An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using

Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
Vol. 2, No. 4; December 2014, pp. 26- 35
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching
English Language Idioms
Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki, English Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages
and Literatures, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran. Email: [email protected]
Article history :
Received 20, November, 2014
Accepted 19, December , 2014
Published 30 December, xx, 2014
Because idioms are ubiquitous in the authentic language to which learners are exposed, learners of a second or
foreign language need to possess a good command of idioms and proficiency in idiom use to be able to comprehend
and produce language effectively. A considerable body of research has sought ways to optimize learning and
teaching of idioms. The present study aimed at investigating the effect of using movie clips containing idioms, as
one method of teaching, on the quality of 60 intermediate EFL pupils’ idiom learning. Oxford Placement Test (OPT)
was implemented to ensure homogeneity of learners in proficiency. All the groups were given two standard idiom
multiple-choice tests, one as the pre-test and the other one as the post-test. In the experimental group, idioms were
taught by displaying movie clips containing the idioms, while the control group followed the traditional class
activities using synonyms and antonyms. The results of both Scheffe Dependent variable Post-test and paired sample
t-test revealed that the participants in the movie clips group had better performance in post-test than in pre-test. This
study has theoretical as well as pedagogical implications in the fields of second/ foreign language teaching and
learning which are discussed.
Keywords: Teaching English Idioms, Multimedia Learning, Technology and
1. Introduction
All languages have phrases or sentences
that cannot be understood literally; even if you know
the meaning of all the words in a phrase and
understand the grammar completely, the meaning of
such phrases may be still confusing or misleading
(Liontas, 2006).Idioms exist in all languages and
they constitute an integral part of the linguistic
system of individuals. The use of idioms is so
widespread that their understanding is essential to
successful communication (Cooper, 1999). A
considerable body of research affirms that a strong
knowledge of idioms will help language learners to
be better speakers and negotiators and they will be
in a better position to use their knowledge in
appropriate contexts (e.g., Alexander, 1987; Cooper,
1998; Fernando, 1996; Fotovatnia & Khaki, 2012;
Gibbs, 1992; Liontas, 2006). Learning idioms has
always been a major problem for foreign language
Language Learning
learners. Any foreign language learner should know
that idioms are essential and their misunderstanding
leads to a feeling of insecurity (Dixon, 1994).
The assimilation of idiom instruction
strategies into the lesson plans of language teachers
seems to be indispensable ;however, the process
might be challenging or ineffective for some
learners or teachers because it does not serve to the
attainment of final educational objectives (Wu,
2003). Hence, the type of activities and how they are
reflected in the classroom are found as the most
important aspects that decide the success of using
idioms within and outside the classroom (Guo,
2007). The answer of whether knowing only the
literal meaning of the idioms will enable language
learners to extend that literal meaning to figurative
sense in general reading is yet to be known.
English movies can be assistive for
effective EFL/ESL idiom instruction because they
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
embody the notion that a story wants to be told rather
than a lesson needs to be taught. Plus, they are such
valuable and rich resources for teaching because
they present colloquial English in real life contexts
rather than an artificial situation providing an
opportunity for exposure to different native speaker
voices, slangs, reduced speeches, stress, accents, and
dialects, (Stempleski, 2000).
Movie clips and films offer endless
opportunities of sound activities for development of
fluency. The key to using films and movies
effectively mainly lies in the teacher's ability to
prepare students to receive the films` message. Some
reasons for the use of movies in language instruction
are (Ainworth, 2008; Hoffler & Leutner 2007;
Schnotz & Rasch, 2005):
 Movies are motivating and they help ease
the cognitive load whereby learners can
form mental images of the presented
materials more comfortably
 They enable learners to perform parallel
cognitive processing by providing
additional information that cannot be
displayed through static pictures.
 They help learners build a dynamic mental
representation by providing through
external support for simulating the
behavior of the system depicted.
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
Cognitive theory of multimedia learning
(CTML) decides the theoretical framework for the
present study. Mayer’s CTML states that:
"words and pictures presented to the learner
via a multimedia presentation are
processed along two separate, nonconflicting channels: they enter the sensory
memory through the ears and eyes; words
and images are actively selected by the
learner from the sensory memory and enter
the working memory where they are
organized into a verbal model and a
pictorial model; each channel can process
only a few ‘chunks’ of information at a
given time in working memory; the two
models are then integrated with prior
knowledge retrieved from long-term
memory; this integration occurs within the
segmented portion of instruction offered to
the learner in the multimedia presentation"
(Mayer, 2001, p. 27).
Figure 1. Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, 2008)
Iranian students and pupils from many
other developing countries who study English as a
foreign language do not have sufficient exposure to
authentic materials in their schools to become
proficient enough to use idioms fluently (Sadeghilar,
Very few studies have been conducted to
investigate the direct effectiveness of using films
and movie clips on idiom learning in English
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
language classrooms (Ghaderi & Afshinfar, 2014;
Khoshniat & Dowlatabadi, 2014; Sadeghilar, 1993).
The main concern of this study is to investigate the
immediate effect of using English movies on idiom
learning of a group of intermediate EFL learners.
Therefore, the answer to the following research
question will lead the study:
To what extent watching English movie clips does
facilitate idiom learning among EFL Learners?
Serving this purpose, the effect of applying movie
clips was examined on the experimental groups
2. Methodology
inappropriateness of distracters. The rest had twenty
points and the time allotted based on the pilot test
was determined to be thirty minutes. Eventually, the
researcher came up with 20 items, which were used
as the pre-and post-tests. The control group received
no special treatment, but the conventional method of
teaching the idioms using synonyms and antonyms.
The experimental group was exposed to the idioms
through watching movie clips containing the idioms.
Before teaching the new idioms, the previous idioms
were reviewed. The whole project of teaching took
one and a half months. The students, tasks were to
go over the idioms and make themselves ready for
the test at the end of the term. In group A
(experimental group), the same idioms were taught
by showing movie clips containing the idioms.
However, in group B (control group) idioms were
taught only by teaching synonyms and antonyms of
the new words in idioms. To exemplify, two ways of
teaching the idiom "between the devil and the deep
blue sea" are as follow:
2.1. Participants
The participants were 60 intermediate level
EFL students in a foreign language academy in
Kerman, Iran who were subject to random selection.
Participants filled out consent forms prior to
participation in the study. They were all males aged
16 to 20. To homogenize participants with regard to
language proficiency, Oxford Placement Test (OPT)
was used.
2.2. Procedure
In order to make sure about the
homogeneity of the participants in the control and
experimental group and screen the subjects in terms
of their English language proficiency, the OPT
(Allan, 2004) was administered. The test booklet
consists of 200 items including 100 listening items
and 100 grammar items. The participants were asked
to take the test in sixty minutes. The listening section
lasted for about ten minutes and the grammar section
took a maximum of fifty minutes. Following the
matched-pair technique and rating scales of the OPT
level chart, the participants were assigned to two
groups: experimental and control. Each group
included 30 students. Afterwards, 20 similar
students at the same level were chosen for the pilotstudy.
The researcher (see the appendix)
developed a diagnostic achievement test for the
initial and final evaluation. It included 20 idiom
multiple-choice items. It was designed in advance
through a pilot study. Based on the performance of
the participants, the characteristics of the individual
items were determined and some items were revised.
The researcher then used KR-21 formula for
estimating the test reliability. To determine the
validity of the test, the researcher asked experts and
teachers to pass their comments on the content of the
test. Consequently, some items were deleted and
some were modified based on lexical selection,
Group A: For this group at first the idioms
were taught by using the movie clips. The students
were shown a movie clip that contained the idiom
'between the devil and the dark blue sea'. The
students watched the clip two or three times in a
language lab in order to get the meaning. Then, the
researcher asked the students to write the text on a
piece of paper. At the end, the students were asked
some questions about the conversations in the movie
clip to check their understanding of the idioms.
Group B: In this group, the researcher
taught only the figurative meaning by providing a
synonym for the idiom – to be in a difficult situation
and then he wrote an example on the board. e.g.,:
David had an important final test last week and his
father was terribly sick, in fact he was between the
devil and the dark blue sea. The purpose of giving
this example was to make students familiar with the
way this idiom can be used in different situations.
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
The idioms were chosen based on the
students` level of proficiency, culture, religion,
interest, motivation, and practical feasibility. The
final test, which was the post-test of the study,
consisted of twenty multiple-choice items. For every
item, a situation could be completed by just one
idiom out of the four idioms given in each item. The
pre-test was conducted to gauge participants` idiom
knowledge prior to the study, and the post-test was
used to screen the effectiveness if idiom teaching on
participants, idiom learning. The participants had 20
minutes to answer the items. The time given in this
test was based upon the result of the pilot study.
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
A paired-sample t-test was run due to the
fact that the data were collected from a group of
students on two different occasions. The t-test
assesses whether the means of two groups are
statistically different from each other. This analysis
is appropriate to compare the means of two groups,
and especially appropriate as the analysis for the
post test- only two groups randomized experimental
design. For multiple comparisons between Groups,
Scheffe Dependent variable Post-test was used. 2.4.
The descriptive statistics of the participants`
performance on the pre-test and post-test were
calculated and are presented in table 1
2.3. Data Analysis
Table 1.
Descriptive Statistics of Total Scores on pre-test and post-test for all groups
Pretest Control
Movie clip
Posttest Control
Movie clip
Std Deviation
Std Error
95% Confidence interval for Mean
Lower Bound
Upper Bound
Table. 2 displays the results of pairedsample statistics for the movie clips group in pretest and post-test:
Table 2, Results of Paired Samples Statistics for Movie Clip Group in pre-test and Post-test
Std Deviation
Std Error Mean
As this table shows, the mean score of the
movie clip group has increased from pre-test (14.27)
to post-test (16.33). There is a significant difference
between the two means, so using movie clips
containing the idioms has played an important role
in learning idioms.
Table 3. shows the results of the paired
samples t-test between pre-test and post-test for the
movie clip group.
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
Table 3.
Results of Paired Samples Tests between Pre-test and Post-test for Movie Clip Group
Paired Differences
Std Deviation
Std Error Mean
95% Confidence interval
of the Difference
As table 3 shows, there is significant
difference between participant performance from
pre-test to post-test, t(29) = 10.80, p= .000.
Therefore, from paired samples statistics, it can be
concluded that using movie clips has had positive
effect on L2 learner’s idiom learning.
In the last step, all groups have been
compared with one another by using a post hoc
Scheffe test. This test is a method for
adjusting significance levels in a linear
regression analysis to account for multiple
comparisons. Table 4 represents the results of this
Table 4.
Multiple comparisons between Groups based on Scheffe Dependent variable Post-test
Std. Error
95% Confidence interval
Lower Bound
Upper Bound
Control Movie clip
Movie clip Control
The results presented in table 4 shows that
movie clips group and the control groups are
significantly different. Based on the results provided
by tables 1 and 4 it can be concluded that mean score
of movie clips group was more than the control
group and in light of statistical analysis, the
difference was significant (sig.= .02), so applying
movie clips in teaching idioms was more effective
than the conventional technique. Based on the
comparisons made between the movie clips and the
control group, it is obvious that movie clips have
significant impact on the effectiveness of learning
idioms. Thus, the referential statistics also
confirmed the descriptive findings mentioned
previously. The comparison between the mean
scores of two groups in pre-test and post-test are also
represented graphically in figure 2.
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
Pre test
Post test
Movie clip
Figure2. Graphic Representation of Comparison between the Means of the Two Groups in pre
and posttest
3. Discussion
Within the field of applied linguistics,
educators should not always try to find direct
application of the research findings to their
pedagogic practices (Widdowson, 1990). Besides,
the previous research findings cannot necessarily be
of help to teachers, because these findings require
reinterpretations and/or accommodations to which
teachers resort based on their own pedagogic
Informal language and even formal
discourses abound with idiomatic expressions and
that is why a great deal of attention has been paid to
teaching and learning idioms in EFL classrooms.
The purpose of this study was to investigate
the impact of L2 film use on Iranian EFL learners`
idiom learning. The results of data analyses revealed
that movie clips application had positive effect on
L2 students` idiom learning. The results of this study
can be interpreted in light of three theories:
Dual Coding theory of
(Paivio, 1986); which holds that
associating a verbal form with a mental
image will facilitate recollection. The
researcher believes that informing the
students of the literal, original usage of an
idiom would call up a mental image of a
concrete scene, which could then be stored
in memory alongside the verbal form, as
recommended by Dual Coding Theory.
(Langacker, 1988), and more specifically
Cognitive Semantics (Lakoff, 1987); the
central point of which is that language is
not arbitrary but rather ‘motivated’. It
means that, while the lexical make-up and
meaning of idioms is not fully predictable,
it can nonetheless often be ‘explained’ in
retrospect. For example, the figurative
meaning of many idioms can often be
inferred from its original, literal usage (like
'up in the arms'). This ‘motivated’ nature of
many idioms needs deep learning.
Theory (Craik and Lockhart, 1972) which
holds that information that is processed at a
deep cognitive level through investing
cognitive effort in making associations is
better retained in memory than information
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
that is processed at a more shallow level
memorization. The researchers were
convinced that inviting their students to
invest cognitive effort first in trying to trace
back the idioms to their source domains
and subsequently in trying to infer the
figurative meaning of the idioms from their
original, literal usage would promote deep
processing and thus retention in memory.
There is almost a complete lack of literature
to be discussed aligned with the present findings.
Among very few studies, the results of this study can
be compared with those of other studies that have
examined the effect of other methods on L2 learners`
vocabulary learning. For example, regarding the
research question, the results of this study are in tune
with those of Secules et al., (1992). In their study,
which was conducted on L1 learners, they used
video films and movie clips in order to enhance the
learner’s vocabulary and idiomatic structures. By
analyzing the collected data, they concluded that, by
using video films and instructional movie clips, the
participants made progress in their vocabulary and
idiomatic structures. Tabatabaei and Gahroei (2011)
showed the effective role of movie clips in idiom
teaching and learning. Chun and Plass (1996) assert
that if words and idioms are presented along with
actual objects or imagery techniques such as pictures
and videos, higher degree of absorption and
retention is achievable.
Since idioms are figurative expressions that
do not mean what they literally state and since they
are so frequent in spoken and written discourse,
understanding and producing idioms present L2
learners with a special vocabulary learning problem
(Cooper,1998). Therefore, for second language
learners to become more fluent in the target
language, just a good command of grammar and
vocabulary is not enough. Idioms reflect the
language used daily by the native speakers of the
target language. Prodromou (2003) claimed that, in
the past, teachers relied heavily on grammar and
dictionaries to help them teach, but these were not
based on naturally occurring language. Liontas
(2002) argues that idioms should be introduced to
learners as early as possible along with other aspects
of semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistic, culture
and conventions of discourse. He also notes that
idioms should not be separated from other aspects of
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
learning a language. In short, idioms should be
integrated in to the language curriculum right from
the beginning. The phenomenon of EFL learning is
consistent with both linguistic theory and learning
theory. Different researchers have used different
approaches to deal with the matter of learning a
foreign language. Some linguists like Palmer (1933)
have recognized the ‘pull of mother tongue’ in the
process of learning the language and some linguists
like Chomsky (1965) gave the new claim of the
existence of ‘universal grammar. The results of this
study are proof for two other theories of language.
The first theory is cognitive semantic
theory (Lakoff, 1987) the central part of which is
that language is not arbitrary, but rather ‘motivated’.
If we consider idioms in this theory, it means that,
although the meaning of idioms is not fully
predictable, it can often be understood by
mentioning the real story behind them or using
movie clips including the idioms and they are not so
vague and arbitrary as they seemed at first look.
The second theory dealt with in this paper
is the ‘level of proficiency’ theory (Craik &
Lockhart, 1972).
This theory asserts that
information which is processed at a deep cognitive
level, for example through knowing more
information about the motivational story behind
idioms, is better learned and retained in memory
than information which is processed at a shallow
level, for example through rote learning and
memorizing the idiomatic meaning of idioms.
In real pedagogical practice, Widdowson
(1990) asserts the teacher’s role in mediating
between theory and practice. Part of this mediating
role could be the implications teachers draw from
theory or research findings. The present study could
also have a number of implications in foreign
language learning contexts especially institutes. The
finding of this study can address a number of key
issues in the way practitioners, teachers, and
educators handle the question of how idioms can be
learned and taught more effectively. The results are
especially of great value to teachers in Iran, who
despite devoting much time to idiom teaching are
usually faced with students` complaints of having
problems in learning idioms. Teachers may also
familiarize their students with various methods and
encourage them to read and use idioms in their
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
studies. The results of this study can be illuminating
for instructors who want to add variety in their work
by teaching idioms to their students. The common
institutes in Iran do not have time for extra activities.
Vol. 2, No. 4; December
Because of their nature, idioms can be a good subject
for extra activities in special institutes.
4. Conclusion
Having an operative repertoire of idiomatic
expressions has long been regarded as one of the
important aspects of foreign language competency.
Due to their vital role in language proficiency,
idioms` instruction has been a subject of research in
educational linguistics and some even argue that
teaching and learning idioms are the most
challenging endeavors in the field of TEFL (e.g.,
Cooper, 1999; Holes & Moulton, 2005; Prodromou,
2003; Sadeghilar, 1993).
This study was conducted to investigate the
effectiveness of using movie clips as one new
method of teaching English idioms. Although many
teachers try to include new teaching methods in their
L2 idiom instruction plans, it seems that
implications of such methods have been overlooked.
Therefore, an attempt has been made
5. Implications for Further Research
Since few studies have been carried out on
the notion of impact of using movie clips on teaching
idioms, and its influence on EFL students` language
ability, as a step beyond, further research can be
conducted to see if there is any significant difference
in idiom comprehension and production between
EFL males and female students. Another fodder for
research can be the investigation of different
approaches for teaching idioms in general and the
most effective ways to develop idiomatic
competence in EFL students in particular. It would
also be very striking to do a similar research, but for
in this study to investigate the effect of one
such method, namely, implementation of movie
clips, for the idiom learning of Iranian EFL learners.
The results of data analyses revealed
that movie clips` application had positive effect on
L2 students` idiom learning. The findings of this
study can help students to increase the rate of idiom
learning in a more effective way
The results of this study may be of
benefit to EFL teachers, testers, and students. The
finding may encourage teachers to revise their
methods on teaching idioms and change their
viewpoints in favor of memorizing idioms. In this
way, they may try to incorporate new teaching
techniques such as applying movie clips in their
two different levels, such as intermediate and
advanced, and to compare the results.
Another interesting area of inquiry could be
the investigation of the processes of learning the
idiom. Do the students refer to their mother tongue
to understand them?
Classifying the idiom according to their
theme and teaching based on this classification can
also be a good subject for investigation.
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An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki
Look into Everything, Explore & Examine
Enjoy Teaching Journal
2014, pp. 26- 35
ISSN: 2345 - 4962
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Tainan Teachers College, 37 (1), 1-16.
An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Using Movie Clips in Teaching English Language Idioms
by Masoud Mahmoodi-Shahrebabaki