ESL Video Resources FAQs

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about using the Video Resources at the Center for Language Study.

How can watching the videos help me?
The videos can help you improve all aspects of spoken communication ­ listening skills (including understanding a wider range of the styles of spoken English), natural speech (intonation and reductions), idioms, vocabulary, and choosing appropriate language.

What is the difference between a screenplay and a transcript?
A screenplay is the actual play that the film is made from. The final product, or rather the film itself, will be somewhat different from the original screenplay as many decisions are made in the production of the film. Some of the reasons could be the following: the director may change or add scenes or lines to fit his vision of the story; actors may ad-lib in order to more accurately portray their characters; or film editors may cut scenes to improve the artistic quality.

A transcript is a copy of the exact dialogue of the actors in the final version of the film. In fact, a transcript is made by taking the time to listen to every word of the film and write it down. Occasionally, you may find that the transcript does not match the exact speech of the actors. This may be because the person making the transcript did not hear exactly what the actor said. If you can hear the differences, then it is a compliment to your listening skills! In any case, the transcript should be fairly close, if not identical, to the spoken language in the final version of the film.

Can you give me some suggestions on how I can use these materials to improve my English?
There are many different ways you can use the materials. We have listed some of them below. As you read through the suggestions, keep in mind that there is no one correct approach. You may want to try different methods to see what suits your level of English. Also, some films may be more difficult than others depending upon how closely the dialog matches the action, what regional accents are spoken, the sophistication of the language itself and the level of cultural specificity. When deciding on an approach, remember, one of the most important factors in your success as a second language learner is motivation. Always try and choose methods and materials that will not only challenge you, but will also motivate you, and you will be motivated if you enjoy the materials. Have fun in this exciting discovery of the English language. Watch films you like, and choose learning methods that suit your learning style and sense of enjoyment.


  1. Keep the screenplay, or transcript on the table in front of you and only refer to it when you aren't sure you understood something. After reading the confusing section, it is advisable to rewind and watch the scene again so you can listen for the details.
  2. Many of the films were made from novels. Read the novel first, then watch the film.
  3. Read the screenplay in its entirety and then watch the film. Try and note the differences between the original play and the final filmed version.
  4. Watch portions of the film scene by scene and read the screenplay or the transcript at the same time. Rewind and watch each scene immediately afterwards to reinforce what you have read.
  5. Stop the film from time to time and repeat the actor's words trying to copy the exact intonation patterns. You can rewind, and/or look at the transcript to check yourself.
  6. Bring your learner's dictionary to the center (English-English), or request to borrow the Cambridge Dictionary of American English (with CD ROM) at the Center for Language Study. Find the idioms, and/or unfamiliar words in a scene from one of the transcripts. Look up everything that you feel is important, and write a list of the words you want to study with definitions and examples. This will then serve as a study sheet for outside of the lab. Now watch the scene, and listen for the new words. To follow up, you could come back later in the week and watch the same scene again after you have had a chance to study the words and expressions again.