This was as part of their curriculum. Since there was only a short time of 80 hrs for this and the subject is vast, it was wondered if the process of acquiring the skills in order to make them conversant with the rules of language, could somehow be speeded up .To do this the process of how a child acquires his mother tongue was "imitated".- i.e. :by a constant exposure to the language-the child hears and listens to the language all the time and he picks up the grammar and lexis unconsciously .With this "imitation" for the target language, here English,[but it is supposed that this could be used with any language] the process of acquisition would be like the acquisition of a mother tongue. For this "imitation" one has to surround himself with the target language like the child is
surrounded by the target language.
Here, the importance of watching T.V. cannot be overemphasized. The students were advised to watch T.V particularly the B.B.C World Service, C.N.N ,The Discovery Channel& The National Geographic Channel because these use standard English as opposed to, say, The Cartoon Network or songs on MTV which often twist the grammar. One of the students had to take a temporary hiatus in his software course. It so happened that he could not form a sentence in English for lack of knowledge of structure at the beginning. However he had a fairly medium sized vocabulary with which he watched the above channels, as suggested, during his hiatus, for four to five hours daily and it was surprising that at the end of the course he spoke fluently without many mistakes and it was found that he had even improved his vocabulary to a great extent. This-watching T.V.-is an idea for ELT which is tried and tested, [albeit in a single instance], and found to be a working idea. It is thought that, from the point of view of research, the method of watching T.V. to learn English will, and has already, yielded encouraging and positive results, in that the student actually became fluent. We could examine how this method could be successful as opposed to conventional text book methods for teaching ELT and the possibility for any new[old]`alternative methods` for teaching ELT.
What are the advantages of watching interesting programs on the television? It has been found by psycholinguists that the best procedure, in learning a second language, is to approximate the natural process of learning the mother tongue as closely as possible. Watching T.V. develops the aural-oral skills [the listening-speaking skills] and developing the aural-oral skill is an essential pre-requisite for learning the graphic-motor [reading-writing] skills. A person who understands the Spoken language
is in a better position to understand the written language, but the reverse may not be true.
When the student/viewer watches interesting programmes on T.V. sufficient motivation and scope for learning the language is provided. When he watches language being used on T.V. he acquires the language, its forms, meanings and associations get impressed on his mind, and they become part of his reflex actions. He can express appropriate forms without conscious thought and he can use the language when the occasion arises. In contrast to this, in the context of formal classroom training, it has been found that students will be able to fill in the blanks in grammar exercises correctly in the class room, but in real life without the aid of pen and paper they tend to make mistakes.
Watching T.V. is particularly useful in learning the grammar and overcoming the pull of the mother tongue. A viewer/student can produce the new sounds and structures when he wants to express himself more easily than if he were to go through the formal drills of a class room. This is because the structures are seen in the context of fast paced action and visuals rather than the more sedate pace of text book reading which makes language learning more interesting. There is no conscious attempt at arranging words into syntactic patterns since learning is made more enjoyable, not too many ungrammatical structures are produced i.e.: the learning is not associated with the usual fear that goes with making mistakes. In any case, English should be taught as a "language of comprehension" and the purpose of learning a second language is primarily to make ourselves understood, and not to use flowery phrases. This purpose can be served adequately. Since the basic grammar and structure of language are acquired unconsciously, watching T.V. also promoted/will promote the Spoken form by widening the vocabulary.
So, here the conventional idea of the T.V. as an `idiot box` has to be questioned. The T.V is a medium that appeals primarily to the visual sense and secondly but still closely to the auditory sense. It will be agreed that when it is said that the primary sense is the visual sense, it is meant that people find it easier to process ideas if they are presented visually through a series of moving pictures. This might also account for the popularity of a later technology than the television, the computer. This has a screen on which dazzling visual effects are possible and there is also sound accompanying it- like the television, bit it also has the other well known features like storage, etc. If the computer were to be primarily auditory i.e.: if the inputs were to be through head phones we might well question whether it would be as popular. Therefore information presented via the T.V. and on the computer is more appealing than with books in which we have to see the `word pictures` or visualize the information in order to get the complete meaning. On T.V. the effort required to imagine the ` word pictures` is largely not required. So while watching a documentary about the World Wars, for example, the student of ELT might easily follow the commentary because he might have a vocabulary consisting of words like ships, bombs, aeroplanes, torpedoes etc which would be repeated many times to the accompaniment of different visuals like different ships, different submarines etc all of which add variety and thus keep boredom at bay. If there is proper music in the back ground then we can imagine learning English will become positively enjoyable. So we could also utilize modern technologies which deal with video images like C.D`s, video tapes, to tailor make lessons for reinforcing grammatical structures, enhancing vocabulary etc not only with live people but also through cartoons which appeal to most age groups, movies etc which would also contribute to a paperless society and thus help the environment. The appeal to the visual sense could also be exploited through comics-so reading Jane Austen’s "Emma" the old fashioned way and in the form of comic strips would be different to say the least and more enjoyable certainly. So, we could also teach Literature through comics, cartoons etc. Many children’s classics have been made into films which became box office successes like "Alladin""Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" etc so would it could also be that cartoon movies, comics, [not to mention the enormous popularity of "Manga" in Japan]etc could be used to enhance language learning?
I would like to quote Henry David Thoreau an American philosopher who says that” suffering is not a noble way [to learn].If you would know aught be gay before it"[I should point out that the word gay here has a 19th century meaning-so gay=happy] . Taking this one step further he says” not by severity and constraint will you have access to true wisdom. The way to true wisdom is to have a child like mirth and abandon before knowledge"
So, since every body enjoys watching T.V.and reading comics we should utilize their enormous potential to teach English [or any other language] .These are some ideas as to why watching T.V. is beneficial to language learning.
Please tell me what you think of this.