Youtube in the Language Classroom

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2009

28 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Using video in the language classroom ʹ general considerations
2.1. Why use authentic video at all?
2.1.1. The medium film in the English curriculum
2.2. Some applications and activities of video in the language classroom
2.3. Authentic video sources and features

3. YouTube or: "Broadcast Yourself!"
3.1. ITube, YouTube, WeTube ʹ what actually is YouTube?
3.1.1. Characteristic features and functions of YouTube
3.2. Main points of criticism
3.2.1. Copyright
3.2.2. Anonymity
3.3. Using YouTube in the language classroom
3.3.1. Equipment

4. Putting theory into practice: the Two Ronnies
4.1. General information
4.2. Description of the lesson
4.3. Analysis of the lesson

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

7. Appendix
7.1. Transcript of the Four Candles sketch

List of figures

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction

According to Ellis, learning a language means making use of the language (in Rüschoff/Wolff: 1999, 54). This not only implies the claim of free, spontaneous communication but also of dealing with and of experiencing the target language as such. Especially the latter aspect will be of interest in this thesis.

The claim of experiencing the target language in the language classroom, leads to a growing interest in the quality of the materials used. According to Wolff (1998), any kind of learning ʹ no matter whether verbal or non-verbal ʹ has to be embedded in a rich learning environment that has not been reduced concerning its complexity. Authenticity is thus one of the main criteria in order to evaluate the quality of materials. This criterion applies to all materials ʹ such as literature ʹ that have not been changed for the purpose of teaching and learning, of course. In this thesis, however, using authentic video in the language classroom will be considered and analysed according to its didactic benefits.

Integrating video in the language classroom does not necessarily mean having to watch and to analyse a whole film of ninety minutes. Thanks to Web 2.0 applications such as YouTube, the accessibility of short video clips, advertisements or film excerpts has become very simple. Because of the growing popularity of this webpage and of integrating Web 2.0 applications in the learning environments in general, my entire analysis will relate to videos taken from YouTube.

This thesis aims to provide both a theoretical (part I) and a practical investigation (part II) of the topic: in order to create a framework for analysis, I will first of all give a short overview of the didactic benefits of integrating authentic video in the language classroom in general. This survey is followed by a short description of the basic ideas of YouTube ʹ such as free accessibility or the possibility to contribute ʹ, in order to work out the advantages these YouTube-specific features additionally offer.

The practical part (part II) aims to put theory into practice: I will describe and analyse a lesson that was originally planned for and executed in several tutorials for first semester EFL students. Although YouTube was part of a language course at university, this lesson could as well be adapted for the Oberstufe and is hence an appropriate example within the context of this topic. In the lesson the sketch served as an introduction to the topic Phonetics & Phonology.

The thesis closes with a summary of the main conclusions of part I and II.

2. Using video in the language classroom ʹ general considerations

As a lead-up to analysing YouTube and the website-specific benefits for the L2 classroom in chapter 3, this chapter aims to consider the topic on a more general level. Therefore, the general uses of video for learning and teaching as well as the advantages over other media shall be discussed. Within the context of this topic, the term 'medium' includes authentic films or video sequences, audio clips and texts directed at an audience of native speakers. It is therefore free of any restrictions that apply to the target-group-shaped language used in 'classic' teaching material such as textbooks or television series like "Jack in the Box". The next step is to discover why video in particular "is a wonderful resource for opening up the English-language world". (Sherman, 2003, p. 1)

2.1. Why use authentic video at all?

Modern technology makes it quite simple to gain access to authentic video. All kinds of English language programmes are available to viewers worldwide, be it news, sport or films. They come into our homes via satellite dish, DVD or the internet. Especially the last channel is of interest, for the worldwide web is ideal for on-demand services and allows the user to become interactive. Moreover, it is a field that enjoys immense popularity particularly among pupils, the target group of this investigation, and its usefulness shall henceforth be explored later in this thesis. For this reason alone, authentic video simply cannot be ignored and it is just as well teachers should aim to make use of it, not least because seldom is language embedded in such a rich context. This fantastic advantage is also noticed by Jane Sherman, who observes that "the eye is caught, and this excites interest in the meaning of the words". (Sherman, 2003, p. 2) Apart from the most elemental arguments in favour of authentic video - easy accessibility and motivational aspects - Sherman identifies several uses of video in language teaching (cf. Sherman, 2003, p. 2f.) which will be illustrated and discussed in the following::

According to Sherman, it is people's desire to gain access to the world of the "English-language media". (Sherman, 2003, p. 2) For the language classroom, this 'desire' has two implications: first of all it provides ideal conditions from a motivational point of view. On the other hand it implies the necessity to prepare learners how to watch and get information from films; just as reading newspapers requires certain strategies of reading, as well. That is why one aim of the English language classroom has to be showing pupils how to deal with this particular medium, to develop a 'literacy of films' so to speak. This literacy not only refers to the actual understanding of the spoken language - although this is probably the most elemental condition for comprehending anything at all - but rather to develop the skills needed that are necessary to make use of the information provided. Information of a film is usually a combination of auditory and visual data. Learning how to process this mixture of information is thus one key-responsibility of the language classroom.

"Video brings us all kinds of voices in all kinds of situations, with full contextual back-up." (Sherman, 2003, p. 2) In other words, video offers the opportunity to experience the language to be learned in various situations. That certain aspects of language learning - such as 'genre' or 'dialect' - are embedded in a whole context, is definitely an advantage for comprehending the spoken language. The visual dimension further supports the comprehension process.

Thus, "[authentic video provides a vast up-to-date linguistic resource of accents, vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and all kinds of discourse, which shows us language in most of its uses and contexts." (ibid.) This is something neither a coursebook nor classroom can do. One example: hearing a Nottinghamshire local dialect in the film version of Sillitoe's "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner" creates certainly different effects in the learner than merely reading the phonetic transcriptions of the dialect on a sheet. Accordingly, language in films can be a model for specific language items - such as a local dialect in this example. In this context the aspect of intercultural learning is of importance for the language classroom, as well: as the mentioned example nicely illustrates, video is also a way to bring "the English-language world to the learner[s]" (Sherman, 2003, p. 3) and by this let them experience another culture.

Students gain an insight into English-language culture, they see "how people live and think and behave". (Sherman, 2003, p. 2f.)

It is probably necessary to mention at this point that this thesis is not aimed at banning literature from the language classroom! Just like authentic video, literary texts provide language material that is "not fashioned for the specific purpose of teaching a language" (Coll ie Slater, 1987, p. 3); i.e., actually intended for native speakers. Accordingly, literary texts, such as authentic video, always provide cultural information: reading the literature of a historical period, a culture or a society is "one of the ways we have to help us imagine what life was like in that other foreign territory." (Collie Slater, 1987, p. 4) Concerning linguistic advantages of literary texts, they provide a large choice of different styles and text-types at many levels of difficulty. (Metcalf, 2005) Examining these linguistic features improves pupils' skills concerning lexical and syntactical items, vocabulary and finally supports pupils' language awareness: "The language of literary works is, on the whole, not typical of the language of daily life." (Collie Slater, 1987, p. 4) Asking learners to study non-standard examples of language makes them identify the variety of the language and more aware of the norms of language use. Consequently, many benefits video offers apply to literature, as well, because they rely upon the feature authenticity. One advantage of authentic video that cannot be emphasised enough, however, is its motivational power.

2.1.1. The medium film in the English curriculum

The final part of this general consideration of film in the language classroom shall be an investigation of the English curriculum ('Gymnasiale Oberstufe'), a reference that cannot be ignored in any didactic consideration. The aim of this part is to investigate the significance the curriculum endows the medium film.

The fact that the English curriculum explicitly schedules the dealing with media apart from written texts, becomes evident after reading the table of contents, already: a whole subchapter addresses the issue of correct dealing with texts and media. (Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung, 1999, p. 3) As the following illustration shows, the curriculum views media as one of the most basic constituent parts of each learning arrangement:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung, 1999, p. 12)

FIGURE 2.1: Constituent parts of learning arrangements

The curriculum explicitly states that the language classroom is supposed to integrate all forms of text; i.e. printed, pictorial, audio and electronic media. According to the curriculum, the introduction of differently coded texts is necessary in order to grasp the various cultural developments (media society) and especially in order to achieve the most basic goal of the English language classroom: increasing the intercultural capacity to act. According to the curriculum, one consequence of integrating 'text' in this broad sense, is the responsibility of the English language classroom to convey a more sophisticated media literacy. (Ministerium fur Schule und Weiterbildung, 1999, p. 29)

2.2. Some applications and activities of video in the language classroom

As mentioned earlier in this thesis, video in general can be a powerful motivational tool. But the strength of the medium lies not in itself but in the way it is used. As Duffy correctly observes, "video is not an end in itself" but must be used as a "vehicle for discovery". (Duffy, 2008, p. 37) How video is used, heavily depends on the expected learning outcome. Duffy furthermore summarises some ideas for classroom activities that relate to the specific use of video to promote active learning viewing and a maximum of learning success:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Duffy, 2008, pp. 37-38)

After introducing the medium film as a tool that enhances the language learning process, the following part shall address further important didactic considerations: one aspect is the question of where language teachers can get authentic video material that is appropriate for the very specific group of learners. As this thesis deals with YouTube as a modern way to integrate authentic video, I will mainly concentrate on the internet as a possible source. In this context I will also discuss the features of video material that is available online. I will likewise address the didactic implications of these features.

2.3. Authentic video ʹ sources and features

One channel of distributing and accessing authentic video has already been highlighted ʹ the internet. It is now possible without noticeable effort to watch, say, a live feed of Sky News (cf. BSkyB, 2008), recent episodes of Beavis & Butt-Head (cf. MTV Networks, 2008), or video tutorials for Microsoft Word (cf. Microsoft Corporation, 2008). All users have to do is go to the respective websites.1 A few similarities of the aforementioned examples should be pointed out here:

- The videos have been created in a language directed at a native speaker audience.
- They are all representations of on-demand services, i.e. these videos are available for viewing at any time.
- They are hosted by companies, in this case BSkyB, MTV and Microsoft respectively, which have either produced the content themselves (BSkyB, Microsoft) or own the exclusive broadcasting rights (MTV).
- These companies share a commercial interest in the distribution of their products.
- They do not offer users to upload content of their own, making their service one-directional (only downloading/streaming is possible)

Such video clips are perfectly acceptable in their own right for any of the uses in the language classroom identified by Sherman. There are, however, a number of weaknesses that cannot be discounted. The range of topics is restricted to the particular branch to which the respective website carrier/company belongs. This means that for different content, teachers will have to find an appropriate website and will have to become accustomed to its specific features. If they find no appropriate material, they will have to rely on their own private video library or that of a colleague. Most important, though, regular websites of the kind presented so far in this thesis, do not offer their users a ͚playground͛ for their own ideas. They do not invite visitors to become interactive by creating a video clip of their own and sharing it with other internet users. This massive potential of individuals, a capacity that could be called the 'creativity of crowds2 is thus ignored entirely.

Summarising these last points: on the one hand the internet offers a rich pool of authentic videos that are freely available. While this is certainly a great advantage compared to looking for video material in the school archive or to buying the original films, the problem of accessibility remains as such videos are scattered across the whole internet.


1 The system requirements will be dealt with in chapter 3.

2 Echoing James Surowiecki and his famous book "The Wisdom of Crowds" (Surowiecki, 2004)

Excerpt out of 28 pages


Youtube in the Language Classroom
University of Duisburg-Essen  (Anglophone Studien)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
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youtube, language, classroom
Quote paper
Sebastian Altenhoff (Author), 2009, Youtube in the Language Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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