The Use Of Videos As Tools For Training English Skills - Part 1
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The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills

Video lessons can help students learn complex concepts across a wide range of academic disciplines. However, there is a huge difference between learning an academic discipline and learning English; the first is information to be remembered, the second is a skill to be trained. Paul Maglione in his remarkable article writes: "Training English skills is a game-changing approach".

One million subscribers to the English Attack website prove the validity of integrating video into the best practices of learning English, particularly for the current "digital native" generation of English language learners for whom video is a part of their everyday reality. Paul writes "Training is helping to acquire a particular (practical-oriented) skill or type of behavior through sustained practice and instruction". This brief definition of training is open to misinterpretation; for example, Paul mistakenly thinks that video clips assigned to students for completion outside of the classroom on their own internet-connected devices belong to training.

Teaching is a conscious process of delivering information, in which learners are supposed to memorize it for subsequent use. Training is a subconscious process of acquiring communication skills or ability to use English with the minimal conscious effort. Below, I demonstrate that all drills to video clips of English Attack require conscious memorization or analysis or remembering information, and therefore could not be classified as a tool for training. I will consider as an example one video from the English Attack: The Legend of Tarzan.

Drill 1 - Vocab QuickView

It provides translations of the main words from the video into the learner’s native language. It is an unrealistic expectation for a Russian learner (in this example Russian is selected as the learner's native language) to remember the word defaulting based on 5 translations of this word into 5 different Russian phrases – "(verb) не выполнить своих обязательств, прекратить платежи, вынести заочное решение, не явиться по вызову суда, выходить из состязания". Drill 1 is pure memorization and belongs to learning and not to training!

Drill 2 - Watching A Video

Watching a video is a passive operation, and it is hard to pay full attention to the words used in the video, mainly because learners continue thinking in their native language and their brains do not have tools for automatic translation of words in the video. Our minds simply can’t divide our attention between all the different elements competing for it. In the competition for attention, visuals and feelings always win. Remember how you retell a movie that you saw a few weeks ago? You replay it in your mind using your own visual images and feelings created when watching the movie, but you can’t repeat words or phrases used in the movie.

So, while the video can deliver the shape and feeling of a story powerfully, there is a little chance that you would acquire new words or expressions from the video—not in a way that would allow you to use them automatically later. Therefore, watching video lessons should be modified to be considered as a tool for training English skills.

Drill 3 - Comprehension

This drill requires conscious memorization and analysis of the video script to be able to answer the comprehension question. It is hard for most English learners because they continue to think in the native language; they can remember the images from the video but not the words. This drill should be modified to be considered as a tool for training English skills.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills - Comprehension

Drill 4 - Listening Lab

Similar to drill 3, this drill checks conscious memorization of the video script and asks for the analysis of similar-sounding words; therefore, it should be modified to be considered as a tool for training English skills.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills - Listening Lab

Drill 5 - Advanced Comprehension

As with all previous drills, this drill checks conscious memorization of the video script; the learner is expected to remember the script and analyze what is Tarzan not known as? It should be modified to be considered as a tool for training English skills.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills - Advanced Comprehension

Drill 6 - Vocab Academy

The learner needs to use the keywords and expressions to fill in blanks and complete the paragraph. It is a typical example of conscious learning and should be modified to be considered as a tool for training English skills.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills - Vocab Academy

Drill 7 - Grammar

Formal grammar, explained here in regard to the conjunction because, is an abstraction, a theoretical explanation of the function of words. Trying to memorize the rules of grammar is a distraction from training English skills. There is another reason why learning formal grammar is a waste of time. Millions of language learners in China, Korea, and other countries, with a flawless knowledge of formal grammar and high scores in various certification programs, can read and write in English but very seldom can speak English fluently.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills - Grammar

During actual training, which I will describe in details in the next article “The Future of Video for Training English”, the learner’s brain subconsciously acquires intuitive grammar while using the language, not while learning the language. Intuitive grammar acts instantaneously and does not require the learner to remember and apply rules. The more you experience the language, the better your brain understands the rules of intuitive grammar, and the better you are able to speak in that language.

Drill 8 - Swap Mania

Complete words and phrases in this addictive letter-swapping game to practice the key expressions in the video. Solving crossword puzzles is like mental yoga; with patience and practice, anyone can learn to solve crosswords. Is there any correlation between solving crosswords and ability to speak fluently? No, those are 2 different skills. Besides, usually, crosswords are played in the native language. Most learners continue to think in their native language; for them playing crosswords in English is awkward and stressful.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills -Swap Mania

Drill 9 - Word Rescue

This drill is similar to drill 8; by reading the definition, the learner is expected to remember the word from the video script and type it in the blanks. This drill looks like training; however, it does not meet the main requirement of training – subconscious activity – because it uses conscious memorization and analysis.

The Present Of Videos For Training English Skills - World Rescue

Language Acquisition

Training as a better alternative to teaching appeared not from nowhere. A forerunner of training, acquisition, was introduced by Stephen Krashen in 1982. Dr. Krashen described the acquisition method as follows:

"Language acquisition is a subconscious process; language acquirers are not usually aware of the fact that they are acquiring language, but are only aware of the fact that they are using the language for communication. The result of language acquisition, acquired competence, is also subconscious. We are generally not consciously aware of the rules of the languages we have acquired. Instead, we have a "feel" for correctness. Grammatical sentences "sound" right, or "feel" right and errors feel wrong, even if we do not consciously know what rule was violated".

New learning habits of digital learners, the technological and pedagogical advancements in the last decades call for a new definition of training, more specifically, training of English skills.

I propose the following definition. Training of English skills is a subconscious process, in which all English skills – understanding, reading, listening, speaking, pronunciation, and intuitive grammar are trained concurrently. The act of speaking combined with reading the text and listening to the recording develops in the learner’s brain the language patterns and intuitive grammar which the learner after multiple repetitions and training drills uses without much effort, i.e. subconsciously.

The best training results are obtained when the same mobile application is used for self-training of English skills and for guided training in the classroom or online courses. The details of such mobile application are described in this article.

The next article, "The Future of Videos for Training English", will describe how to modify conventional video lessons to meet all the requirements of the proposed definition of training of English skills.