Back to Page Authors: Al-Sawi, Laila

Keywords: authentic linguistic input, non-verbal signals, cultural illiteracy, target language

Abstract: Among the major challenges an AFL teacher might face is students’ lack of motivation, weak language proficiency and cultural illiteracy of each other’s and of the target language culture. In an attempt to address the above challenges, this paper suggests supporting traditional teaching/learning materials, such as textbooks and handouts by visual material that represent the target language society. One type of visual material that is truly useful for this purpose is movies. In addition to being eye-catching, entertaining and fun, movies provide a highly motivating authentic linguistic input in context with the natural flow of speech in real-life conversations. They also include different cultural issues across several decades of a given society. Non-verbal signals as body language, clothes, tone of voice and facial expressions, provide contextual clues that make them relatively easy to understand, and thus suitable for different proficiency levels. Activities based on movies should be carefully prepared in order to match learners’ levels and address different linguistic and cultural dimensions. Attention should be made to leading-learners, in addition to learning the language, to ‘cultural literacy’. This means empowering them with the necessary tools to successfully talk to and deeply understand native speakers of the target language. They should also provide opportunities to compare and discuss the cultural elements they are exposed to in reference to their own cultures. This presentation aims to share a real experience of introducing movies to advanced level students in the Center of Arabic Study Abroad (CASA), at the American University in Cairo. It sheds light on the advantages of using movies in AFL classrooms and criteria for selecting them. It will also provide a variety of engaging classroom activities, active learning strategies and out-of-class assignments including Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning activities (CSCL). In addition, this presentation addresses the challenges both teachers and students might encounter while selecting the appropriate material, comprehending and absorbing this material, as well as suggested solutions to help in overcoming these challenges.