Sunday, August 2, 2009

Learning by Viewing: Cartoons as Foreign Language Learning Material for Children

Learning by Viewing: Cartoons as Foreign Language Learning Material for Children--A Case Study

"Presents a case study of a six-year-old Finnish girl who learned a foreign language by watching English language cartoons on video, without formal teaching or contact with native speakers. Topics addressed include television versus video; sentence structure; rate of speech; repetition; and learning by viewing versus naturalistic language learning."

It turns out that she was...

"able to use English creatively, and that her skills in the areas of speaking and understanding spoken English were outstanding. She seemed to have been able to acquire the English grammar and an almost native-like pronunciation of ... English, mastering many sounds that are often problematic for Finnish learners of English.

The results of the Bilingual Syntax Measure (BSM) indicated clearly that she could be placed in the fifth, ie the highest level of proficiency, ..."


Jylha-Laide (1994) described a case in which a young girl from Finland learned English by repeatedly watching cartoons. Jylha-Laide (1994) said that certain aspects of cartoons may make them easier to learn language from:

(1) the cartoons contain features that effectively capture the viewer-learner’s attention,

(2) they present a strong picture-word interconnection, which corresponds with the ‘here and now’ principle of ‘modified’ registers,

(3) the dialogue of the cartoons is characterised [sic] by sentences that are simple and complete,

(4) the dialogue contains very few disfluencies,

(5) repetition is used frequently, and

(6) the rate of speech is relatively low in some cartoons. (n.p.)

The author asserted that “Laura’s case proves that even a beginning language learner may benefit from viewing ‘ordinary’ television programmes...

D’Ydewalle and Van de Poel (1999) also looked at language learning from video.
In their study of children’s abilities to learn foreign language incidentally from media programs, d’Ydewalle and Van de Poel (1999) found “real but limited foreign-language acquisition by children watching a subtitled movie” (p. 242). The researchers performed an experiment in which Dutch-speaking children from age 8 to 12 watched a film with either a foreign language written in the subtitles with a native soundtrack, or the reverse.

Those who heard the foreign language in the soundtrack acquired more of that new
language. This is an area with limited research.

Speaking of Maya & Miguel: The production and representation of Spanish language in an animated series for children

Elements of Effective Educational TV

Television’s impact on viewers has been of concern since the flickering blue box began its insidious trickle into every room in our homes. For some, the seemingly passive way in which viewers interacted with the medium led to conclusions that television was a threat to intellectual development (Postman, 1982; Winn, 1985). To others, the concern was that viewing was replacing more cerebral pursuits (Dorr, 1986). And the subject matter, often violent or persuasive, was anticipated to be negatively impacting the social development of children (John, 1999; Kunkel, 2001; Smith, Wilson, Kunkel, Linz, Potter, Colvin et al., 1998)...

Today, there is a large body of research which suggests that those who believe all forms of programming are dangerous, numbing our minds and wasting our time (Mander, 1978; Postman, 1982), may be failing to distinguish between a multitude of variables that alter the relationship between medium and viewer. The most important of which may be content...

In fact, it may be that TV viewing is curvilinearly correlated to academic achievement for low SES students, with the positive impact turning negative at approximately 4 hours of viewing per day.

Unfortunately, the results of most of these studies appear to be confounded by variables not assessed (Hornik, 1981): socioeconomic status (SES), IQ, parental control, individual motivation, all must be considered in order to clearly indicate an effect (p. 196)1.

Although much of the early research investigating television’s potential impact on children demonstrated that heavy viewing led to a hindrance in language development more recent research appears to indicate the more likely relationship lies with the quality of content viewed rather than simply with the time spent in front of the set.

By recognizing the characteristics of a child’s cognitive processing we can better understand how that child might comprehend and learn from media. Children in what Piaget referred to as the Pre-operational stage (approximately between the ages of 2 and 7) learn very differently than older children. They use symbols to represent objects and if these objects are moving the pre-operational child believes them to be alive and have human consciousness. At this age children have difficulty conceptualizing time. They are influenced by fantasy and assume that everyone sees the world from their point of view. They are linear thinkers and so the temporal order of a television program’s storyline is very important as young children may be unable to fill in the blanks or relate to flashbacks. The pre-operational child needs to follow a task right to completion and, because they have low retention, often enjoys seeing things and hearing stories over and over again simply because they cannot remember having seen it in the past. As the repetitions occur the child is beginning to recognize elements she has seen before, she is developing mastery, and mastery makes the story just that much more fun.

Animate inanimate objects
Fantasy is fun
Keep the story in a logical order (no flashback)
Ensure the story comes to its logical conclusion
Repetition leads to mastery

Children who are learning to read must first come to understand the association between letters and words. Similarly, before children can be efficient at comprehending the messages of television they must first come to understand some rules about the forms it takes (Huston & Wright, 1983). These “forms” or “formal features” of television are invisible to most experienced viewers; they include the editing techniques of both the picture and the sound; camera moves (tilts, pans, and zooms); the musical score and pacing of the show. These features provide meaning to the experience of watching (Calvert, Huston, Watkins, & Wright, 1982, Campbell, Wright, & Huston, 1987). They are the means by which information is conveyed, and therefore affect how that information is processed (Neuman, 1995). They denote content to which attention should be paid. It is the manner in which these features are utilized that enables children to make sense of what they are watching. As they become experienced at using and understanding television’s format, children are then capable of a deeper processing of the televised information (Neuman, 1995; Salomon, 1979)...

Others investigated auditory monitoring of the television along with visual attention (Rolandelli et al., 1991) and determined that children may still be listening to the show even when not looking directly at the TV. In their research, Lorch and Castle (1997) maintained that children’s engagement with the content increased as the length of their looks at the television screen increased. The longer they look the more they’re engaged. The more they’re engaged the more chance of teaching them something!

For most pre-schoolers the cue that material is likely to be interesting and comprehensible to them often comes in the form of 4:

The voice of a child
The voice of a woman
The voice of one of the program’s characters
Lively music
Wacky sound effects

Jylha-Laide (1994) suggests this learning while viewing might be due to body language. Just as a teacher in a classroom makes actions to support instruction, so often do the characters on TV. It is this implicit information, the linking of words and actions, which may make language learning particularly synergistic to the medium of television...

Rice and Woodsmall (1988) found that repetitions are critical in children’s ability to learn words from television. When children see something they already know or understand, they approach the repeated exposure to it with less discomfort. In her research on closed-captioning, Linebarger (2001) found exact repetition of words on screen lead to increased word recognition. Anderson and his colleagues (2000) found that repeated exposure to a program allowed for viewer’s increased comprehension. However, they also determined that a substantial amount of the content has been learned after viewing the episode just one time.

Repetition also is a key element in enabling a child to transfer learning from one situation to another. Fisch (2001) suggests that presenting the same educational material in several different forms and in different contexts throughout the length of a television program might help children transfer what they have learned to new but similar situations (see alsoSalomon & Perkins, 1989). Anderson et al. (2000) found that multiple viewing of the same episode of Blue’s Clues significantly increased transfer. Children in their study who watched an episode five times were more likely to use the strategies they observed during the Blue’s Clues episode when they were presented with new problems than were children who had not seen the episode multiple times.



pbsl said...

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Sarah Hall said...

Your resource is definitely useful, thank you so much for sharing! Watching a cartoon in foreign language is undoubtedly great learning material for the little ones! If you're interested in this topic, just go to! That is the article you deserve!