This video is a cross-cultural collaborative learning project, presented on end of the year party for the students and faculty of Russian program at Boston University.
At some point all language instructors realize that the lack of opportunities for students to engage in cognitively challenging meaningful language use may hinder second language acquisition.
A film project seems to be a low anxiety task that build on the synergies of content, communication, cognition and culture (the four dimensions of the effective pedagogical approach, cf. Coyle, D. (2008).
Here is a brief excerpt from the project presentation offered by a student: “The third year Russian class decided that making a short satirical film would be the most fitting for our creative project due to all the soviet films we have watched this semester. We would like to give you guys some context about our “adaptation.” The primary influence for our film project “Плохой переводчик” comes from the Soviet film “Осенний Марафон,” a comedy, which follows the life of a translator, who overburdens himself with responsibility. Throughout the film you watch his life slowly and painfully disintegrate until a crescendo. The protagonist for our film is an American professor who is interviewed for a Job at a Russian University. The plot revolves around hilarious mistakes made by a translator. Mistakes are a crucial part of language learning and nothing to feel bad about. Hilarious mistakes are really not that big a deal when you make them with your friends. But there are mistakes that may seem silly or trivial, but can add up to serious consequences.”
The objectives for the project are the following: enhance learning environment; provide the opportunity for meaningful focused communication, and cognitive growth through social interaction. To be effective the project must challenge learners to construct their own knowledge and develop language skills in three modes of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational).
The benefits that were articulated by the students are predominantly social and psychological, among them: focus on cross-cultural knowledge, sensitivity and awareness of self and understanding of “others;” insights into other ways of seeing world and learning the spirit of cross-cultural courtesy despite occasional language confusion; opportunity to have our voices heard; building self-esteem; having hands on experience; responsibility for completion of tasks.
Analysis of students’ work confirmed that the project improved recall of content in context, and critical thinking strategies such as selecting, synthesizing and analyzing. The advantage the instructor appears to have is to provide explicit helpful feedback without being intrusive. Instructor’s role in this project was not direct teacher supervision, but facilitating the project by creating sheets for film storyboards, grading rubrics, evaluation criteria, and monitoring group interaction.