Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino and Reni Santoni star in this 1971 classic police detective drama. In two different scenes, police Inspector Harry Callahan, the cop you love to hate, delivers his signature lines:

“I know what you’re thinking.”

“Did he fire six shots or only five?”

“Well to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.”

“… you’ve got to ask yourself one question … Do I feel lucky?”

“Well, do you, punk?”

This film is great for illustrating and practicing a variety of elements of connected speech in American English.

Using Popular Films to Improve Speaking Skills

During the course of my 15 plus years of English as a foreign language teaching, I have come across a number of popular films which not only aid EFL learners in improving their English language speaking skills, but are enjoyable for them to watch. In each of these films a scene is selected and the dialogue and setting are exploited for cultural, linguistic and connected speech elements. While there actually many such films, I’ll mention five of my English language learners’ favorites in this series of articles.

Plot Outline

In the film, “Dirty Harry”, a San Francisco police Inspector searches for a killer who is asking for a ransom of $100,000 dollars from the city government. The Mayor wants to pay but the police Inspector doesn’t think they should pay the money. The police Inspector has a bad reputation for being violent with suspects and criminals which is giving the San Francisco city police a bad name with the public.

Discussion Questions and Activities

What are the police like in your area? Are they friendly? Do they help tourists and citizens?
How are minorities and criminal suspects treated in your city or country? What do you know about San Francisco? What things is the city famous for? What things can you tell about the city from watching the movie or movie clip? EFL learners can do a bit of research about San Francisco. Have they or anyone they know ever been to or visited San Francisco? What other movies that you’ve seen have been filmed there? How is San Francisco similar or different to the city or area where you live?

Is the behavior of Police Inspector Harry Callahan acceptable or not? Why or why not? What would you do if you were the Mayor or Police Chief? What would you do if you were Harry? Why?

Have your learners practice and act out the scene in pairs or small groups. Write in changes to the scene dialogue. Add dialogue to the scene as well. Update the dialogue into more modern or colloquial English language. May the dialogue funnier, more serious or use idioms and expressions common to the area where the EFL learners live.

Create vocabulary lists, puzzles like crosswords or word searches from the key vocabulary in the scene. The extent of possibilities are limited only by the imagination of you and your English or foreign language learners. Above all, have fun!

Key Film Elements

While many popular films contain selected scenes which could be used to illustrate cultural, linguistic and connected speech elements, these five have proven to be useful and well-received by a variety of English language learner profiles. If you can get a hold of any or all of them, give them a try and watch your learners’ motivation and English language speaking skills skyrocket.

By the way, let me know how well this works for you. If you have any questions or would like one of the worksheets I use to accompany each of these film scenes, just drop me an e-mail. I’ll be happy to help.



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