The Film "East is East" in the EFL Classroom. A Lesson Plan for Senior Classes

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2015
15 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Intercultural Competence and Its Importance in School

3. East is East: A Summary of the Plot
3.1 The Suitability of the Film East is East for the Teaching ICC

4. A Possible Teaching Unit on the Topic Multicultural Britain

5. A Lesson Plan based on the Film East is East

6. Conclusion

Works Cited

1. Introduction

Since the 1990s, there is a remarkable increase in acceptance of the usage of films in the EFL classroom (Decke-Cornill and Küster 101). Nowadays new technical possibilities are provided in the classroom which make using films easier than ever before. There is a wide range of the internet, DVD players, whiteboards and digital video projectors which offer a great potential for teachers to use films in lessons at school. Especially the DVD provides a variety of options that can valuably be included into teaching lessons, e.g. trailers, subtitles, sound tracks and comments by directors, authors or actors.

Moreover, films are useful in different ways to enhance motivated learning because they derive from the pupil’s everyday life (Krause and Schuh-Fricke 9). On the one hand, this depends on the qualities of the film that is to be dealt with. The teacher has to decide whether the film contains topics which are interesting and relevant for the students, whether they can identify with certain characters or happenings and whether the film has educational potential. On the other hand, it is important to make clear which educational aims the teacher traces and on which aspects he or she mainly focuses, e.g. intercultural competence, media competence, cinematic devices or film language.

The film East is East is a British comedy-drama which was released in 1999 and is based on the play of the same title by Ayub Khan-Din (Kestermann 25). It has got a running time of 92 minutes and was directed by Damien O’Donnell. The movie is set in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 1971 and tells the story of a mixed-ethnicity British household. Jahangir "George" Khan is a Pakistani Muslim who has lived in England since 1937. He and his second wife Ella, a British Roman Catholic woman of Irish descent, have been married for 25 years and have seven children together: Nazir, Abdul, Tariq, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah, and Sajid. George and Ella run a popular fish and chips shop in the neighbourhood. But while George is obsessed with maintaining traditions of his culture, his children increasingly see themselves as British and reject Pakistani customs. This leads to a rise in tensions and conflicts within the family.

As can be seen, the film mainly deals with the coexistence of two different cultures and the conflicts which emerge out of it. Therefore, I will argue in this paper that the film East is East is suitable for teaching intercultural competence in the EFL classroom. First, I will define what ICC is and how it is documented in the Kernlehrplan. Then I will outline why the film East is East is suitable for the EFL classroom and why it can be used for teaching ICC. In the final part of the paper I will describe and analyse the educational values of the movie by giving an overview of a teaching unit and dissecting a lesson plan.

2. Intercultural Competence and Its Importance in School

Before the 1970s, cultural aspects of Anglophone countries were not as important in the EFL classroom as they are today (Gehring 167). But that has changed after the Kommunikative Wende in the 1970s when political and cultural educational goals became more relevant in the curriculum (ibid.). Today, foreign language teachers in Europe are required to teach culture as well as language which is a result of national education policy outlined in the curriculum (Elsen and St. John 27) of North Rhine-Westphalia as follows: “[die] Entwicklung der interkulturellen Handlungsfähigkeit [ist das] Leitziel des modernen Fremdsprachenunterrichts” (Schulentwicklung NRW 14). Our world has become more international than ever before and therefore all foreign language educators are expected to teach intercultural competence. “Foreign language education is by definition intercultural” (Sercu 65) because bringing a foreign language to the classroom means that the learners are being connected to a world that is culturally different (ibid.).

But what is exactly meant by intercultural competence? Deardorff defines ICC as the “ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations, to shift frames of reference appropriately and adapt behaviour to cultural context” (249). This definition suggests three main aspects of ICC: successful communication between people of different cultural backgrounds, the ability to change perspectives and to behave appropriately in cultural contact situations. So ICC is understood as incorporated in the communicative competence of the foreign language and therefore education needs to encourage pupils to use the foreign language in intercultural communicative contexts (Elsen and St. John 7). This is also stated in the curriculum: “Ausgehend vom Leitziel der interkulturellen Handlungsfähigkeit sollen die SuS im Englischunterricht Kompetenzen entwickeln, die es ihnen ermöglichen, komplexe interkulturelle Kommunikationssituationen der heutigen Lebenswirklichkeit sicher zu bewältigen“ (Schulentwicklung NRW 14).

And “if people’s language structure and habits influence the way they view the world, then learners of a language need knowledge of the underlying ‘code’ of culture to be able to interpret and make use of the system for meaningful social interaction.” (Elsen and St. John 28). Without the awareness of culturally different dimensions, even forms and structures which are used correctly can lead to misunderstandings (ibid. 29). So ICC is also related to the linguistic level because it has to deal with linguistic appropriateness, politeness, lexical units and connotations (Gehring 170). Therefore teaching ICC can help to prevent misunderstandings and enable to use the language communicatively by presenting different customs, values and ways of thinking and acting (Elsen and St. John 29).

If language learners are able to understand and positively relate to people from the foreign language speech community, they are more likely to be willing to improve their competences in the foreign language (ibid.). And they are also more motivated to deal with the foreign language outside of the classroom (Schulentwicklung NRW 11). Therefore integrating ICC into language teaching makes language learning even more meaningful and promotes motivation.

Furthermore ICC gives language learners the opportunity to examine other cultures in relation to their own and to look at their native culture from a different perspective (Elsen and St. John 23). If pupils are able to change their own perspective, they are more likely to reflect objectively on their own and on different cultures. They get the opportunity to broaden their horizon and to extend their understanding of other cultures as well as of their own culture. According to Byram, an intercultural speaker is “someone who can cross borders and who can mediate between two or more cultural identities” and who “is seen as seeking to establish a cooperative basis for mutual understanding between people who bear many different cultural affiliations and identities” (qtd. in Elsen and St. John 23). So ICC seeks to connect people with different cultures through a process of improving communication and achieving understanding between them (Elsen and St. John 23). According to this, the curriculum suggests:

Durch den Umgang mit Texten und Medien der Zielkulturen erweitern die Schülerinnen und Schüler im Englischunterricht ihre schulisch und außerschulisch erworbenen Einblicke in die Vielfalt anglophoner Kultur- und Sprachräume. Die Auseinandersetzung mit anderen Lebenswirklichkeiten, sowohl aus historisch erklärender, als auch aus geschlechtsdifferenzierender Perspektive, fördert die Bereitschaft der Schülerinnen und Schüler zur Selbstreflexion und eröffnet ihnen die Möglichkeit, Distanz zu eigenen Sichtweisen und Haltungen herzustellen, kulturell geprägte Lebenswirklichkeiten, Normen und Werte zu verstehen und in ihrem interkulturellen Handeln angemessen zu berücksichtigen. (Schulentwicklung NRW 11)

Moreover foreign language teachers should integrate ICC to their teaching not only to increase the pupil’s knowledge and understanding of other cultures but also to overcome prejudices and stereotypes (Elsen and St. John 23). An aim of ICC is to provide knowledge in order to accomplish intercultural understanding and tolerance (Sercu 67). Further reasons for teaching ICC are its potential to increase empathy and respect for other cultures and to enhance open-mindedness (Henseler et al. 17). This is also stated in the curriculum as follows: “Der Englischunterricht [trägt] im Rahmen der Entwicklung von Gestaltungskompetenz zur kritischen Reflexion geschlechter- und kulturstereotyper Zuordnungen, zur Werterziehung, zur Empathie und Solidarität [bei]“ (Schulentwicklung NRW 12).

ICC covers three areas of competences: knowledge, skills and attitudes (Doff and Klippel 117). The area of knowledge comprises factual knowledge about another culture and helps pupils to orient themselves in a different country (ibid.). The area of skills indicates specific abilities which are necessary in order to act and communicate appropriately in the foreign language (ibid. 118). Lastly, the area of attitudes describes curiosity and openness towards other cultures (ibid. 119). Ideally, language learners establish a connection between their own and a foreign culture and develop a cultural awareness which leaves no room for stereotypes (ibid.). ICC enables pupils to change their usual perspectives and adopt a decentred view on their own and other cultures (ibid. 120).

Typically, intercultural learning and competence can be supported by exchange programs because pupils get the chance to communicate with native speakers and also break down prejudices they might have (Decke-Cornill and Küster 235). Moreover, they get to know values and rituals of a different culture which enables them to be more open-minded and probably to identify with things which are out of their comfort zone. Another way to teach ICC is to work with critical incidents or hotspots, events of failed communication due to cultural conflicts and misunderstandings (ibid. 236). Furthermore, ICC can be taught by working with literary works, films, songs and commercials from other cultural backgrounds because it gives an extensive insight (ibid.).

To sum up, it has become evident that ICC covers many different areas. It does not only foster communication between peoples from different cultural backgrounds but also helps to break down prejudices. Teaching ICC at school can help language learners to “recognise and relate to culturally different people on equal terms so that they can understand that each individual is unique and yet fundamentally universal” (Elsen and St. John 29). ICC is based on a deep understanding of our common human condition (ibid. 34) and therefore aims more at affective than at linguistic learning targets (Decke-Cornill and Küster 227).

3. East is East: A Summary of the Plot

The movie East is East is about a mixed-race family living in Salford, Manchester in 1970s. The father of the family, George (Jahangir) Khan, was born in Pakistan and had got married for the first time there. Seeking a better future, he immigrated to Britain and married Ella. They run a fish and chips shop together and are the parents of six sons and one daughter.

Although having lived in Britain for 25 years, George Khan does not seem to be able to fully assimilate to the British society and culture. He wants all of his children to follow Islamic traditions and urges them to pray. One day their eldest son Nadir comes to know that his father was going to arrange his marriage and therefore runs away from home. George declares him dead - all the more when he finds out that Nadir is gay and living with a man. In order not to dishonour his Pakistani family even more, George accepts the marriage arrangement of his sons Tariq and Abdul with two Pakistani girls, although his wife, Ella, disapproves. The youngest of the children, Sajid, accidentally witnesses a conversation about the arranged weddings and tells his brothers about it. Tariq, Saleem and their sister Meenah quickly leave to London to beg Nazir for help. But he brings them back home and leaves.

After that George and Ella have a serious argument about their children’s upbringing which ends up with George beating Ella badly. Nevertheless, the brides-to-be pay them a visit some days later. But it turns into a disaster so that the visitors feel insulted and claim the Khan family not suitable for their daughters. Ella and the children do not mind at all but George is furious that the engagement is spoilt. In the end, Ella and George are back to their fish and chip shop where she offers him a cup of tea as usual which he gladly accepts.

3.1 The Suitability of the Film East is East for the Teaching ICC

There are several reasons why the film East is East is suitable for teaching ICC. Generally, films are mainly used in the EFL classroom in order to encourage intercultural communicative competences (Henseler et al. 8). Films foster emotional reactions and personal statements so that the pupils are more likely to have a need for communication afterwards (ibid. 9). Furthermore films give an insight into different countries, cultures, values and ways of thinking so that they can be described as an embodiment of culture (ibid. 10). Although films never represent reality, they have a strong interrelationship to it and therefore can be used as ‘orientation systems’ for intercultural learning (ibid. 10f.).

One of the reasons the film East is East is suitable for teaching ICC is that it depicts two different cultures with its wide spectrum of attitudes, values and behaviour. On the one side there is the traditional Islamic culture whose main representative is George Khan. And on the other side there is the British culture whose main representatives are Ella and the neighbour Mr. Moorhouse. The children of the Khans are somewhere in-between those cultures because they still try to find their own cultural identity. The pupils get an insight into both of the cultures so that they can compare and put them in relation to each other (Kestermann 27). Furthermore it offers the opportunity of understanding foreign cultures. The pupils are challenged to be more conscious about their own personal and cultural perspective and at the same time more open-minded towards different cultures (ibid.).


Excerpt out of 15 pages


The Film "East is East" in the EFL Classroom. A Lesson Plan for Senior Classes
Ruhr-University of Bochum  (Philologie)
Teaching Songs and Films
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
East is East, EFL Classroom, Teaching, Lesson Plan
Quote paper
Katharina Zeiger (Author), 2015, The Film "East is East" in the EFL Classroom. A Lesson Plan for Senior Classes, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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