A tool for teaching English
Dialogue is essential when learning a new language. It’s a real-time process that encompasses all the vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar the student has to learn. Language books often present us with small dialogues with straight forward scenarios, such as customs at an airport, a family picnic or quick phone calls between friends. These are great to develop an initial impression of simple discussions. Of course, the level of complexity of these dialogues may increase. However, their depth is limited.
Movies are an art form most people relate to at some level. Genres are diverse, and some stories can prove to be very interesting. A good scriptwriter can create the most original and compelling characters. I often present students with the task of interpreting these characters. It can prove to be a fun and challenging activity for them.
Most movie scripts follow the same basic structure. For each numbered scene in the script, there is a general description of the latter. Details can include visual elements and abstract ideas like a sense of friction between characters.
After this brief description follows a short line (for technical reasons) which indicates the set, whether the scene is interior or exterior, and if it is day or night.
Then there is the dialogue, which might include bits of information in parenthesis to indicate moods or intentions.
There are many elements to “play” with in order to present a challenge for the students. For instance, if you present a group of students with dialogue from the comedy “The Invention of Lying” without mentioning the name of the film, they think the text is very funny. The dialogue is unsettling and awkward. If you ask the student to determine the reason for the casual brutal honesty in the dialogues, it takes them a while to guess that, in the reality depicted in this movie, no one lies.
Role-playing is also a great mechanism to challenge the student. In a film like “Annie Hall” or “When Harry met Sally”, students often interpret characters in different ways depending on how they perceive their circumstances in the story. This also generates a lot of discussion over wrong or right decisions, possibilities in the past or future, etc.
It is also worth mentioning that scripts are packed with useful expressions and diverse vocabulary.
Hundreds of movie scripts can be found online and are freely available.