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Cultural mirrors – Television drama
in the EFL classroom
by Dr Richard Kiely
- 2

3. The Royle Family

I decided to make use of The Royle Family for a range of reasons:

  • I enjoyed it.
  • It was a critically-acclaimed drama, with a lot of related media coverage.
  • It achieved fame as both a popular hit (and thus moved from BBC 2 which caters for specialist or minority audiences to BBC 1 which broadcasts more mainstream programmes to larger audiences), and a kind of cult status, particularly among young people. The websites developed and subscribed to by fans provide interesting insights into the ephemeral slang used by young people.
  • The interactions in the drama are delicately observed, and linguistic in an ‘authentic’ manner – not much actually happens, and the ‘couch potato’ lifestyle is represented through short utterances, long pauses, revealing body language and (minimal) eye contact.
  • The links to community are clear – it is set in a working class, urban context in Manchester.
  • It is rich in slang, and colloquial and taboo language.
  • It is comedy drama, providing a context for exploring what is funny, to whom and why.

The data for the analysis of the pedagogic use of this material are teacher-made field notes and worksheets which evolved through six uses of the material to different groups of advanced students of English (some of them non-native speaking teachers of English) over a two-year period. While these data are not primarily research-oriented, they represent a pedagogical evolution – the notes were written during or soon after lessons on the handouts, and noted points raised by students, and ideas to incorporate in future uses. This pedagogical evolution illustrates a move from a conventional, language-based approach to the lesson, to one which engages initially with issues of culture, and seeks linguistic evidence to support hypotheses and perceptions.

A transcription of The Royle Family segment of the programme used is attached to this article as an appendix.

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