Learning English speaking skills involves more than just memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules; it requires understanding and using idiomatic expressions that are a fundamental part of everyday communication. Idioms, phrases whose meanings aren’t deducible from their literal definitions, add color and nuance to language. Movies, rich in dialogue and cultural context, provide an excellent resource for learning and practicing these idioms.

This article explores how using movie idioms can enhance English speaking skills, offering practical tips and strategies for both educators and learners.


Movie Idioms and Speaking Skills
Learn English Speaking Skills and Idioms with Movies | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio


The Importance of Idioms in Speaking English

Idioms play a critical role in achieving fluency and sounding natural in English. Here are some reasons why mastering idioms is essential:

  1. Cultural Insight: Idioms often reflect cultural values, traditions, and historical contexts, providing deeper cultural understanding.
  2. Natural Communication: Native speakers use idioms frequently, so understanding them is crucial for effective, natural communication.
  3. Expressiveness: Idioms add expressiveness to speech, making conversations more engaging and relatable.

Why Use Movies to Teach Idioms?

Movies are a rich resource for teaching idioms because they present language in a natural, dynamic, and engaging context. Here’s why movies are particularly effective for this purpose:

  1. Contextual Learning: Movies provide a visual and contextual backdrop that helps learners understand the meaning and usage of idioms.
  2. Engagement: The narrative and emotional engagement of movies capture learners’ attention, making the learning experience enjoyable and memorable.
  3. Variety of Expressions: Movies expose learners to a wide range of idiomatic expressions used in different contexts, accents, and tones.

Strategies for Teaching Speaking Skills with Movie Idioms

Selecting the Right Movies

  1. Appropriate Genre: Choose movies rich in dialogue and cultural references. Comedies, dramas, and family films often contain a plethora of idioms.
  2. Language Level: Ensure the movies are suitable for the learners’ proficiency levels. The language should be neither too simplistic nor overly complex.
  3. Subtitles: Opt for movies with subtitles to help learners match spoken language with written text, reinforcing their comprehension.

Pre-Viewing Activities

  1. Introducing Idioms: Before watching the movie, introduce learners to a list of idioms they will encounter. Provide definitions and examples to help them understand the meanings.
  2. Prediction Exercises: Have learners predict the meanings of the idioms based on their context within the movie’s synopsis or trailer.
  3. Discussion: Engage learners in discussions about the idioms, encouraging them to use them in sentences or relate them to their own experiences.

While-Viewing Activities

  1. Active Listening: Encourage learners to listen actively for idioms during the movie. Provide a worksheet for them to note down the idioms and their contexts.
  2. Pause and Discuss: Pause the movie at key moments where idioms are used to discuss their meanings and significance. This helps reinforce comprehension.
  3. Subtitle Matching: Have learners match the spoken idioms with their written forms in the subtitles, enhancing both their listening and reading skills.

Post-Viewing Activities

  1. Role-Playing: Engage learners in role-playing activities where they use the idioms in new sentences or dialogues. This helps them practice speaking and using idioms in context.
  2. Idiomatic Conversations: Create conversation prompts that require learners to use the idioms in a dialogue. This could be in the form of a debate, an interview, or a casual conversation.
  3. Creative Writing and Speaking: Encourage learners to write and perform a short skit or story using the idioms they have learned. This reinforces their understanding and ability to use idioms creatively.

Example Lesson Plan: Teaching Idioms with “Forrest Gump”

Movie Selection: “Forrest Gump”

“Forrest Gump” is an excellent choice due to its rich dialogue, historical context, and numerous idiomatic expressions. The movie offers a wealth of opportunities to explore idioms in a meaningful way.

Pre-Viewing Activities

  1. Introduction to Idioms: Present a list of idioms from the movie such as “life is like a box of chocolates,” “run like the wind,” and “kick the bucket.”
  2. Prediction Exercise: Ask learners to guess the meanings of these idioms and discuss their predictions in small groups.
  3. Background Discussion: Provide a brief overview of the movie’s plot and discuss its themes, setting the stage for learners to understand the context in which the idioms are used.

While-Viewing Activities

  1. Listening for Idioms: Instruct learners to listen for the idioms during the movie and write down the scenes where they are used.
  2. Pause and Reflect: Pause the movie after each idiom is used to discuss its meaning and significance. Ask learners how the idiom relates to the characters’ situations.
  3. Subtitle Matching: Use subtitles to help learners see the written form of the idioms, reinforcing their listening and reading skills.

Post-Viewing Activities

  1. Role-Playing: Have learners reenact scenes from the movie using the idioms they have learned. This helps them practice speaking and using idioms in context.
  2. Idiomatic Conversations: Create conversation prompts related to the movie’s themes that require learners to use the idioms. For example, “Discuss a time when life was unpredictable, using ‘life is like a box of chocolates.'”
  3. Creative Writing and Performance: Assign a task where learners write a short diary entry from the perspective of Forrest, using at least five idioms from the movie. Then, have them perform their entries in front of the class.

Tips for Effective Implementation

  1. Encourage Regular Practice: Integrate idiomatic expressions into daily classroom activities. The more frequently learners encounter and use idioms, the more comfortable they will become.
  2. Use Real-Life Scenarios: Relate idioms to real-life situations to make their meanings more tangible and relevant to learners’ lives.
  3. Provide Feedback: Offer constructive feedback on learners’ use of idioms, focusing on both accuracy and naturalness. Encourage peer feedback to foster collaborative learning.
  4. Be Patient and Supportive: Learning idioms can be challenging. Provide plenty of support and encouragement, and celebrate learners’ successes.

Conclusion: Unlocking the Power of Idioms with Movies

Movies offer a dynamic and engaging way to teach English speaking skills through idioms. They provide authentic contexts in which idiomatic expressions are used naturally, making it easier for learners to grasp their meanings and usage. By carefully selecting movies, designing structured activities, and encouraging interactive discussions, educators can create a rich learning environment that enhances language acquisition and cultural understanding.

Integrating movie idioms into teaching strategies not only improves speaking skills but also boosts learners’ confidence and fluency, helping them navigate the complexities of English with greater ease.

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Movie Idioms Blog

Read more about idioms and movies on the blog.