English language course books tend to be populated with characters that live and die in the space of a short dialogue. Context is constrained because it takes time to set it up. But these writing restrictions get loosened up with video. We can take in a lot more information when we can see things happening.
Body language conveys meaning, obviously, and so does how we say things, so for example ‘Yeah right’ can signal agreement and ‘Yeah right’ can signal sarcastic disbelief. And things mean different things depending on who says them and where. If we’re going round an art gallery together and I point to a picture and say ‘That’s a nice one’, you’ll think I like the picture. But if you’re a sales person in a green grocers and I point to a cauliflower and say ‘That’s a nice one’, it means ‘I want to buy it’. We play a lot of different roles in our lives and what role we’re playing at a particular time impacts on meaning.
So imagine what it would be like to have access to a large spoken corpus that’s made up of video. Instead of reading things that people said, imagine you could see and hear people saying them. And when you burrowed down to look at how a word had been used, instead of reading rows of written text, suppose you could see and hear people saying the word in different contexts.
So imagine someone took lots of videos -say lots of interesting and entertaining and videos on Youtube. And suppose they started putting them into a database that keeps growing. And imagine that teachers and students could access and search the video corpus.
If you think this sounds cool, check out English Central’s site because they seem to be doing just that. I had low expectations when I entered the website. I had to register and wondered if it would be worth the bother. It was and I’m glad I did. What do you think?