The essential feature of reportage is authenticity – real places, people, events, companies, and so on. There is a greater impact and relevance seeing real people in the real world of work and business, rather than a fictional world or a world that is only described in general terms. Students learn about the world around them as well the language.
Reportage can take students to places they would not otherwise be able to visit. It does this in a way that provides the visual and factual context they need to understand a topic in depth, and in a way that they will remember. How many people will have the chance to go round a geothermal power plant in Iceland, a farming cooperative in Chile, or see a classic sports car being produced? How many people have bungee jumped in New Zealand or visited a village in north Uganda?
International Express Video: Intermediate level, Unit 2: Morgan
Another great benefit of reportage is that, unlike drama, it doesn’t date. If anyone has seen one of the first Business English videos, the BBC’s Bid for Power, they may well remember the Concorde-sized collars and floral ties, or OUP’s Business Assignments with mobile phones the size of house bricks. With reportage, on the other hand, video material actually becomes more valuable and more interesting the further back you go. Students wouldn’t normally have the chance to watch preparation for the 1948 Olympics in London (rubble from houses destroyed in the war being used to lay the running track) or watch the designer of the Mini, Alex Issigonis, at work in his studio in the late 1950s.
The other big advantage of reportage is that the voiceover is technically separated from the visuals, which means a particular topic is not limited to being used at a particular level. The voiceover can be written to suit any level, with the added bonus that at the lower levels, it is the visuals that get across the meaning of what’s being said. The script can then be written so that it focuses on a particular language point.
Still photos, particularly of a bygone era, are both evocative and informative. Maps help students to pinpoint where the video is taking them and provide a geographical context for the report.
Internatioexprenal Express Video: Elementary level, Unit 2: Øresund Bridge
Read Bruce’s final blog article, entitled ‘Interviews, vox pops, and beyond…’