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The Power of Business Video – Part 1: Using ‘graded video’ in Business English teaching




Ahead of his talk at BESIG on 19th November, John Hughes examines the case for using graded video in the first of two posts on using video in the Business English classroom.

At my BESIG presentation in Dubrovnik this November, I’ll be talking about the power of video in Business English teaching both as an informational tool and for language development.

In particular, I’ll be supporting my arguments with extracts from a new series of ‘graded’ video material produced by Oxford University Press to accompany the popular Business Result series. By ‘graded’ video, I mean that the listening part of the video has been adapted or carefully controlled (in terms of vocabulary and speed of delivery) for a particular level of learner in much the same way that graded readers are books that have been adapted or written with a certain level in mind.

So you might ask: why use ‘graded’ video when you could draw on the vast amounts of authentic video content which is freely available for use via the internet? Authentic is always better, right? Well, I’m not sure that it is and here are some reasons why.

Logically organized and ease of access

I just mentioned the ‘vast amounts’ of video available on sites like YouTube, and that in itself is part of the problem. Where do you start looking if you need a video for a lesson on the vocabulary of retail or a good model version for the presentation skills lesson? You can spend several hours searching in order to find something appropriate.

A set of graded video clips which are logically organized by content and language need solves this problem. It saves time for the teacher, and this ease of access means a learner can watch the video in their own time as well as in class.

Removing barriers to comprehension

As with graded readers, graded video removes the barriers to real comprehension. By ‘real comprehension’ I mean comprehension where the student understands 90-100% of the video content, not just parts of it. By ‘barriers’ I mean the content, the language, but also the cultural barriers to understanding. Many YouTube videos have strong cultural bias which can be exploited in some cases but can also frustrate the learner and so demotivate them.

Graded language doesn’t mean graded content

Graded video (by definition) means that use of video is open to every level. The new Business Result videos go from Elementary to Advanced levels but the real pleasure of graded video is that a video made for an elementary learner with elementary language structures still includes visual content which treats the learner as an intelligent working adult. It is pitched at a learner with sophisticated views on the world of business regardless of language level.

Ready-made materials support

Graded video has the advantage of being accompanied by plenty of ready-made support materials. For example, each Business Result video is linked to a unit in the Student’s Book. This means you can pre-teach a lot of the language and content from the course book which is then recycled in the video.

Alternatively, the video can be used with stand-alone worksheets which can be downloaded from the Class DVD. There are further exercises linked to the video through the Interactive DVD-ROM, and the videos include a subtitles option on screen.

Greater sense of achievement and confidence

Finally, if you still think ‘authentic’ is better, then you have to ask what is ‘authentic’? The Business Result graded videos include interviews with real business people sharing their knowledge and experience. They show real companies at work and deal with the issues facing them. The only difference between this and the recorded interview with a business expert on CNN or a BBC finance report is that the language has been graded to make the whole experience more satisfying for the student.

Which video activity gives your students more confidence to pursue their language learning: the one they only understand half of, or the one they watch, enjoy, understand everything and come away from with a greater sense of achievement?

What do you think?

Maybe you agree or disagree with some of my arguments above for using graded video. Whatever your position, I’d like to hear your views so feel free to comment below. Also, watch the video below for a sample of what the Business Result videos will include.

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  1. Whilst I like the concept of using video for Business English teaching, the example above is heavy on (awful) music and light on speaking. If that was a true example of the normal content then I am disappointed.

  2. Hi Phil
    The attached video is just an edited version for promotional purposes and sets out to illustrate the range of business areas covered. On the actual videos there are lots of interviews and speaking (with a little music at the beginning)

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