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Animated Cartoons as a Type of Audiovisuals Used in Teaching and Learning

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Table of contents

  1. Animated Cartoons
  2. Animation before films 1600-1877
    The Silent Era 1900-1930
    The Golden Age of American Animation 1930-1950
    The American Television Era 1960-1980
    Modern American Era 1980-2014
  3. Types of Animated Cartoons
  4. Animated Cartoons as a Teaching Tool
  5. Motivation

In our life, technology became crucial and we cannot separate it from daily life activities especially when it comes to teaching and learning, we all have watched TV and we have learned much from it, even if we did not attempt to do so, it happened subconsciously, technology and media leads to subconscious language acquisition. When it comes to teaching and learning we find that even schools are equipped with the latest equipment to facilitate the process of learning and to be up to date, “many media and many styles of visual presentations are useful to the language learner”. One of these styles is animated cartoons.

This paper will deal with the different aspects concerning animated cartoons as a type of audiovisuals, and their relation to teaching and learning.

Nunan (1985:38) defines the concept of authenticity as follows: “Authentic materials are usually defined as those which have been produced for purposes other than to teach language. They can be culled from many different sources: video clips, recordings of authentic interactions, extracts from television, radio and newspapers, signs, maps, and charts, photographs and pictures, timetables and schedules. These are just a few of the sources which have been tapped”. Yuanyuan Z. & Lingzhu J. (1997) also defined authentic materials as follows “They are real language … produced for the native speakers … designed without the teaching purposes”

Rogers & Medley (1988) stated “language sample – in reference for the term “authentic” – … that reflect a naturalness of form, and appropriateness of cultural and situational context that would be found in the language as used by the native speakers”.

Morrow (1977) “real language produced by a real speaker or writer for a real audience and designed to convey a real message”

According to Webster dictionary, audiovisual materials are defined as follows “training or educational materials directed at both the senses of hearing and the sense of sight” examples on audiovisual materials: films, recordings, photographs, etc. Oxford dictionary also define audiovisual materials as the act of using both sound and pictures.

According to Djamarah and Zain (2010:124), there are three types of media Audio media, visual media, and Audiovisual media, the latest is divided into four subcategories they are highlighted as follows:

  • Quite audiovisual: media that show a sound and a silent picture. Such as sound slides.
  • Movement audiovisual: this media show the sound and the picture that can move. Example: Animated cartoon.
  • Pure audiovisual: both sound and picture are from one source. Example: film, video cassette.
  • Not pure audiovisual: both sound and picture come from another source. For example, the picture from LCD projector and the sound come from active speaker.

Animated Cartoons

Baek and Layne (1988, p. 132) define animated cartoons as “The process of generating a series of frames containing an object or objects so that each frame appears as an alteration of the previous frame in order to show motion”, According to Ganges (1968), ‘animated cartoons are a moving text and pictures or simply interesting transitions between visual tableaus which can be an effective attention grabber, that lay the necessary foundation for learning’, moreover Henry and Laura (2010) refer to animated cartoons as’ a rapid display of a sequence of static images that create the illusion of movement’. Brainy (2009) also argues that animated cartoons are the act of animating or giving life, the state of being animate or alive.

Another definition by Pande (2008) stated that cartoon movie is an exaggerated amusing illustration caricaturing in moving diagram way of criticizing a person or event with some thoughts. A cartoon movie is a special form of art to present amusing appearance with the help of colorful moving diagram exaggerated.

we may think that animated cartoons are recent phenomena and that it is only restricted to the 20th century till today, in fact, it is found way back in history it has been improved for sure but if it was not for these primitive work we could not evolve to the existing works. According to “History of animation” (2015) animated cartoons are divided into six eras:

Archeological artifacts prove that we’ve been attempting to depict things in motion as long as we’ve been able to draw. Some notable examples from ancient times, as well as an example from the European Renaissance

Animation before films 1600-1877

With the rise of the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th century many machines have been invented that helped in animating pictures

  • 1603 Majic lenter: the invention of Majic lenter it is an image projector using pictures on sheets of glass it is considered to be the first example of projected animation.
  • 1824 Thaumatrope: The thaumatrope housed a rotating mechanism with a different picture on each side. When rotated, you saw a combined picture (known as persistence of vision).
  • 1831 The phenakitoscope: is a machine that presented spinning disks reflected in mirrors that made it seem like the pictures were moving.
  • 1834 The zoetrope: it was a hollow drum that housed images on long interchangeable strips that spin and made the images appear to move.
  • 1868 The flip-book: also known as the kineograph, reached a wide audience and is credited with inspiring early animators more than the machines developed in this era.
  • 1877 Movieola/Praxinoscope: The praxinoscope expanded on the zoetrope, using multiple wheels to rotate images. It is considered to have shown the first prototypes of the animated cartoon.

The Silent Era 1900-1930

The early 20th century is the beginning of theatrical showings of cartoons, especially in the United States and France. Many animators form studios, with Bray Studios in New York proving the most successful of this era. Bray helped launch the careers of the cartoonists that created Mighty Mouse, Betty Boop, and Woody Woodpecker. In 1914 the first cartoon to present attractive character Gertie The Dinosaur. In 1928 it was the born of one of the greatest characters in animation history Mickey Mouse, the first cartoon with the sound printed on the film, it was founded by Walt Disney that was his first big success

The Golden Age of American Animation 1930-1950

During this era, the animated cartoon became a fundamental part of popular culture. These years were the peak of success to Walt Disney works like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Silly Symphonies, in addition to Warner Brothers, MGM, and Fleischer works such as Betty Boop, and Popeye. In this era, Walt Disney founded Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the first hand drawing animation in 1937.

The American Television Era 1960-1980

In this time and due to the vast spread of television as an entertainment media for the American Family, studios have made many cartoon films based on a limited animation style. In the mid-80s, cable channels such as Disney Channel and Nickelodeon helped in the globalization of cartoons. One of the famous animated series in this era are The Flintstones (1960), Yogi Bear (1961), and Pink Panther (1964).

Modern American Era 1980-2014

In this era, computer-generated imagery CGI has redefined and made a revolution in the production of animated cartoons, the main critical difference is the use of 3D modeling instead of traditional. One of its remarkable works is The Simpsons (1987), Toy Story (1995) it was the first fully computer-animated feature film, Big Hero (2014) that was the first Disney animated film that is based on a Marvel comic character.

Types of Animated Cartoons

There are mainly three types of animated cartoons Traditional animation, Stop motion, and Computer animation.

  • Traditional animation

This method first appeared in the 20th century. Thomas and Lisa (2003) clarify that this type of animation is called cell animation due to the nature of its individual frames of drawings of animated film and photographs, which are first drawn on paper, each individual frame slightly differs from the one before it to create the illusion of motion.

  • Stop motion

This type is made by moving objects by hands and taking several pictures while the person moves them, it gives the impression of movement. There are many different types of stop-motion animation including puppet animation, clay animation, cutout animation, graphics animation, etc.

  • Computer animation

Bancroft and Keane (2006) define computer animation as a program which uses animation software to create and copy individual frames. This type of animation has a variety of techniques including 2D animation and 3D animation. This animation takes less time than previous traditional animations

Animated Cartoons as a Teaching Tool

According to Wright (1976) “many media and many styles of visual presentation are useful to the language learner”, and taking into consideration that animated cartoons are an audiovisual material, this means that they have a good influence on the teaching process if they were used in the right place and context. Wyk (2011) as cited in states that the cartoon is beneficial not only to entertain but also to teach students in a different way, it provides an enjoyable learning atmosphere, in addition, Harmer (2007) explains that using video can be much richer than using audio. because video produces moving picture; the speaker can be seen, their gestures add more clarification to the meaning; so do the clothes they wear, their location, etc. the background information can be filled in visually.

Many studies were conducted to see the influence of animated cartoons on learning, Doring (2002) as cited in (POŠTIĆ, 2015) has conducted a study that focused on the effect of exposure to cartoons on language learning, he has concluded that the language learners exposed to cartoons can produce oral answers that are very productive and interesting. In a research conducted by Rule and Auge (2005), the results suggested that students prefer cartoons in language learning since cartoons create an atmosphere that causes a high degree of motivation.

In another study made by Bahrani and Sim (2012) as cited in (ibid) the results have raised the attention about a very interesting point about the low-level language learners, that they can achieve a significant language proficiency improvement through exposure to cartoons, also Haque (2015) notes that the dialogue of cartoons is characterized by sentences that are simple and complete, repetition is used frequently. Children, therefore, learn a significant number of words from the context of cartoons that they can use in real life. Moreover, by watching cartoons, students are highly stimulated to speak the target language.

Sarko (2008) states that “exposure to authentic language would serve learners to practice language not only in the classroom but also in outside where they can utilize language input to learn more about cultures by their own” in addition Nunan (1999) as cited in (ibid) adds that exposure to authentic language material has a vital role in motivating language learners to match the content and subject matters to their life.

According to Abuzahra, Farrah, & Zalloum (2016) animated cartoons have many advantages concerning EFL teaching and learning:

  • Facilitating understanding of subjects:

Chen and Dwyer (2006, p.203) state that presentations of animated cartoon in classroom facilitate understanding knowledge which has a superior effect under specific conditions. Animated cartoon has the potentiality to improve students’ comprehension of various subject matters or that of distinct cultural backgrounds. Educators can simply represent abstract ideas of the curriculum into visual animated pictures which mainly aims to enhance students’ capabilities to recognize solid concepts.

  • Enhancing and facilitating immediate and delayed achievement in the EFL classroom:

Canning-Wilson (2000) confirmed that cartoon films were beneficial not only of clarifying messages, but they also enabled learners to have immediate understanding of a language point in a positive way.

  • Increasing EFL/SFL Vocabulary:

In a study made by Sarrko (2008) that investigate the impact of watching cartoon films in the language classroom he has concluded that their ability to acquire new word and use them in their daily life activity has been increased; as primary source of authentic language input, animated cartoon helps in illustration meaning and facilitating the process of acquiring new vocabulary and understand their meaning by the help of gestures and facial expressions.

  • Enhancing listening comprehension:

when students are exposed to animated cartoons they acquire the correct pronunciation of words in English accent, which is the case of our study, it helps in the pragmatic acquisition of contextual language.

In a study made by Heffernan (2005) he claims that the students who were exposed to authentic videos, and who watched cartoon films have notably improved their listening comprehension skills. Also, Danan (2004) has worked on the pedagogical impact of audiovisual materials in language classroom, he states that cartoon films have many reasons to be a powerful tool in the foreign language classroom, the most notable reason is to improve students’ listening comprehension skills.

  • Enhancing EFL / SFL writing skill:

According to Abuzahra, Farrah, & Zalloum (2016) “Cartoon films stimulate learners’ power of imagination that can be reflected in written or spoken discourses. When students write a response or an essay about a cartoon film, they tend to employ vocabulary they get from film into meaningful writing tasks which the cartoon film is the main focus. They respond by imagining situations and characters that reflect their own view towards a social context”. Baralt, Pennestri and Selvandin (2011) confirm that the use of animation wordle which is the most popular form of visualized data, positively affect students’ writing skill. The visual representation of frequent text or tag cloud influence students’ writing capability.

  • Enhancing EFL / SFL Speaking Skill:

Doring (2002) concluded in his study that aimed to investigate the impact of using cartoon in language classroom on foreign learners that students who were exposed to cartoon films can produce oral answers more than those who weren’t. Students became more confident to practice English language in the classroom; as a result of low effective learning atmosphere that watching cartoon creates. Abuzahra, Farrah, & Zalloum (2016) also adds that the employment of cartoons in language classroom enhances students to discuss or argue no matter the student’s level of proficiency was, because cartoons are embedded with language and paralanguage facilitating tools which need less comprehension skills than that needed to analyze solid learning texts or materials.

  • Enhancing EFL/SFL Reading Skill:

Abuzahra, Farrah, & Zalloum (2016) state that watching cartoon film as a pre-activity of reading class would let students interpret and analyze reading text more effectively. With the suitable selection of cartoon film, effective and cognitive aspects in language classrooms would be supported. Cartoons display vivid reading, comprehensible texts that are embedded by motion sound, and colors which allow students to live with the plot of the film and share roles and attitudes. This facilitates learners’ interpretation of the text, getting the main idea and making inferences. Learners’ power of imagination and prediction would be notably increased as a result.

In a study made by Ouda (2012) that deals with the impact of utilization cartoon as a method to enhance students’ reading comprehension, students were exposed to cartoons for six weeks, and it results of better reading skills, ability to explain complicated meaning and difficult terminology, ability to grasp the main idea. It helped them to get better grades.

  • Enhancing the process of second language acquisition:

“cartoon films are essential source of authentic language input that match the purposes of second language acquisition. However, teachers must be more cautious while selecting a cartoon film for second language learners. Cartoon films that suit students’ level encourage learners to absorb language input and motivate them to utilize linguistic knowledge indifferent communicative contexts, if they are accompanied by practical teaching strategy”.

In a study made by Hull (1943) in his “behavioral theory” claims that there are four factors that influence second language acquisition; stimulus, association, reinforcement, and imitation. Watching cartoon films creates an opportunity for the students to employ vocabulary they gain in different contextual situations because they are able to get the stimulus needed for building up vocabulary and using language in different forms

Even though animated cartoons have many advantages, there are some negative aspects that were mentioned by Agina (2003):

  • Some information of real-life learning will be lost in the animation program.
  • Computer animation programs may function well from a technical point of view, but they are difficult to fit into a curriculum.
  • Animation programs cannot be adapted to take into different student levels into account and consideration within a group or class.
  • Animation programs require special equipment for a quality presentation.
  • Animation programs cannot depict actuality like videos.


Motivation is defined by (Dembo, 2004, p.2) as follows “…the approach taken in this book views motivation as the internal processes that give behavior its energy and direction. These internal processes include your goals, beliefs, perceptions, and expectations”. In addition, Laming (2004, p.) defines motivation as follows “the switching on of some pattern of behavior, of a program of action specified within the individual. That program might be innate or it might have been modified by experience”. Pandey (2005) states that motivation is the impetus to create and sustain intentions and goal-seeking acts it is important because it determines the extent of the learner’s active involvement and attitude toward learning.

Gardner and Lambert (1972) state that motivation is an extremely influential factor in successful second language acquisition, and the term motivation was brilliantly bolstered in 1985 by Gardner who defined motivation as being “the combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goal of learning the language, plus favorable attitudes toward learning the language” (ibid)

According to Oxford and Shearin (1994, “Research shows that motivation directly influences how often students use Second language (L2) learning strategies”. Students need motivation it is what makes them get excited to study or to accomplish anything in life, Ur (1999) as cited in (ibid) stated that when parents or teachers do not develop real motivation, the student will not feel learning foreign languages as attractive and could become very indifferent during lessons.

As we have mentioned the importance use of motivation in foreign language classroom, there are many strategies highlighted by Daniel Madrid, José Luis Ortega, and Bryan Robinson that enhance and improve motivation in the classroom:

  • Group work
  • Interviewing in the street
  • Using authentic videos
  • Singing songs
  • Using game-like activities
  • Acting out dialogues
  • Others.

Gardner (1985) comments on the need of different strategies in foreign language teaching process as follow “motivation is a combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goal of learning the language plus favorable attitudes toward learning the language”.

Taking into consideration that animated cartoons are considered as authentic videos, and the latest is a strategy that improves learner’s motivation Abuzahra, Farrah, & Zalloum (2016) claims that Watching cartoon films in language classroom would change students’ attitude from negative to positive. Bates (2000) also clarifies that the utilization of animated cartoon in the language classrooms would develop students’ language performance. Many researchers agreed that computer-animated cartoons do not only have the potentiality to improve language proficiency, but they also enhance students’ positive attitude to learn English in other words it motivates learners to learn English.

There are several reasons to choose animated cartoon as an authentic audiovisual tool in learning languages, these reasons mentioned by Abuzahra, Farrah, & Zalloum (2016) are highlited as follows:

  • Pedagogical Values: Utilization of cartoon films encourages teachers to improve pedagogical practices by constructing activities that allow students to interact with dialogic exercises in the classroom.
  • Audiovisual attributes: Animated cartoon doubles information storage in the brain. Information in an animated cartoon film is coded verbally and visually which is more likely to be remembered than abstract information that students receive by exclusive listening to teachers’ instruction in classical classroom.
  • Using sounds and music effects: The sound and music effect would deepen students’ understanding of meaning and content, as it facilitates learners’ ability to recall information and analyzing of cartoon messages.
  • More creative fun/ satisfying tool: the use of audiovisual as educational material in classrooms like animations and movies encourage team building and group work that both help students to success, they also confirm that the use of animated cartoon is a more satisfying and engaging than traditional learning modalities.
  • Informal Learning Settings: Cartoon can’t be exclusively assigned for formal learning contexts. The nature of cartoon has the ability to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning, because it is mainly established on everyday situations that encompass ordinary character practicing habitual daily life activities.

In this paper we have dealt with Animated Cartoons from many aspects, we have shed the light on the historical background of their creation, we have dealt with the importance of involving them into the learning process of foreign languages classroom, as an authentic audiovisual tool that facilitates the process of acquiring and understanding the target language, we also have mentioned the motivational aspect that they add to the learning process, taking into consideration that motivation is a crucial factor that guarantees the success of the lesson that the teacher presents.

This material should be selected as a tool to enhance pupil’s pronunciation, due to its crative way in presenting correct pronunciation in a context that grabs the pupil’s attention and motivates them to learn the language in a correct form.

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