A Toolbox for all Language Educators
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Using Subtitles to Improve Pronunciation

To keep the spirits up and maintain engagement during this week, I created this non-graded activity just to work at home on pronunciation. I designed it for beginner students, but it could easily be adapted to more advanced levels. This activity allowed me to combine two of my favorite tools: music and subtitles.

I posted some information about the song and the activity on Blackboard:

I listened to this song on the radio this week and I would like to propose a pronunciation activity while we don’t have class. My choice of this song derives from the fact that modern singers speak faster and they’re more difficult to “shadow”.

Shadowing is a very useful technique to improve pronunciation in any language. It can be used as you repeat softly the French lyrics (les paroles) of a song, or the French subtitles of a movie, as you listen. It can also be done without subtitles.

J’ai écouté hier cette chanson à la radio. J’aime cette chanson pour notre cours parce que le chanteur prononce bien et qu’il ne parle pas trop vite (not too fast). C’est facile à chanter.

Listen as you read and repeat. Since the slides change slowly, it leaves you the time to pronounce each word. You already know some words (pour, avec toi, jour…), and you can infer the meaning of some of the other words (flirt, quitter (to quit)). Remember that we are not focusing on the meaning, and yes, on a cultural note, we are here before the myth of the “French lover” that we can see in other songs of the 70’s.

Instructions for this activity

  • To understand the meaning, first watch and read the subtitles of Pour un flirt avec toi (Michel Delpech) in English using this video:
  • Once you understand the meaning, use this second video without translation to read and repeat the lyrics one or two times.Chanson avec sous-titres en français:

    Once students are used to the activity, I might use the song “Sur la route” (On the road) sang by Raphael and Jean-Louis Aubert, for beginners, or towards the end of a 101 course. I will remind the students that the goal is to just “shadow” the singer.

    The subtitles are interesting too because they allow to work on cognates (destin, train, liberté, solitude, Amérique, ressemble… ) and on expressions. In these lyrics, there is a mistake (“mauvais terre”). In some cases the subtitles of songs can be used to explain different language registers and to do an activity transforming oral expressions into formal French.

    As an additional activity, you can ask students to suggest songs. And, of course, the cultural component could also be expanded in many ways.

     

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