Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cinema Paradiso: Learning English with Moving Images


It is often said that Spaniards have a longstanding idiomatic deficit when it comes to speaking a foreign language. This is partly due to a very simple fact: hardly ever are they exposed to hearing foreign languages spoken on TV or at the cinema, since all of the films they watch and hear are dubbed into their native language. Naturally, they are not well prepared to develop an ear for English and they find learning it much more difficult than, for instance, their Portuguese neighbours, who are used to hearing English-speaking films on TV on a regular basis. This same pattern occurs in other EU countries, such as The Netherlands, Denmark or Sweden, which, together with a more efficient bilingual education system, accounts for the high standard of English of their citizens.

The rich variety of highly-acclaimed English-speaking films produced in Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand provide you with the opportunity of enjoying a vast diversity of actors’ accents: Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient; Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day; Helen Mirren in The Queen; Nicole Kidman in Dogville; Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood in Bridges of Madison County; Hugh Grant in Love Actually; Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, or all the different American accents in Crash. Therefore, using moving images to improve your English is of utmost importance in an increasingly multilingual society.

Here are some tips aimed at helping advanced learners of English (living in Seville) to obtain a better understanding of today’s lingua franca. Current releases with Spanish subtitles can now be seen at the AvenidaMetromar or Nervión Plaza cinemas (discount day is Wednesday). Another option is seeing films with English subtitles from the Speak Up dvd series (you can check out some of them at the self-learning section of the Engineering School library on the Cartuja campus), which come with a helpful glossary, or enjoying the digital technology of DVDs, which also allows you to watch and read a film at the same time. Seeing an English-speaking film with English subtitles is strongly recommended because you experience the film directly in English from beginning to end without having to read a Spanish translation of it. Renting out videotapes or DVDs from shops that specialise in English-speaking films, such as The Big Orange (Alameda de Hércules, 15), or the video-rental section of VIPS or Carrefour stores is another possibility to be considered.

If you happen to be a television fan, TDT technology offers you the possibility of watching films in their original version by simply changing the language on your remote control. Finally, the legendary Metrópolis from La 2 screens subtitled short films or advertising selections from time to time. (See TV listings.)

In short, remember that hearing a dubbed film is like seeing only half of it because the voices of actors and actresses who star in films are essential to fully enjoy cinema. Somebody once said, “Watch a hundred films and you’ll find the meaning of life. Ultimately, watching foreign films in the original version is just another way of broadening your cultural horizons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, I totally agree. About a year ago I started watching English-speaking films and series, and I regret I didn't start before.
Another point is that lots of good American series such as 24, Lost, Desperate Housewives, and so on, are hard to follow on Spanish television, as their latest seasons never seem to be available here. That is why many Spanish fan websites now make Spanish subtitles for all these series. And so we don't have to wait ages to watch them. Check out an example: