Video in English Language Learning

Language Skills

There are 4 skills in language acquisition: reading, writing, listening and speaking. In L1 language acquisition the first skills developed are listening and speaking yet in L2 these have often been the most difficult skills to learn.

In the past large classes and a lack of opportunity to listen to the language, meant that oral communication was underdeveloped compared to reading and writing. The introduction of tapes, cassettes, CDs have made EFL learning materials more rounded and engaging. Use of multimedia and CALL (Computer Aided Language Learning) now mean that listening skills can be developed equally alongside reading and writing.

Good oral skills are essential for learners to be able to speak. If learners cannot understand what people say and they don’t know how to pronounce words or how to use language in context, then they cannot engage in conversation or respond to others.


Audio in language learning means opportunities to listen to people talking within a context appropriate to the target language. Although there may be other opportunities within CALL to listen these fulfill a different function. Voice over accompanying text boxes, or sound bites in dictionaries help with pronunciation, but have minimal impact on the development of listening skills. In order to develop listening skills graded listening texts are required which place language within a context to demonstrate how interaction might take place. At higher levels audio becomes more authentic, demonstrating normal hesitation and more advanced language and the kind of communication typical of a range of native and non-native speakers of English.

The case for audiovisual media in CALL

EFL learners in countries with a high level of internet connection, and who can gain easy access to the internet, have plenty of opportunities for exposure to authentic audio visual material. However, learners need to learn how to listen. In the early stages of their listening development this needs to be done in a structured and supported way. Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL) is an excellent medium for this development as it allows a module to be repeated as often as necessary

Lu-Fang Lin writes that “The inclusion of video clips in teaching is becoming increasingly dominant in the second language (L2) learning curriculum. This reform reflects the acknowledgement that audio and visual information aids language learning.” (2010: 53) A combination of verbal and nonverbal information helps develop communicative competence as it contributes to an understanding of target language culture, provides authentic language input and increases contact with native speakers through video viewing. (2010: 53)

Kilickaya reviewing research into the use of authentic materials noted that “learners state that they need pedagogical support especially in listening situations and when reading literary texts such as the provision of a full range of cues (auditory and visual including written language).” (2004:2). However learners do enjoy using authentic materials “since they enable them to interact with the real language and its use. Also they do not consider authentic situations or materials innately difficult.” (ibid:2)

Yuksel and Tanriverdi researched the effects of watching captioned movie clips on vocabulary development.  They stated that “it can be argued that viewing the movie clip has helped the participants of the current study develop their vocabulary knowledge regardless of the absence or presence of captions.” (2009: 53). The results showed that the participants made significant progress in their vocabulary knowledge after viewing the movie clip while focusing on the meaningful flow of conversations.”(2009:53)

Lu-Fang Lin summarised research into incidental vocabulary acquisition stating that a ”video-based CALL program facilitates vocabulary incidental acquisition of students with different English proficiency abilities.” (2010: 63). What was important was that learners be able helped to develop both so called passive skills (reading and listening) as “when viewing the video-based CALL program, students with proficient English reading and listening skills outperform those who are not proficient in the two skills in vocabulary learning.” (ibid: 63).

In addition to the acquisition of vocabulary, use of audio visual contexts helps the learner to develop an understanding of how to use the language in an oral context which can vary from use of language in the written form. In this way “the learner acquires not only linguistic knowledge of a word, such as phonetic, syntactic and semantic rules, but also the knowledge of how to use the word properly in a context.”  (Lu-Fang Lin, 2010: 63). He also states that “to foster meaningful L2 vocabulary learning, multimedia presentation should present video that effectively integrates visual and auditory messages.” (ibid.: 63) Gorjian et al agree and “conclude that multisensory techniques help the students to understand more easily, to see more clearly, and to have better eye for details. (2012: 195).


When we create a learning environment for the acquisition of language we aim to develop all aspects of the language. This demands as near to authentic contextualisation of language as possible. Written and spoken language is often different and this needs to be reflected in the resources we use. Audio and audiovisual material should be relevant and as authentic as possible. To provide variety we will present audio in a variety of ways to ensure engagement. This is especially important during intensive courses.  Our challenge is to identify accessible authentic multimedia resources that can be integrated into an overall programme with structured material and approaches to support incidental learning, while developing strong listening skills to help improve oral communication in the workplace.



Gorjian, B., Alipour, M. & Saffarian, R. (2012). The Effect of Multisensory Techniques on Reading Comprehension among Pre-Intermediate EFL Learners: The Case of Gender. Advances in Asian Social Science, 1(2), 192-196.

Kilickaya, F. (2004). Authentic Materials and Culture Content in EFL Classrooms. The Internet TESL Journal, 10(7). Available at [Accessed 24.05.2013].

Lu-Fang Lin (2010). English Learners‟ Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition in the Video- based CALL Program. The Asian EFL Journal, 12(4), 51-66.

Yuksel, D. & Tanriverdi, B. (2009). The Effects of Watching Captioned Movie Clip on Vocabulary Development of EFL Learners. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 8(2), 48-54.