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Subtitling as a Teaching Tool for English for Specific Purposes’ Students

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Abstract

New technologies have invaded our daily lives, and as a consequence the use of computers and internet inside the classroom is progressively more frequent. At the same time, subtitling as a teaching/learning tool has become more popular. For that purpose, scholars such as Delabastita (1989), Sokoli (2006) or Talaván (2013) have been researching how the adaptation of these subtitling methods will have some influence in the learning/teaching process. Thus, the aim of this paper is to present an interlingual subtitling task in a class for English for Specific Purposes students (from a university degree of architecture), in order to improve their receptive skills (commonly known as listening and reading). Along these lines, this paper will explore the use of Task Based Learning in ESP classes and it will propose a teaching unit for further implementation in a university class of English for the degree of architecture, discussing the advantages and repercussions it may have for the acquisition and improvement of the aforementioned passive skills. Keywords: Subtitling; English for Specific Purposes; Task Based Learning; Passive Skills; Architecture.
Subtitling as a Teaching Tool for English for Specific Purposes’
Students
Buil-Beltrán, Paula
Department of English and German Philology, University of Zaragoza, Spain.
Abstract
New technologies have invaded our daily lives, and as a consequence the use
of computers and internet inside the classroom is progressively more
frequent. At the same time, subtitling as a teaching/learning tool has become
more popular. For that purpose, scholars such as Delabastita (1989), Sokoli
(2006) or Talaván (2013) have been researching how the adaptation of these
subtitling methods will have some influence in the learning/teaching process.
Thus, the aim of this paper is to present an interlingual subtitling task in a
class for English for Specific Purposes students (from a university degree of
architecture), in order to improve their receptive skills (commonly known as
listening and reading). Along these lines, this paper will explore the use of
Task Based Learning in ESP classes and it will propose a teaching unit for
further implementation in a university class of English for the degree of
architecture, discussing the advantages and repercussions it may have for the
acquisition and improvement of the aforementioned passive skills.
Keywords: Subtitling; English for Specific Purposes; Task Based Learning;
Passive Skills; Architecture.
4th International Conference on Higher Education Advances (HEAd’18)
Universitat Polit`
ecnica de Val`
encia, Val`
encia, 2018
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4995/HEAd18.2018.8004
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Editorial Universitat Polit`
ecnica de Val`
encia 399
Subtitling as a Teaching Tool for English for Specific Purposes’ Students
1. Introduction
The study of language teaching is something as old as time. There are theories that go back
to the 16th Century. These theories prioritized grammar for the acquisition of a new
language, however, a great amount of communication teaching can be also found, namely
Brumfit & Johnson, 1979, Krashen & Terrell, 1983, Prabhu, 1987, Nunan, 1989. Since the
implementation and development of technology, the focus of language research has
changed, in order to adapt the studies to new improvements, combining technology with
communication language teaching theories. For instance, recent studies have found that the
use of video and subtitles, not only as a passive but also as an active tool, may help L2
students to develop better communication skills.
Along these lines, this paper will try to give a new overlook in this latest theory. It will
combine a well-known teaching theory, Task Based Learning (TBL) with the introduction
of a subtitling task in an English for Specific Purposes (ESP) class. The target students will
be university students of the degree of architecture who attend an elective class of ESP with
a B1/B2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
(Council of Europe, 2001).
Thus, this preliminary study will be divided in three different parts. The first part will deal
with TBL approach. The second part will introduce ESP and its main features to understand
the needs of the students to which the project will be applied for. Finally, the third section
will give a lesson example using subtitling as the main teaching tool and with the aim of
further implementation in a real university class. During this last section, the use of
subtitling videos inside the classroom will be explored including the justification of the
selected corpus and a final part with the activity per se.
2. Task Based Learning Theory
Communicative Language Teaching theory (CLT) can be said to be born during the 80s
through the researches made by Littlewood (1981) and Brumfit (1984). It tried to break
with the established teaching methods, mainly based on the grammar teaching/learning. It is
an open approach, which may be something positive as it has different motivations for
language learning, and different kinds of teachers and individual students’ needs.
Moreover, as it is such an open approach that includes different interpretations which lead,
at the same time, to other theories as the one that concerns this paper, TBL.
TBL theory has its origins on Prabhu (1987) studies, where he described second language
acquisition methods giving an introduction to this new theory. It was followed by Nunan
(1989) and Willis (1996), who took a deeper look in this new methodology. The main goal
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of TBL is to present common situations to the students through the use of different tasks
(Talaván, 2013).
One of the most important aspects of this theory is the so called learning by doing, which
means that students learn through interactive tasks instead of using the traditional methods
of presentation and practical repetition of linguistic elements. Nowadays, one of the most
practical ways of achieving this is through the use of audiovisual media, and it is at this
point where the use of new technologies (TIC) plays an important role.
This theory may have a great impact on ESP students, whose main goal is to acquire a
reading knowledge that helps them in their future professional careers. This is the reason
why, according to Willis (2016:7), the tasks may be based on a text presented in the L2 and
the activities performed could be done on the students’ mother tongue. It is at this point
where a subtitling active task, as the one that will be presented in section 4, may be useful
for the students, as its aim will be to work with a text in a foreign language and provide its
translation into the student’s mother tongue.
3. English for Specific Purposes
Over the last few decades, English has become the language employed in different
specialized working areas. This is the reason why, the study of the distinctive features of
English has become one of the most successful research fields (Fuertes Olivera &
Samaniego Fernández, 2005). Moreover, this has also modified the students profile and
their necessities, due to the fact that people in general have more opportunities to travel,
either for working or tourism.
In this line, scholars like Català-Hall (2013:1) defined ESP as specific courses designed in
order to answer the immediate necessities of the students that need practicing English in
specific professional areas. According to Fuertes Olivera & Samaniego Fernández (2005),
the term ESP has two different connotations, one for the pedagogical area that is, teaching
English in different specialist areas such as economics or architecture, and another one in a
more general area, using English in highlighted communicative situations. Both
connotations are important in this study, as the main goal of the students will be to improve
their English for their future careers.
Dudley-Evans & St. Johns (1998) agreed on a series of aspects that ESP may have, dividing
them in absolute and variable characteristics. Some of the ones that concern this study are:
1) ESP is designed to meet specific needs of the learners, 2) ESP is centered on the
language appropriate to these activities in terms of grammar, lexis, register, study skills,
discourse and genre, 3) ESP may be related to or designed for specific disciplines, and ESP
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Subtitling as a Teaching Tool for English for Specific Purposes’ Students
may use, in specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of General
English (Dudley-Evans & St. Johns, 1998: 4-5).
Finally, it is worth mentioning that there are several types of ESP teaching, such as English
for Academic Purposes (EAP) or English for Occupational Purposes (EOP). However, at
the present, the most important one is the described above and English for Specific
Academic Purposes (ESAP), which can be described as the English employed by university
students during their academic researches and the publications that gather their findings
(Jordan, 1997). Even so, this study has its main goal in ESP, as the students tested during
the research are university students under a degree in architecture.
4. Subtitling as a learning/teaching tool
Nowadays, younger generations, are more used to learn through the use of TICs than
through books, Caimi (2003). This is one of the reasons why the use of subtitles, which are
defined by Diaz Cintas (2003: 195) as “written text […] giving an account of the actors’
dialogue and other linguistic information which form part of the visual image (letters,
graffiti, and captions) or of the soundtrack, is a regular tool in the classrooms. Numerous
are the researches in the field of the passive use of subtitles inside the classroom since their
use seems to have a considerable pedagogical potential.
The use of subtitles in a passive and in an active way, where students have to create their
own subtitles, is not really spread yet, as Letorla points out (2012). However, there are
successful projects that prove its effectiveness. An example of this is LeViS (Socrates)
funded by the European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme (Letorla, 2012). The
study presented in this paper is going to propose a teaching unit whose main focus will be
the creation of interlingual subtitles, taking into consideration Letorla’s (2012:63)
assumptions that “it has been suggested that human beings are able to remember 10% of
what they heard, 20% of what they visually perceive, and 80% of what they visually
perceive and interact with”.
Finally, it is also important to highlight some of the advantages that Sokoli (2006) proposed
for the use of subtitled audiovisual material in class. According to her, this material
provides the student with three different learning methods (spoken language, printed text
and visual information). It also helps both beginners and experienced learners to acquire
general contents and vocabulary, and it could tear down the existing barrier between
passive skills.
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Buil-Beltrán, P.
4.1. A Teaching Unit for further implementation
As has been previously mentioned, this paper is going to provide a teaching unit based on
TBL for further implementation on a university class of ESP. In order to do so, a clip has
been chosen to achieve the goal of improving the passive skills of the target students. Thus,
a justification of its selection is going to be provided and then there will be a brief
description of some activities that will be introduced during the class, dividing them in pre-
viewing activities, viewing activities and post-viewing activities.
The selected class will be, as it is previously mentioned, a group of ESP students in the
University of Zaragoza. Thus, the experimental group during this study will attend a class
called “Inglés Específico I”. This is an elective course offered at the degrees of engineering
and architecture in order to improve the students’ English skills. This course is divided in
several modules, has one-year duration, and is rewarded with 4 ECTS credits. In order to
course this subject, the students are required to have a B1 level, in accordance to the
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001), and
the aim is to end up the course with a B2 level. This course has a professional and academic
focus on the study and practice of the English language, aimed at the technical field. It is
also important to highlight, that having a good level of common English might be useful,
but the importance of the course deals with the domain of English as a technical language.
Hence, the corpus selection has been made according to some factors, although the
conclusive one has been the students for which the activities will be created for. The clip is
called “Don’t build your home, grow it” (Joachim, 2010). As the teaching unit is oriented to
architecture students, the clip presents an architectural proposal that can be of interest for
the selected students. At the same time, it is a short clip, with a length of 2 minutes and 50
seconds, which does not need to be cut for its use in class and may be suitable for a class
with a maximum capacity of 30 students. Besides, the website that the video has been
taken from (TED talks) offers the possibility of viewing its clips with or without subtitles,
and it also gives the opportunity of downloading not only the clip but also the original
script. Another important factor has been that it is an authentic video, which means that the
speaker uses real language with hesitations and typical spoken language characteristics.
Finally, it is also important to mention some of the linguistic characteristics that the video
has. The speaker uses different grammatical structures, from present simple or progressive
to past forms or conditionals, which makes the dialogue rich and suitable for the selected
level (B1/B2). It also has a copious and very specific vocabulary, which may arouse the
interest of a student who attends an ESP class.
The teaching unit will be divided in three different parts: pre-viewing, viewing and post-
viewing. As Caimi (2013) points out, this type of activities are good in teaching contexts
that made used of subtitling tasks, as it helps students to watch and work with the selected
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Subtitling as a Teaching Tool for English for Specific Purposes’ Students
video being aware of the tasks. Thus, during the pre-viewing activities the students will
become aware of the video they are going to visualize; during the viewing activities they
will have a chance of comprehending the video, reading the script and doing the main task;
and finally, during the post-viewing activities, they will be able to show what they have
learnt and express themselves with a short activity that may help them to develop the active
skill of writing.
Hence, at the beginning of the class, the teacher will give the students just the title of the
video they are going to watch, and s/he will encourage them to do a brainstorming to
activate their previous English knowledge and discuss what the video may be about. After
the brainstorming, the teacher will give them a short question/answer test about what they
think the video could be about, helping them to have a better idea of what they are going to
watch and activating their comprehension skills.
The second part of the class, or the viewing part, will start after the test. First, the teacher
will play the video with audio but without image. During this process, the students will
have the original script, with blank spaces to fill out while listening to the audio. During
this part, the listening comprehension skill will be activated. Finally, the main task will be
introduced. Now that the students have their original script complete, the teacher will play
the video a second time; however, this time will be with both, audio and image on. In this
part of the class, they will have to translate the video to their mother tongue, working with
listening and reading skills.
The post-viewing part will consist of the final subtitling of the video, with their transcript
the students will have to adjust the dialogues to the screen using the program Aegisub and
taking care of the formal aspects of subtitling. To finish, the teacher will give them a
question that they will have to answer according to their opinions: Do you think that the
introduction of new materials in architecture will benefit architecture progress? Justify your
answer.
These activities may help them to develop the four different commonly known skills,
starting by a brief speaking debate while doing the brainstorming and ending up with a
short composition of what they have learnt. However, the two most important aspects that
the students will work with will be listening, as they have to complete the script by
themselves, trying to understand every gist of the video, and reading, as they will have to
read carefully and understand the text if they want to do a good translation.
5. Conclusion
The aim of this paper was to take a deeper look on TBL theory, in order to apply them to a
further study on the use of subtitles as an active tool in a classroom of ESP. This paper
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Buil-Beltrán, P.
forms part of a wider study on the improvement of passive skills, listening and reading, in a
class of ESP, which will be applied next year at the University of Zaragoza. One of the
aims of this paper was to prove how previous theories can be adjusted and adapted to the
new improvement in technology that has been made in the past few years. I firmly believe
that the use of new tools inside the classroom can foster students learning and interest for
English language.
Hereof, this paper has given a brief summary of the former theory, trying to apply it to the
students that the study will be oriented to. It has shown that it may be useful for further
researches on the field of the use of video and subtitles inside the classroom. It has also
taken a look on the definition and main characteristics of ESP students, presenting a
homogeneous group that will be used in order to prove the main theory of this study.
Finally, it has introduced a teaching unit that will function as a guide for further study and
implementation.
In the future, the perspectives are good. Every year more researchers are investigating on
the use of subtitles inside the class. At this respect, this paper’s aim is to be implemented,
together with some other teaching units, in a class of ESP students in the University of
Zaragoza. Once the study has been applied, conclusions can be draft on how effective this
new methodology could be in order to improve, primarily, the students’ passive skills. This
will help ESP students to develop a better comprehension of documents and oral English,
which may help them to develop their future careers.
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Chapter
What should foreign language teachers do to help their students improve their linguistic skills? Many are the ways how teachers can support their students´ learning process. There are a variety of methods, strategies, techniques, as well as materials and resources we can rely on in order for our students to succeed in the development of their skills. Teachers can get ideas on what to do from published research, presentations at academic events, informal conversations with colleagues, online resources, and their own language learning experience. It is just a matter trying these ideas out and evaluate the extent to which they favor the enhancement of students´ linguistic competences in the target language. In line with these ideas, this book is intended to inform pre-service and in-service EFL teachers about the result of investigations conducted by English as foreign language teachers. The book is composed of five chapters which demonstrate how these teachers have taken a step further by taking the role of teacher-researchers to understand and boost their students´ performance.
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter reports on a study conducted at the university level where students majoring in Hospitality and Tourism participated as principal users of videos to develop vocabulary of their field. The study aimed to find out the opinions of students about the use of English subtitled videos or movies to develop tourism vocabulary and to explore the benefits of using English subtitled videos in a context where there is no practice of the target language outside the classroom.
Chapter
Full-text available
This paper reports on a quasi-experimental study carried out at the National University of Ireland to investigate the development of subtitlingin the foreign-language class. The study uses both qualitative and quantitative methods and focuses on the effects of the subtitling task onincidental vocabulary acquisition. The sixteen students (Level A2 of CEFR) of Italian as a foreign language were assigned either subtitling practice (Experimental Group) or oral comprehension tasks and writingtasks (Control Group). Both groups worked for a total of four hours (1hour per week). All participants sat a pre-test to ensure the target wordswere unknown; immediate and delayed post-tests were administered after the experiment. The results are presented and discussed.
Article
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Tout bien considéré, on ne peut que s'étonner de la disproportion entre l'importance évidente du phénomène de la traduction dans les mass-media audio-visuels (importance qui peut être définie en termes à la fois quantitatifs et qualitatifs) d'une part, et l'attention minimale que la science de la traduction y a accordée d'autre part. Bien qu'il y ait bon nombre de publications à ce sujet, la majorité d'entre elles sont d'orientation purement technique; en outre, leur teneur est souvent préscriptive plutôt que descriptive. En passant, cet article traite des causes de cette disproportion remarquable, mais avant tout nous avons l'intention d'indiquer de quelle façon la lacune pourrait être comblée. Le modèle que nous proposons est basé sur des schèmes de recherche dont l'utilité a amplement été établie dans le domaine de la traduction littéraire. En suivant Gideon Toury, nous présumons qu'il faut distinguer plusieurs niveaux de relations traductionnelles. Ainsi, la pratique de la traduction dans le domaine du film et de la télévision à l'intérieur d'une situation socioculturelle donnée (niveau de la performance) repose sur des choix faits parmi un ensemble d'alternatives assez vaste (niveau de la compétence); cette sélection est gouvernée par le niveau intermédiaire des normes. Les chercheurs de la traduction audiovisuelle devront se rendre compte de ces distinctions. Parmi leurs tâches les plus immédiates, nous comptons: - l'élaboratio n d'un modèle de compétence, c'est-à-dire, d'une théorie de la traduction audiovisuelle qui soit exempte de toute immixtion normative et qui soit fondée sur des disciplines diverses (sémiotique du film, théorie de la traduction, etc.); notre article essaye de jeter les bases d'une telle théorie; - l'analyse systématique et impartiale de la réalité historique des traductions afin de découvrir les mécanismes normatifs qui ont orienté les stratégies des traducteurs; à ce dessein, nous proposons un inventaire comprenant ces paramètres dont la pertinence nous semble fort probable.
Subtitles and language learning
  • A Caimi
Caimi, A. (2013). Subtitles and language learning. In Y. Gambier, & L. Doorslaer, Handbook of Translation Studies (pp. 167-173). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.