For the past three years, it was a tradition in Japanese class to watch movies like “Howl’s Moving Castle” and TV shows like “Marumo No Okite” on Friday, and then write a reflection over the weekend about what we had watched in class. Now on Fridays, however, in AP Japanese 4, we take quizzes on vocabulary, take notes on grammar, and fill out worksheets on new proverbs and onomatopoeia. The goal of those assignments is to learn Japanese, yet that can also be achieved by watching movies and writing a reflection afterwards.
1. Movies are more interesting.
Let’s take a short test (no pen or paper necessary). Would you rather A) pick up your pen or pencil and take an actual test or B) watch a movie?
The majority probably chose “B.” The exciting motion pictures appeal to visual learners, while dialogues and soundtrack appeal to auditory learners. Generally, today’s generation spends much of their time in front a screen, so why not use that to teach them something useful?
2. Students learn new words as they are used in context.
Usually, teachers jam new vocabulary terms down students’ throats by forcing them to write the words in sentences and take a quiz on the words at the end of the week. Yet, it is so easy to bs the sentence assignment: “I do not know what [insert vocabulary term] means.” or “I looked up the word [insert vocabulary term] on dictionary.com.” Even if a student were to actually look up the meaning of the words, they may not know how to use it in context. After “learning” the word, they might never use the word in a conversation or in writing because they do not know how.
On the other hand, movies discreetly teach students new words by introducing them in a sentence that is applicable to a certain situation that is occurring in the movie. The reflection paper that students have to write after watching a movie in class allows them to reflect upon what they had watched and explore that on a deeper level. For foreign languages, students will need to look up words to use in the assignment in order to make it flow. Students looking up a word on their own initiative rather than doing so because their teachers forced them have a different attitude towards learning, and will be able to learn more by taking charge of their education.
3. Students learn grammar as it is used in context.
Like the second reason, it is hard to incorporate a new grammar form into daily usage without knowing when to use it, so movies serve as the better teaching medium.
4. (For foreign languages) Students hear how natives speak.
Textbook version of a language differs from a native version; the textbook only teaches the formal and proper version of the language. According to my Japanese textbook, the word 分からない (wakaranai) is the casual form for “I do not understand,” but from my exchange in Japan, I learned that the textbook’s casual version of the word is still very formal, and that people actually say わかない (wakanai). Most students do not have the opportunity to submerge in the environment where the language is spoken, so they can only learn from the textbook. However, when watching movies, the audience is transported to a different setting and environment, and in that new environment, students can learn to speak like the natives do.