Bridges Between Language Arts And English Teaching English Language Essay

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This paper compares two keynotes and two papers from the 2nd APELA conference in respect to the media or genre each of them addressed with the purpose of discussing their significance for teaching English. The whole comparisons are structured into two major parts in this article: keynote comparison and paper comparison. It begins with comparing two keynotes (The technical analysis of multimodal artifacts: medium, mode, and genre in multimodal contexts, Professor John BATEMAN, University of Bremen & Analyzing and interpreting works of verbal art as acts of meaning instantiating the meaning potential of language in context, Professor Christian M.I.M.MATTHIESSEN, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University) from the aspect of media or genre they addressed respectively with the aim of seeking to discover their significance for English teaching. In the following part, the article focuses on comparing two papers (Drama in education, education in drama: a student-centered historical perspective in studying Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys', Mike INGHAM& Sarah AISTON, University of Hong Kong & Comics as the Communicative Teaching Media to Improve Students' Reading Skill, Maria Johanna Ari WIDAYANTI, Semarang State University) from the facet of different media or genre they addressed and their importance for teaching English.


The recent years have witnessed a dramatic change on the Medias conducting in English teaching. More diversified newly created teaching medium and recreated multimedia based on traditional types are on the table for potential demanders to explore. In contrast to the traditional methods of English teaching and learning, which are mainly focus on vocabulary building and grammar training, therefore, relatively static and passive, current situations is totally another story. On the one hand, English learners are offered greater choices of different learning formats and becoming much more self-involved under such circumstances. On the other hand, teachers of English are confronted with a more complex and challenging situation, which drives them to be more open to various frontiers concerning English teaching and to employ multimodal teaching methods consisting diverse elements. This article is going to make two comparisons: one is to compare two keynotes: The technical analysis of multimodal artifacts: medium, mode, and genre in multimodal contexts (Professor John BATEMAN, University of Bremen), mainly addressing films, related comics and advertisements and Analyzing and interpreting works of verbal art as acts of meaning instantiating the meaning potential of language in context (Professor Christian M.I.M.MATTHIESSEN, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University) focusing on literature(verbal arts). The other is the comparison between two papers: Drama in education, education in drama: a student-centered historical perspective in studying Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys'( Mike INGHAM& Sarah AISTON, University of Hong Kong) dealing with drama and Comics as the Communicative Teaching Media to Improve Students' Reading Skill( Maria Johanna Ari WIDAYANTI, Semarang State University) addressing comics. Comparisons are elaborated from two facets both separately and integrally: different media or genre they addressed and their significances for English teaching respectively.

Keynotes comparison: film verses literature

The former keynote- The technical analysis of multimodal artifacts: medium, mode, and genre in multimodal contexts (Professor John BATEMAN, University of Bremen) draws on film as the example of analyzing multimodal media involving combinations of semiotic modes through traditional linguistic and literacy studies techniques. According to this keynote, film is one of those complex semiotic artifacts which combine multimodal arts together to convey information to potential receivers. Although it is based on traditional linguistic and verbal performance in a certain degree, it is more complex than that. Current film is a sophisticated collocation of diverse semiotics, such as verbal arts, visual arts and even sensory elements. All of these semiotics can be analysis separately and integrally in order to capture the meaning behind these semiotic artifacts. In contrast, the latter keynote addressed by Professor Christian M.I.M.MATTHIESSEN (Analyzing and interpreting works of verbal art as acts of meaning instantiating the meaning potential of language in context) elaborates broad literature (works of verbal arts) which consists of both traditional high-culture literature and presently oral culture. It seeks to conduct multidimensional approaches for analyzing and creating verbal arts through contrasting literature with other meaning-making forms and examining various transitions of verbal arts. Apparently, these two keynotes are count for distinct matters; however, they have something related and integrated to each other. For one thing, verbal arts (literature) can be part of film because film is a much more complex combination of multi-type semiotics which concludes not only verbal arts, but also other semiotics. Besides, film is one recreation and reproduction of particular verbal arts by adding new semiotics to the initial ones, and this reproduction process greatly affected by social and cultural changes outside or around the original less-dynamic verbal arts themselves. For the other thing, a well-produced film may have inevitable influence on the related verbal arts, as well as generating new verbal arts relating to this certain film. Consequently, film and verbal arts are dialectical integrated to each other in some extent.

Significance for English Teaching and Learning

Both two keynotes have great significance on today's English teaching and learning. First and foremost, from the English teachers' aspect, both film and other multimodal language arts together offer teachers new creative teaching methods and supplements in English class. Students in class can be more involved in learning English when teachers apply proper multimodal devices and semiotics to previous learning contents. For instance, a certain clip of sophisticated film can be used to train students' listening and writing skills for specific learning objectives because it consist more than two distinct semiotics concerning English learning. As for literature study, teachers can switch their traditional ideas to broader views in selecting teaching materials. For example, teachers can choose certain verbal arts of oral culture to be supplementary to existing teaching materials so as to enrich the whole learning contents. By this means, teachers are able to increase students' interests and get more students' attention to the learning contents in order to achieve a better learning outcome.

However, for the majority of English learners, they are confronted with a more complex learning circumstance which demands higher engagement of complexity and multiplicity. To put it in another way, they are also provided with much more choices of learning English and possibility of developing life-long learning on their own via these multimodal platforms. For instance, learners are capable of learning English on their own by reading a chapter of master pieces via smart phones or just sit down for an English film. Therefore, what really matters are largely depends on how learners treat this new situation.

Additionally, these two keynotes are also noteworthy for particular curriculum designers and policy-makers. In order to meet the current needs of English and other language teaching and learning, both curriculum designers and policy-makers are compelled to examine the contemporary multimodal situation and other related changes so that they can design suitable curriculum or formulate feasible policy. Obviously, these two keynotes are important for teachers, learners and related policy-makers concerning English study and other language arts learning.

Papers comparison: drama verses comics

The first paper discussed is Drama in education, education in drama: a student-centered historical perspective in studying Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys' (Mike INGHAM& Sarah AISTON, University of Hong Kong), which illustrates findings of a series of interviews with students from a drama course regarding Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys'. It concentrates on the implications of using good quality drama as pedagogical tool in Hong Kong educational context. Good quality drama is an effective teaching method for developing students' creative language uses and critical thinking, as well as fostering them to appraise the complexities of our life and society. Comparatively, the other paper (Comics as the Communicative Teaching Media to Improve Students' Reading Skill (Maria Johanna Ari WIDAYANTI, Semarang State University)) addresses how comic can be conducted as the communicative teaching media and how far the improvement of students' reading skills can be raised by using comic. Traditionally, comic belongs to the entertainment collections or just supplements for younger aged pupils to discover the outside world. Majority of parents and educators believe that comic is not so appropriate for students to deeply engage in, because it is perceived to be related to students' lack of creativity and passivity in educational practices. However, present comic is far beyond that and an increasing number of comics have been used as teaching materials in today's class teaching.

Significance for English teaching and learning

Both two papers have revealed several essential points for English teaching and learning, and this article is going to discuss these from two perspectives. As for teachers, drama and comic have something in common when conducted in teaching English language. One thing that makes them seem to be similar to teachers is that both drama and comic are multi-textured. Only a short abstract of drama or comic can consist of multiple semiotics and distinct contexts and these multimodality may overlap with each other in certain situation which makes them more complex and diversified to handle with. Therefore, teachers may find both drama and comic efficient in developing students' multidimensional literacy skills. Just a short plot of drama or limit abstract of comic can be used for training students' reading, writing and creative creation skills. Another inevitable similarity between drama and comic for teachers is their popularity among students, which indicates that applying them in class teaching can get much more attention from students and highly motivate their learning spirits. Therefore, conducting these popular formats in classroom teaching can better achieve certain learning objectives. However, applying drama is not exactly the same story as applying comic in English teaching. Teachers may find it much convenient to conduct comic in a certain class instead of 'doing' drama, because the preparation work of drama is more complex and time-consuming. Besides, how to decide on the appropriate way of conducting drama in class teaching is also challenging and laborious, very different from comic as well. Concerning the limited time and space, it is more demanding for teachers to get the whole class of students involved in 'doing' drama for obtaining certain planned learning outcomes. However, as for comic, most comics comprise substantive overlapping texts, including variety of visual and verbal arts which demands teachers to adapt to this special way of perceiving information. What's more, most comics are from popular oral culture which inherits different types of biases, such as racism, sexism and patriotism. Therefore, how to avoid these biases or how to help students develop critical thinking while using multiple comics as teaching and learning materials in English class is an intractable question for teachers to work out.

For English learners, these two papers also provide some enlightenment for them regarding English learning. They are given more alternatives of learning English language via specific drama or comic. They can liberally choose their favorite styles of drama or comic to engage with, instead of coping with certain planned learning materials compulsively. It allows them to vote for learning materials independently depending on their personal interests which sequentially encourages their learning passion for English. Moreover, learners can get more involved in these two platforms of English learning as well as becoming more creative and critical during this learning process. Take drama for example, learners can imagine themselves to be several certain characters in a plot, and recreate these roles according to their own perspective and imagination when applying drama to English learning. By this approach, they can develop other abilities and even discover potential talents they did not aware of in previous learning stage. Last but not least, both drama and comic can present learners with a life-long and self-motivated learning channel which updates with the same pace of the whole world outside.


The comparison and contrast between the above keynotes and papers are only limited demonstration of how multimedia and multimodality are becoming more popular and indivisible in teaching English currently. However, the significance of conducting these new approaches in English is not exactly the same story for teachers and learners respectively. Hence, it is meaningful and applicable for potential teachers and learners to discover proper approaches combing various semiotics and different multimodalities for teaching and learning English.