Using Movie Trailers to Improve your English

If you’re in the process of learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL), then you may remember your teachers or tutors suggesting that you consume English media as a way of enhancing your language skills. Using all types of English media from songs to news reports will help you:
- Practically apply language skills learned in the classroom.
- Test your linguistic knowledge in a real-world scenario.
- Accustom yourself to reading or listening to everyday English.
- Learn common slang and colloquialisms among English speakers.
- Identify gaps in your own understanding.
- Prepare yourself for conversations with native English speakers.

However, with so much content out there, it can be hard to find videos or articles that are both interesting and at your skill level. Because they’re widely accessible through YouTube and relatively simple linguistically, movie trailers are a great resource for EFL learners of all levels. Movie learning simply requires the learner to view and critically analyze the language in some film trailers, using them to attain the learning benefits listed above.

Why Movie Trailers?

English movie trailers are particularly great resources for English language learners for three main reasons – entertainment, culture, and speaking skill development. English trailers are first and foremost an entertaining and educational way to learn the language. Language learning exercises are notoriously tedious and repetitive, so doing an activity with movie trailers can be an entertaining way to practice listening and speaking skills.

Additionally, movies play an important cultural role in many English-speaking countries, so watching movie trailers can give glimpses into important cultural principles and issues as well as historical events. The trailer for the Grapes of Wrath, for example, provides an awesome example of how a trailer can be used to teach culture and history. The film is set in the Great Depression, which can be a great way to segue into a lesson about this time period. Furthermore, the trailer and film were produced in 1940, so you can also discuss how American movies trailers of the 1940s different from ones today.

Finally, movie trailers are also a great way to become accustomed to hearing how English is naturally spoken. In most learning environments, English is often spoken slowly and with perfect grammar, but in reality, English speakers tend to talk quickly and frequently use slang. Therefore, the best way to truly get to know the language is by listening to and conversing with native speakers, and watching movie trailers allows viewers to absorb native English speaking without the pressure of conversation.

Choosing the Right Trailers

Choosing the right trailers to use when enhancing your or your students’ English skills is a matter of usefulness, skill-appropriateness, and age-appropriateness. First and foremost, you want to choose trailers that will actually be useful for creating an informative and engaging English learning experience. Therefore, you should choose trailers with sufficient dialogue and entertainment value. The trailer should also use common English, meaning that it sounds close to English that you’ll hear in everyday conversations.

Additionally, you should ensure that your trailer is appropriate for your or your students’ skill level. Niche fantasy or sci-fi films, for example, make poor learning devices because they often contain series-specific or made-up terms that can confuse even intermediate learners. Documentary trailers with subject-specific diction, on the other hand, can be useful for advanced learners focused on learning about particular topics, but they will confuse beginners.

Finally, if you’re a teacher or tutor for younger children, then you should also factor age-appropriateness into your trailer selection. Forrest Gump, for example, makes a great selection for adults due to the main character’s simplistic dialogue and numerous references to major American historical and cultural events, but because the movie addresses mature themes, its trailer should not be shown to younger students. This also means taking the cultural sensitivities of your students into consideration when selecting a film trailer.

Recommended Trailers

The trailers that you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preference, but we can recommend a handful of movie categories that may make good choices for EFL learning.

Animated Kids Films
Though these movies are often juvenile in nature, they often contain simplistic and comical dialogue that makes them easy to understand and analyze. They also feature age-appropriate slang that’s generally easy for viewers to learn as well as simple cultural references. Moana, for example, offers viewers a fun and easy to understand plot along with immersion in Hawaiian and Polynesian culture.

Movies Based on Fiction
Movie trailers based on fiction works, such as Because of Winn-Dixie or Holes, generally make good trailers because the dialogue is well thought out and the plotlines are rich but understandable for multiple audience levels. These types of movies are typically designed with viewers of all ages in mind, making them ideal for teaching. Additionally, if you are in a classroom setting, you can often use these books to teach advanced learners.

Movies Based on History
Many film trailers that contain historical fiction are also incredibly useful in teaching EFL – especially if your goal is to also learn about the history and culture of English-speaking countries. However, these movies do vary in linguistic and age-appropriateness, so be careful to choose a movie trailer that you will understand and that is appropriate for your audience.

Effectively Using Trailers as Learning Devices

In order to get the most out of using movie trailers as learning devices, you need to ensure that you are actively listening to them, comprehending them, and asking necessary questions. While watching any given trailer, you should ask yourself basic questions, such as:
- Did I understand all words and phrases in the trailer?
- Can I summarize the trailer?
- Did I not understand any references?

These basic questions should keep you actively engaged when watching the trailer, but you should also try to use specific comprehension questions when possible. If you’re a student, then certain independent learning websites will offer comprehension questions for particular trailers. Though the trailers they offer questions for are limited, these websites are very useful for anyone using movie trailers as a learning device independently. If you’re a teacher or student, then you should craft comprehension questions that both test your students’ ability to understand and interpret the trailer while giving them the opportunity to present their thoughts in English.

However, whether you’re an EFL learner or educator, you should also go beyond just asking questions about particular trailers. If you’re a self-learning student, then you can repeat phrases in the trailers in order to perfect your pronunciation and ensure that you remember the phrase, and you can also transcribe the trailer in order to test your listening skills. You should also create a phrasebook of English words and phrases that you have to look up while watching trailers to refer to in the future.

If you’re an EFL teacher or tutor, then you can incorporate English trailers into the classroom in a number of creative ways. For nearly any topic, you can utilize a movie trailer as an introduction or activity to engage students more thoroughly with that particular lesson. Additionally, you can use trailers in activities like writing movie reviews or comparing and contrasting different trailers.

A Note About this Website

We are EFL students and teachers who wanted to make an informative website about using English movie trailers as a resource for enhancing English learning skills. Though just using movie trailers won’t substitute for online or in-class training programs, they can be an important tool in enhancing one’s knowledge of everyday English language usage. In lessons, you often learn English in a highly structured and controlled environment, but in the real world, English is diverse, fast-paced, and filled to the brim with slang and colloquial language. Movie trailers thus show learners how English is regularly used in an everyday environment without the pressure of holding a conversation with a native speaker.

We therefore created this website as a guide to effectively using movie trailers as a resource for EFL learners, enabling them to find good trailers and then effectively use them for learning purposes. We hope that you will enjoy learning how to use English movie trailers as an effective tool for enhancing your English learning objectives!