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Video in the Language Lab: Teaching Vocabulary

Most well equipped language labs have video as a technical resource. It is possible to incorporate video into many different aspects of language teaching and learning. The following paragraphs offer suggestions for exploiting non-captioned video in a language lab setting to teach vocabulary. The examples that are provided are based on the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Research Support

A series of studies by Gildea, Miller and Wurtenberg (1990) provides both support and methodology for video use in a language lab setting. A scene from a movie was selected (in this case, the opening action sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark) and a series of narrative paragraphs describing the scene or action were created. The narratives included familiar and unfamiliar vocabulary items. The learners who saw video pictures were able to produce a higher percentage of acceptable sentences using the most difficult target words than were the learners who read only the narratives or those who read both the narratives and definitions. In the words of the researchers, "Pictures [video] improve sentence production for many words" (Gildea, et. al., 1990, p.25).

Interestingly, learners who read illustrative sentences (sentences capturing a scene in the movie and model the correct usage of a target vocabulary item) scored better on a multiple choice test than did those who read the narrative only or read the narrative and watched the video. This would indicate that if vocabulary learning is going to be measured by productive use, video is certainly facilitative. If, on the other hand, vocabulary gain is going to be measured via multiple choice testing, video will be most efficient if learners are provided with contextualized sentence models. Either way, video is a useful part of vocabulary learning.