Using Movie Trailers to Improve your English

Choosing Trailers

When you decide to use movie trailers to enhance English learning, it’s imperative that you select an appropriate trailer for yourself or your audience. While tons of excellent movie trailers exist, not all of them are suitable for learning in general. Trailers without much spoken English will not be useful to an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) student at any level, and you also want to use trailers that are entertaining in order to create an engaging learning experience. Once you have found trailers that have sufficient dialogue and entertainment value, then you must consider your or your audience’s skill level and age group.

Considering Skill Level
Simply put, you do not want to use a trailer that will be too complex to be easily understood. While most movie trailers contain relatively simple dialogue, some may contain movie- or subject-specific diction that a novice learner may struggle with. A lesser-known fantasy film, for example, might be confusing if it contains a lot of movie-specific terminology. Similarly, a documentary film trailer with subject-specific terminology might only be useful for more advanced learners focusing on a particular subject area.

Additionally, you should also be mindful to choose trailers that use common English, meaning that the dialogue sounds similar to an everyday conversation in English. A period piece set prior to the 1900s, for example, might use older English conventions that could confuse novice learners.

Age Appropriate Content
If you’re teaching younger EFL students, you must be mindful to ensure that the content that you choose is appropriate for their age group. Take, for example, the trailer for Forrest Gump:

For late teenage and adult students, this film is fantastic for exposing learners to basic spoken English as well as major events in American history. Tom Hanks’ speaking style as Gump is slow and simple, making the film easy to follow for even lower-level learners, and throughout the plot, Forrest Gump finds himself in all kinds of major American historical events, including the Vietnam War and rallies in Washington, D.C. However, because the film touches on mature themes such as violence and the HIV/AIDS crisis, it is not appropriate for younger audiences.

In this regard, you should also keep cultural sensitivities to certain themes or issues in mind. Many Southeast Asian cultures, for example, may consider sexual themes or risqué costumes to be quite offensive, so you should keep that in mind when selecting appropriate content for younger students.