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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The L2 Journal is an open access, fully refereed, interdisciplinary journal which aims to promote the research and the practice of language learning and teaching. It publishes articles in English on all aspects of applied linguistics broadly conceived, i.e., second language acquisition, second language pedagogy, bilingualism and multilingualism, language and technology, curriculum development and teacher training, testing and evaluation.

Teaching Language, Culture, and Text with Film


Teaching Japanese Pragmatic Competence Using Film Clips

Taking three common pragmatic errors by intermediate students of Japanese as a starting point, namely, overuse of the 1st person pronoun watashi, and incorrect use of hearsay markers and sentence final particles, this paper develops a strategy for employing film clips in classroom and homework exercises to model NS language use and to deepen student understanding of the meanings of these linguistic forms in Japanese, thereby improving their communicative competence. I also show how the verbal forms work in tandem with filmic devices to create meaning.

The Five C’s: Bringing a 1980’s Film into the 21st Century Chinese Language Learning Context

Film has become an ever more effective medium of instruction in foreign languages, including Chinese. Developing good textbooks to accompany the films is too labor-intensive to keep pace with the growing production of contemporary films, so it is useful to develop strategies for using older films and existing textbooks. This paper examines how slight shifts in focus can overcome the issue of contemporaneity and bring out the qualities of an older film and accompanying textbook. The 1984 film Under the Bridge serves as example, and conscious attention to the “Five C’s of Foreign Language Education: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities” drawn up by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages serves as method. The paper shows how shifts in focus, rather than diffusing the focus on language, actually can strengthen the language learning experience. It reviews some more recent film guide textbooks to demonstrate why it is still worthwhile to bring this older film and textbook into the twenty-first century.

Rebels with a Cause: (Re)defining Identities and Culture in Contemporary French Cinema

In Fall 2005, widespread riots shook France. Was Paris really burning? What actually did happen in France that fall? If the “social unrest,” as it was called was symptomatic of serious social and political issues in France, it was largely misconstrued in some American media outlets. As a corollary, American students of French at times seem to have an inaccurate perception of the period.

All the issues underlying the 2005 riots are at the forefront of today’ French socio-political debate, especially since a central political figure at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, was since elected president. These issues revolve around questions of integration of an increasingly diverse population, social justice, unemployment and poverty. After addressing some of the reasons for the divergence in French and American media discourse, the paper examines in depth France’s contemporary social climate, as portrayed in recent French films, from La Haine to Entre les murs. These films, which represent a fragmented French youth in the midst of redefining its identities, oscillating between revolt and desire for integration in a changing culture, constitute effective entry points to present FL students with contemporary cultural contexts and content. Using the frameworks of multiliteracies and intercultural communicative competence, pedagogical techniques are presented to help guide learners explore difficult, yet critically important topics to improve their understanding of French – and American – culture(s).

Teaching Chinese Cultural Perspectives through Film

Teaching Chinese cultural perspectives in CFL instruction is more challenging than teaching about Chinese cultural products and behavior. It is challenging because most textbooks do not orient their approach to it, because native-Chinese-speaking teachers tend to overlook it as it is so much a part of them that it presents no peculiarities, and because it is believed cultural understanding comes naturally once language is learned. Studies on cross-cultural communication demonstrate that cultural ignorance causes misperceptions and misunderstandings. In a global community, as people of different cultures interact with one another, awareness of different cultural perspectives is urgently needed. Since language and culture go hand in hand, learning a language is a fortunate opportunity to learn culture through language. Employing a critical language pedagogy, this paper provides an example for teaching Chinese cultural perspectives though discourse from film clips. It shows how students can be taught differences, alternatives, and critical language and cultural awareness using comparative, reflective, and interpretive methodologies. It employs a variety of situated activities to help students explore and discover the Chinese cultural mind.

New Approaches to Exploiting Film in the Foreign Language Classroom

This paper begins by arguing that the time has come for film, and film clips in particular, to take on a more central place in the foreign language curriculum. It describes in some detail the Library of Foreign Language Film Clips, a database of 10,000+ clips taken from foreign language feature films and tagged for the spoken vocabulary and for cultural, discourse, and linguistic features prominent in the clip. A number of issues that were confronted in the process of developing the database are described. Three ways in which film clips might be incorporated in the foreign language curriculum are then discussed: 1) by focusing on the spoken language; 2) by focusing on the clip as a representation of the behaviors or values of L2 speakers; and 3) by focusing on the clip as a text, whose meaning is created by the filmic devices and language spoken in the clip.