Disney Music for Business English Training

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

How do you get your students to visualize certain business situations when you are in the classroom? For such visualization, I have found Disney’s “Behind the Mic” video of the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen to be very helpful in my classes. (Actually, the students learned more from the video than I had intended.) In this TESOL Blog post, I will explain why and how I used the video. In addition, I will explain how the use of the video above led to the use of another related video.

First, let me provide you with some background information. In some of my classes, we focus on leadership. In this connection, we do various business case studies and role plays in class. In their leadership roles in the role plays, the students are asked to achieve various visions (or business goals). By doing such activities, the students are preparing themselves to succeed as global leaders.

In my Business English classes, I often use case studies (including role plays) in ELT Business English textbooks (e.g., Market Leader). In one of those case studies and role plays, the students are asked to plan a conference for an international team. Accordingly,  I showed to my students the video above from the movie “Frozen” in order to help them to “visualize” a truly international team.

The movie “Frozen” is well-known among young people in Japan, and my adult learners fell into two groups: 1) those students who were familiar with the song “Let It Go” from the movie and 2) those students who had never seen the movie or heard of the song.

The “Behind the Mic” version of the song “Let It Go” in the video above is sung in 25 different languages. In the video, you can see each of the 25 singers performing part of the song. Further, you can see from their body language and physical appearances how different these singers are from each other; in other words, together they would be a very international team indeed.

In connection with the video, my students talked about the skills that would be needed to lead such an international team. Not surprisingly, “communication skill” was mentioned several times.

What did surprise me was when one student stated that she was able to realize (from seeing the video) the importance of visualization for communicating in English. From her comment, it seemed to me that the student had assumed that the 25 singers were all interpreting the movie scene in exactly the same way. However, in view of cultural differences and differences in languages worldwide, I had assumed that there were some differences in the translations of the English lyrics (although I have not confirmed whether this is true). In other words, I had made the assumption that the singers could have been viewing the movie scene differently to some (perhaps very minor) extent due to culture and the translated versions of the lyrics of the song.

The importance of the effect of culture on communication also emerged in a class held a week later when one Japanese student asked: “How do you maintain harmony with others in the US when everyone is so different?” My response to him included the question: “Why do you think harmony is as important in the US as it is in Japan?” He was very surprised but immediately understood that everyone might not have the same cultural values.

In addition to a discussion of culture, the Disney video above also led to a discussion on pronunciation. After showing the video to one Japanese teacher, the teacher told me that she had learned American English pronunciation by repeatedly watching the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.” She had thought the character Belle had such wonderful pronunciation and wanted to speak just like her. The teacher had memorized Belle’s songs, etc.

After speaking with the teacher above, I wanted my Business English students to understand the importance of listening carefully and imitating others as a means of improving pronunciation. With this aim in mind, I showed to my students a video in which the song “Let It Go” was sung by Brian Hull imitating the voices of various Disney characters. I then challenged my students to do the same with 1) a speech or a song of a famous Japanese person, and thereafter with 2) a speech or song of a famous English speaker.

Finally, if you show Disney videos in a corporate setting, you might want to keep in mind the advice of David Kertzner, former ESPIS chair and current ESP News editor. If the company manager of your students walked into the room, what would he think about the training activity? Would the manager consider it to be valuable? With this situation in mind, my advice is to be prepared to justify any training that you do.

All the best,

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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5 Responses to Disney Music for Business English Training

  1. Talaera says:

    Great blog. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Great article! English language is known as popular language in all over the world. The knowledge of English language is very important in this era of competition.

  3. Amanda says:

    Using the multilingual version of “Let it go” is certainly an excellent way to share various languages and culture, along with concepts of global communication. However, I was curious about the connections to pronunciation which were made. As mentioned via the video of Brian Hull, pronunciation differs greatly even between native speakers of the same language (‘Let it go’ in Latino Spanish vs. ‘Let it go’ in Castellano Spanish provides a good example of this in another language). What, then, is the goal of having students imitate the pronunciation of others? Is it to allow them access to a array of pronunciations? Or is it to have them merely talk like those around them??

    • Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Great questions!

      In my case, I was doing the following:

      1) Sharing a success story of another Japanese learner (i.e., the teacher)

      2) Encouraging students to experiment making sounds (for fun and for control of their voices)

      3) Encouraging students to imitate what “they” considered to be “success” in their efforts to be successful as professionals; e.g., the “famous person” could be a businessman


  4. Huiling says:

    Hi! I’m a student majored in TESOL. I read your article and I think using a video for language learning is useful. New media provide teachers with multiple modalities to teach and reshape the communication methods. Traditionally, my teacher used to give a lecture and text to deliver knowledge. Sometimes I cannot concentrate on the class since it is just so boring. Now, image, speech, video and other funny ways bring information to the classroom, which related to the social world. For example, children play Japanese game Pokemon will pay attention to the words or sentences in the screen and they may pick up some words in the process. Teacher can lead them to think how to use language to describe the situation in the game or explain vocabulary related to the game.These new literacy stimulate students to learn unconsciously.

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