Tag Archives: speaking a foreign language

Embracing Subtitles; the Road to Fluency

This is not your mother’s pair of jeans, nor your father’s Oldsmobile… this is language learning in the 21st century! It’s pop culture, y’all. It’s slang and everyday language, it’s the fun path to fluency.

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Don’t let subtitles scare you! Get over your fears and hesitations; don’t be too cool for this kind of school.

Films use language in real-life situations enabling the learner to grasp the meaning and sounds of colloquial expressions at the heart of everyday language while experiencing cultural contexts… all while entertaining!

Sit Back and Enjoy the Amusement of Subtitles!

Subtitles can uniquely create humor, adding a pure comedic touch. Take this clip from the comedy Airplane for example with two men speaking jive, obviously English… but is it? Check out the video to see what all the hoopla is about!

Subtitles are humorous! Enjoy… and embrace them!

When learning everyday jargon in a foreign language, we can’t all go about faking it like Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds! Watch as Brad Pitt is thrown off entirely by the fluency with which Christopher Waltz’s character speaks Italian; subtitles enhance the comedic effect.

To Swear or Not To Swear? No Matter, It’s Idiomatic!

To go about one’s day, one needs an understanding of common lingo, or street talk. Don’t tell your mother we told you, but swearing is a huge part of cultural context, colloquial language! Every language has modern slang that defies literal meanings. For example, non-native speakers of English wouldn’t know the flexibility of using swear words such as *hore, bi*ch and *ss without watching films such as this American high school parody, Mean Girls in their native language subtitles.

Embrace, even if you choose not to personally swear like a (bilingual) pirate!

Similarly, we see the French word putain used everywhere, rarely in a literal context.  But we would not know that without seeing how it’s used in everyday language, ie… scenes in films! With film, we grab the cultural meaning behind the language. Watch this clip of Jean Dujardin accepting his Oscar for Best Actor. Did you catch that slip at the end? “Ouah, putain, genial, merci, formidable, merci beaucoup, I love you!”

French films teach us quickly that putain, a high-frequency swear word (but harmless, really) appears just about anywhere in most French sentences.

Global Speak; It’s all Relative

We, as Americans specifically, need to get over our fear of subtitles. People use them all around the world for varying purposes.

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Subtitles carry the potential to be an international game-changer in poverty, status and education.

Millions of people in countries around the world embrace subtitles with no hesitation as a means to improving their everyday life. See this NY Times article on how learners use subtitling to further their education and career and to make global connections.

Even in the realm of entertainment, the entire world seeks to connect to Hollywood and Bollywood films and they do so with subtitles in their native language!

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Let’s eradicate the misconceptions we tend to have while dealing with subtitles in film; they’re useful and globally accepted!

The Science, The Backbone Behind It

Acquiring language through a medium such as film is not only fun and entertaining, but multiple studies have shown it’s a driving force for second language and culture acquisition.

As renowned linguist and second-language acquisition expert Stephen Krashen once said “language needs to be fun!” Language acquisition works best when the input is interesting and compelling to us, so much so that we forget we are immersing ourselves in another language!

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“The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear.” -Krashen.

Rod Ellis, a leading theorist in 2nd language acquisition, elaborates:  “Successful instructed language learning requires extensive 2nd language input…where 2nd language needs to become the medium as well as object.” Film is the medium, and an entertaining one at that! SO, pull yourself out of the humdrum routine of hours with flashcards and intensive studying. Although these methods help in retaining information, the delight and entertainment of film best supplements them.

Plenty of science revolves around it, but the ultimate goal is to have fun while you’re learning; your brain will do all the work! While watching foreign film, in the midst of having fun, you increase your metalinguistic awareness, unbeknownst to you. Qu’est-ce que c’est  metalinguistic awareness? It’s simply the ability to think of and be aware of language in relation to its cultural context, that language has specific functions and rules. Furthermore, multiple viewings of a foreign film also increase awareness of important paralinguistic elements: body language, gestures, facial expressions, loudness, tempo….all features highly important to communication in another language.

One of the most renown (and local!) language specialists, Dr. Garza, Director of the Texas Language Center of the University of Texas, provides an important pedagogical framework for the use of video and film in the classroom. See Dr. Garza as he explains how video and film, as authentic texts, contain the possibility to develop language learners into “active learners”. He states that the application of technology such as video, film, internet, etc. may hold the key for language learners to go from competence to proficiency, i.e. to make great strides along the road to fluency!

The Freestyle Way

Freestyle’s unique methodology incorporates foreign film in our curriculum in a step-by-step process that allows significant realization of linguistic and cultural meaning. We study relevant vocabulary themes and intermediate to advanced grammars entirely in the context of a specific, chosen film; here’s a quick break down of our process:

1. Watch the film in target language with English subtitles; this provides semantics (meaning)

2. Work thoroughly through target language subtitles and/or transcribed dialogue of film over the session; this provides lexical and syntactic information (vocabulary and word order)

3. Watch the film in segments with no subtitles;  this provides phonetics (sound/pronunciation/listening)

4. Witness a significant boost in listening, comprehension and speaking ability!

Additionally, Freestyle is proud to incorporate Austin’s own ITAL in our classes! Transmedia specialist Sergio Carvajal-Leoni, in collaboration with Austin-Based Filmmaker Romina Olson and UT Award-Winning Italian instructor Antonella Del Fattore-Olson, created ITAL, a digital channel that blends entertainment and education to teach Italian language and culture. The entertaining ITAL videos are intended to expand students’ knowledge of contemporary Italian culture while helping them to increase their vocabulary and oral competency. As you can see in the video that follows, part of ITAL’s instructional component is reflected in the use of subtitles – sometimes in English, others in Italian – to emphasize how new vocabulary is used in everyday conversation.

HINT: This fall, intermediate Spanish students will be studying Spanish through Volver, intermediate French through the romantic comedy Heartbreakers, Portuguese through the comedy The Man Who Copied, Italian through the dramedy The Last Kiss!  Come visit a class for FREE.

Additional Tip! 

Try practicing with subtitles by choosing a tv show/film you enjoy watching in your native language with your target language subtitles. For example, the American hit romantic comedy, Two Weeks Notice (Sandra Bullock / Hugh Grant), like many U.S. shows and films, offers both French and Spanish subtitles.

We hope you see the many varied reasons to embrace and enjoy subtitles so that your road to fluency will be smoother and more enjoyable.

Happy Trails on Your Journey to Fluency

Accepting subtitles in foreign film will allow you to grasp a whole new realm of knowledge  that would otherwise only be receivable via physical interaction in the actual country.
Seize the power of film to help you obtain the gift of gab in your target language and join us at Freestyle to further develop your language learning in a relevant, fun and social context!

The idea that language learning is rote and boring is defunct in the 21st century!

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Lights, Camera… Language!

Arts & Entertainments and Film: Our last installment of the Summer “Games” continues with a multicultural and multilingual look at cinema around the world. Take a sneak peak! Freestyle’s methodology embraces film and subtitles to widen and deepen everyday/colloquial language.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Challenge yourself with a few of these videos and clips, test your comprehension. Want more?! See our teacher’s “Favorite Films”.

Spanish: “Eat, Love, Learn”

Our Spanish students watched the Mexican film Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water For Chocolate), a masterpiece filled with memories of the old Mexico and the magical realism, or lo real maravilloso, that is so prevalent in Spanish novels and films. After reading the following summary, you’ll see a list of preguntas used to guide our discussions after watching the film. These activities improve both auditory and oral skills as well as critical thinking in a second (or third or forth!) language!

Esta película está basada en una novela del mismo título escrita por Laura Esquivel. La autora adaptó su obra para el cine y en 1992 Alfonso Arau realizó su producción. Los personajes principales son Tita (Lumi Cavazos), Pedro (Marco Leonardi) y Mamá Elena (Regina Torné). La historia ocurre en México a finales del siglo diecinueve y los primeros años del siglo veinte. 

Preguntas:  

1. ¿Quiénes son los personajes principales?  

2. ¿Qué temas explora la película?

3. ¿Qué representa la cocina?

From a sensual Mexican film, we moved into the broader territory of Latin American films. Do you know the difference between Latin American cinema and Latino cinema? Listen to Cine Las America’s director Eugenio del Bosque explain en español. Transcription below.

Bueno y aquí se pone un poquito más complicado. Esto que les voy a hablar es un poco la diferencia entre el Cine Latinoamericano y el Cine Latino que es el que se hace acá en los Estados Unidos. Por lo general el cine Latino que se hace en los Estados Unidos, y luego está esta parte en inglés. Yo creo que lo más obvio que podemos decir del Cine Latino es Robert Rodríguez, que todos lo conocemos en Austin.  Que no ha hecho más que yo creo que una película en español. Eh, ¿El mariachi está en español, verdad?

Looking for more? Teacher’s Favorite Film:

1. Todo Sobre Mi Madre, 1999: A Spanish-French comedy and drama that deals with complex issues such as AIDS, faith and existentialism.

French: “Voyage à une culture exquise”

Voyagez with us and découvrez what our French classes explored in the literary and cinematic world of La France. Activities included reading and interpreting les poèmes de Baudelaire, learning poetry terms — le thème, la rime, le ton, etc.– after which they wrote their own collaborative poems en français using the entertaining game of Cadavre Exquis

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire

À une passante

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l’ourlet

Poem Continued…

From Baudelaire to Omar Sy, these two greats really are intouchables! Lisez un resumé du film:

La relation entre deux hommes issus de milieux différents : l’un, d’origine sénégalaise, vivant en banlieue parisienne, qui vient de purger une peine de six mois de prison et l’autre, riche tétraplégique, qui a engagé le premier venu comme auxiliaire de vie bien qu’il n’ait aucune formation particulière…

Your second mission, should you choose to accept it…

Regardez la bande-annonce (watch the trailer) of this award-winning French film, then fill in the blanks of the first few lines. Au courage! 

Je viens chercher _________________ par rapport aux…  _____________ ! …Assedic.

·  Comment vous vivez l’idée d’__________________? Ça ne vous gêne pas de _____________ sur le dos des autres ?

·  Ça va, merci, et vous ?

·  Vous pensez que vous serez quand même capable de _________________?

·  Vous en avez de______________ ! – J’en ai tellement que je suis prêt à vous ________________________ pendant un mois ! Je parie que vous ne tiendrez pas ________________________!

·  C’est un truc de ___________ ça ! – Non, mais, vous avez fini de jouer, là ?

·  Et, mais en fait, vous __________________________ là ?

Teacher’s Favorite Films:

1. C.R.A.Z.Y., 2005: A recent work from our French speaking neighbors of Quebec

2. La Grande Vadrouille, 1966: A timeless French classic featuring the great comic actor Louis de Funes

3. La Haine, 1995: A black and white, suspense-filled drama has become a cult classic in France and around the world

Portuguese: “Viajar e descobrir com o filme”

Central Station, a touching drama in Portuguese, takes the viewer around Brasil, offering a rich view of culture as well as language. After watching the following trailer, you’ll see a list of perguntas used to guide our discussions after watching the film.

1. Dá um pequeno summário do enredo do filme.

2. Dá 3 adjetivos para descrever cada personagem.

3. Quem são os personagens principais?

Teacher’s Favorite Film:

1. Bossa Nova, 2000: A romantic comedy about several interwoven love stories taking place in Rio de Janeiro

Italian: “Eat, Love, Watch “

UT educator Antonella Del Fattore-Olson and two Austin-based filmmakers Romina Olson and Sergio Carvajal created ITAL, a digital channel that blends entertainment and education to teach Italian language and culture.  The entertaining ITAL videos are intended to increase students’ vocabulary and oral competency in a fun relevant way, which is why Freestyle will be adapting them as excellent teaching tools!

As you can see in the video that follows, part of ITAL’s instructional component is reflected in the use of subtitles – sometimes in English, others in Italian – to emphasize how new vocabulary is used in everyday conversation.

Teacher’s Favorite Movie:

1. La Vita e Bella, 1997: A Jewish man has a wonderful romance with the help of his humour, but must use that same quality to protect his son in a Nazi death camp.

That’s a wrap!

The Summer “Games” Series may be over but continue to follow us for yet another exciting blog installment. Love the idea of foreign films but feeling intimidated by subtitles? Stay tuned for our next series, “Embracing Subtitles”!

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I was doing it way before Honda thought it clever!

About a million years ago I was a bartender for a certain chain restaurant on the Ice Rink level of the Galleria in Houston, Texas.  To be fair, I exaggerate a little, given that a million years ago Earth was knee-deep in the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic Era, but let’s not quibble over chronological accuracy.

As a bartender in the Galleria, the shopping mecca of America’s fourth-largest city, I waited on, and otherwise served, all types—bartenders from the competing chain restaurant on the opposite side of the ice, cantankerous cosmetics counter ladies from the anchor stores, Kid Rock, foreign visitors from all over.

My ability to speak French, always at the ready like the Get Out of Jail Free card in Monopoly , made for a great way to connect to traveling Francophones (also a great name for a band).   At various times I met the Belgian owner of a Belgian restaurant in town, French families in Houston because their work in the petroleum industry or at Air Liquide forced them there, even random Americans who had, like me, studied abroad in France.

My most favorite encounters, though, were the équipages from airlines like SAS, Air France, or even Swiss Air.  Sometimes they would come in for lunch, having just settled in the hotel after their arrival at IAH; other times they would come in at night, a last soirée before heading out the next afternoon.  Especially when it was the former, you could tell simply by the uniforms who they were and what they did.  As to the latter, only a clever mix of eavesdropping and patience would reveal their identities.  And that’s when I’d spring into ACTION!

by Laurent Masson / AF from AF website

by Virginie Valdois from AF site

Yes, like the proverbial caped polyglots we know all too well, I would at unexpected moments  pepper my otherwise witty and engaging bartender banter with some French.  It always caught them by surprise, and always made for an interesting, but bonne, continuation of the meal.  One memory seared into my brain involved a group of four Air France crewmembers, contentedly chatting away as they awaited their food.  Upon its arrival, I began handing it out, delicately, poetically, my every move a testament to the art of serving.  At the dink of each dish hitting the table, the over-sized hamburgers and ginormous servings of grilled chicken were met with gasps and concern.  The crescendo arrived as I served to the last plate-less man an order of the baby back ribs for which the chain had made itself, if not famous, at least recognizable through a catchy song in a big marketing ploy.  The ribs spilled over the side of the plate, a bone-in barbecue waterfall, and the insane amount of food for this one man became more than menu photo and clichéd jingle, it became reality.  “Oh là là, mon Dieu, c’est trop, c’est trop!” he said in French, the others nodding vigorously in agreement.  “Oh good God, it’s too much, it’s too much!”  I smiled, too, asked in English if anyone needed anything, then turned to walk away.  With perfect comic timing, and just the right effect, I turned back and said to the man with the ribs, “Bonne chance!” [Good luck!] With that I scurried away.

The rule for most restaurants is two minutes or two bites, that is, return to the table within two minutes or after two bites have been taken in order to make sure that each guest is happy with the meal.  If there’s a problem, it can be solved before someone finishes two-thirds of her plate.  I made the requisite return, and was met with a cascade of questions in French.  How did I know the language? Where did I learn it? Have I been to France? It was a lovely conversation, and it ended with the rib-eater telling me “I must say, your pronunciation of ‘Bonne chance!’ was perfect, just perfect.”  Head swimming in ego expansion, I couldn’t say merci enough.

Nowadays I get to spring my French onto people in other ways.  I can’t wait for my niece and sister to advance in their own French studies so that we can carry on conversations that will escape the understanding of those around us as we wait in line for movie tickets.  I look forward, maybe, one day, to a girlfriend or spouse who speaks French, so that out at dinner, we can talk and gossip about the other guests.  Or better yet, discuss a piece of art in a crowded gallery or a big purchase unbeknownst to eavesdroppers and cloying salesmen.

I say this of course, but as Honda has shown, even those secret conversations might not be so secret.  And I have to admit, though I’m really envious of the couple, I’d much rather be the salesman.

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