Thursday, 3 April 2014


Currently in the Euro cinemas, we can see a super hero disable a death machine the size of Jupiter with one cast of his shield (Captain America), or two women spit in the champagne glass of Nazi officer (Monuments Men), or a pair of vampires who, having used up the blood from their local hospitals, have to go out and bite somebody (Only Lovers Left).
Though these films have much to offer us cinema-goers, I’m not sure they’re the most effective or efficient instrument for language learning. Given the prevailing content (sex and violence, greed and corruption, simple-minded moral and emotional dynamics) of most movies, how long would it take—and how much precious dinheiro in Portugal or anywhere else—to learn how to say Can you help me? or May I help you?
Still, because films are relatively inexpensive and available---and already destination #1 for the skinny-legged, long-haired teen girls scatting up the street toward Cine Teatro António Pinheiro in Tavira, for example—people learn English by watching Hollywood movies, as they have done for almost a hundred years. (Readers of In the Skin of The Lion will remember the Macedonian immigrants in Toronto, 1930s, learning their English via gangster movies.)
I’ve tried some language acquisition myself, watching familiar films overdubbed in Spanish, which is really inefficient, or films in English with local subtitles, which works a little better. Tonight I’m catching Venuto al Mondo, with Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch, though I already know how to say Eu sou um bebê Ibérica.

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