Understanding movies with SuperMemo
Many people having invested years in learning English, still do not understand English movies. This can be depressive. The student may worry: Am I dumb? Am I too old? Few can appreciate the phonetic gap between English and other languages. Kids who start with movies may be dismal at writing and still follow the movie plot at ease.
Few people realize how fast we forget movies. Although you may have an impression you recall the plot of a movie seen a decade ago. This is an exception to the rule! Some movies do indeed stay with you. However, if you see many of them, you may have problems with recalling the plot as soon as a few months after watching the movie. If the plot is hard to recall, you can imagine that words and phrases learned while watching a movie are not likely to be remembered unless you repeat them in various contexts.
Exposure time problem
An average 25-year-old had seen 500-2000 movies in his or her life. To cover up for this gap it is not enough you see 10 movies. Or 100. You need to plan for a thousand and back it up with SuperMemo (unless you live in an English-speaking country). Naturally, not always you need that a good grasp of English. To understand CNN or BBC, you need an entirely different variety of English. To understand science articles you do not even need to see a single movie. You do not even need to understand CNN. Those are all different Englishes. Different skills. Similarly, you may have seen 1000 movies and still be unable to express your thoughts in English. Movies will equip you with lots of clichés and run-of-the-mill frequent use short schemas. In addition, lots of that is not even permissible among gentlemen. You will never lecture at conferences if you get your English from movies. However, can you really boast "I know English" if you cannot follow the dialogs of a movie? Many respected scientists politicians, or businessmen write articles in excellent English or make speeches or discuss things with other diplomats in English. Yet back in the hotel room they cannot relax with an English movie. They just do not understand it! The painful truth is: to understand English movies you need a massive exposure to "movie English".
Few people appreciate the fact that not so long ago, it was not that easy to watch movies in English. National broadcasting is often narrated or dubbed. Good English channels are scrambled or not available in local cable TV. Depending on the country, movie theaters may present movies with subtitles, but cinemas are quite expensive if you plan for watching a thousand movies. Only recently those who want to watch movies in English can really enjoy the full spectrum of movies from comedies to social dramas. DVD movies nearly always come with the original sound track. Digital satellite broadcast are also increasingly provided with the choice of the soundtrack. As a result, 21st century will see far fewer people who are seemingly English literate and yet unable to comprehend a native speaker on the street.
SuperMemo Movies collection
This collection will show you how you can learn English recorded from DVD movies with SuperMemo. We have chosen a few movies and looked for most difficult, most funny or most memorable phrases. While making repetitions you will hear short sounds extracts from "Rat Race", "Scorpion King", "American Pie", "Spiderman", etc. If you understand the phrase and remember it well, grade yourself positive. If you have problems with comprehension (after 1-2 repetitions this is very rare), or are not satisfied with your recognition or recall, provide a lower grade. If you like some phrases very much, you can score positive and shorten the interval manually with Ctrl+J. This way you can hear your favorite phrases at nauseam. This collection can easily be expanded by your own sound bites. All you need is a DVD drive, DVD movies and a sound board (see below for instructions).
Remember. This is only a demonstration of how this can be done in SuperMemo. If the presented fragments are difficult, do not despair. They are selected in large part by their difficulty. Even native speakers have problems with deciphering some phrases without the context. Americans have often huge problems with understanding British English. If British have fewer problems with American English, it is probably due to the fact that ... the British watch a lot of American movies.
How to expand the Movies collection
If the phrases are too difficult, or not enjoyable, or you do not like the presented movies, you can easily expand the collection with your own sounds. Here are the steps (SuperMemo 2002):
- Choose Add new (Alt+A) to add a new item with a movie sound template
- Right click over the sound component and choose Import file. Choose the sound file (e.g. WAV, MP3, etc.) and press Enter
- Optionally, name the sound and decide if the original sound file should be deleted to free space on your hard disk
- Click the answer field and type the dialog text
- Optionally, use Ctrl+J to set the first interval (e.g. choose one day to have the first repetition scheduled for tomorrow)
- Use Learn to repeat individual phrases
How to record sounds from DVD
You can find your sound bites on the Internet or you can record them directly from the DVD. All you need for that purpose is Sound Recorder that comes together with Windows XP.
- You can open Sound Recorder from the Start menu by choosing All Programs : Accessories : Entertainment : Sound Reorder
- Make sure you are recording from the right source:
- see Edit : Audio properties on the menu in Sound Recorder
- click Sound recording : Volume
- in the Recording Control click select under the appropriate recording channel (Aux or Wave Out Mix)
- Record the sound by pressing the red record button in Sound Recorder (while playing the movie in your DVD drive)
- Optionally, using File : Properties, compress your recorded sound and save it as MP3
See also Antimoon.com for some discussion of learning to understand English movies: