal MP3 player has the potential of allowing learners to choose audio-input by linking personal interests with a more or less systematic language learning agenda.
But what of audiovisual media? Ubiquitous round-the-clock television and the easy distribution of feature films via DVDs have propelled these media far ahead even though the content that is broadcast has not always lived up to expectations of quality and interactivity. It is true that the language learning industry has not been slow to produce all kinds of video series and supplementary material. Unfortunately for teaching practitioners who look for classroom material with an extended use-by date, moving pictures look outdated even more quickly than photographs. In addition, most publishers throughout the 1990s seemed to rely on bland imitations of soap operas accompanying course books and on set pieces of business meetings and phone calls with cardboard characters. While useful to make phrases and snatches of conversation come more alive than with mere audio, most of those videos offer little to learn about real life out there and all its mediatised forms. What’s more, the Internet with its push-and-pull lure has overtaken television as the medium of choice among young people. [...]

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