Using Subtitles to Improve Pronunciation

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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.

This is what I posted on Blackboard:

Pour un flirt avec toi (Michel Delpech) 

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. Modern singers speak faster and they’re more difficult to “shadow”.

Shadowing is a technique that is very useful when you want to improve your pronunciation in a 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.

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.

These are the instructions for this activity:

Step1 : To understand the meaning, first watch and read the subtitles using this video.

Step 2 : 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 would suggest 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. Remind the students that the goal is to just “shadow” the singer.

The subtitles allow to work on cognates (destin, train, liberté, solitude, Amérique, ressemble… ) and on expressions. In these lyrics, there is a mistake (“mauvais terre”) and oral expressions that can easily be corrected by the students.

As an additional activity, you can ask students to suggest songs they like and might be suited for the class. And, of course, the cultural component could also be expanded in many ways.