For any language learner, the thought of spending their lessons watching videos can bring about contrasting emotions. Sure, it’s fun, but…shouldn’t I be doing something else? This week I thought about such dilemmas while exploring three YouTube channels. They all feature videos in Portuguese, and they taught me a lot – not just when it comes to the language!
1. Video – a polyglot’s blessing, or a waste of time?
Ask any language teacher who was doing their job before broadband and smartphones, and they’ll tell you: students used to love watching videos in class. This was the end-of-term treat, the long-awaited contact with some target language culture – something more than CDs, photocopies and textbooks. I remember doing this myself: wheeling in a TV and a VCR into class as the kids (and adults) cheered on.
And then it stopped. Bringing a video to class was no longer the same thrill. Students didn’t change much, and the videos themselves didn’t, either. What changed is this: every person in the classroom (including teachers) would now have 24/7 access to all the video in the world. They could watch, browse, share and return to any clip they chose. The tiny media players in their pockets held more promise than anything I could wheel into class.
This is not to say that a good video lesson became impossible. A video clip gives you rich context for the language. It instantly connects the lexical layer with what is happening on screen. And because of colour, movement, facial expressions etc – it makes the language more memorable for many people. It is still possible to learn languages with videos, and there are still people who teach languages brilliantly using film (Kieran Donaghy is one of them). And this week, I set out to look for ways of doing this for myself – in Portuguese.
2. CLIL for people who don’t need it any more
This is big in schools across the world, and several years ago, English language educators were still predicting that it would get bigger. CLIL means “content and language integrated learning.” And basically, it refers to the idea that it makes more sense to teach young people just the language – when you could be teaching them about concepts from other areas of life, using the foreign language as a vehicle for instruction. It’s a great plan when you’re at school: instead of making up fake contexts for the use of language and creating another bizarre listening text, you can put the foreign language to use within the curriculum.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t cover all the bases. What about people who are really only motivated by communication – people who learn a language to speak to others, not to improve their knowledge about the world? In other words, what about me? As it turns out, I’m also a good CLIL target! For beginner learners, video input combined with a CLIL methodology can be a great way to lower their anxiety, and improve their curiosity.
Consider this little clip (click here to watch if you’re on mobile and it doesn’t display):
At first, I’ve no idea what’s going on – the guy is asking a question, but what next? It soon becomes clear, though: we’re calculating some distances based on a penalty shoot-out. (Incidentally, every single video I show you guys on this blog is about penalty shoot-outs, no?) I quickly become involved, I know more or less where the lesson is going. I’m able to focus on the language, on how it flows and how it’s pronounced. And I’m still curious what the original question was – is it about the best direction to shoot, or the easiest area to defend a penalty? Where’s all this triangle situation leading?
This may not work for you. Speaking, communicating and live contact with people may be the only thing that motivates you to learn a language. And it’s great to know that about yourself. But for a nerdy, introverted learner like me, this is golden.
3. Three video channels that combine Portuguese lessons with YouTube education
The first channel worth mentioning is definitely Khan Academy in Portuguese – the quality of work that goes into every Khan Academy video is astounding, and it’s great to know that it’s there for my language now! I spent lots of time on the original site, learning about economics – now I can go and learn physics in Portuguese. Winner!
A more mature version of this is run by the Virtual University of the State of São Paulo. The lectures are longer, the topics are more advanced, and the editing is not as user-friendly. This is demanding stuff, and not always as easily explained as in the channel above – but the upside is that you can listen about more topics, and for extended periods of time.
Finally – some culture! TV Cultura is stationed in São Paulo as well, and produces lots of videos on its YouTube channel. The topics vary, and you’re more likely to find teasers and interviews here – not a lot to get your teeth into, but definitely more “easy listening” than a 30-minute international relations lecture. A good place to start, and definitely great for finding literature / music inspirations.
Readers – how would you use videos in your learning? Do you have a playlist you’d like to share? Everybody here always welcomes your comments.
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