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On a Train — Barnabas Toth , 2004

Two young travellers meet in a train travelling through mainland Europe and try to find a common language with which to communicate.

German, Hungarian, French and English are used in this film though the narrative can be readily understood without knowledge of everything that is said.

Classroom Activities

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Critical

  • Why are these young men travelling?
  • Where are they going?
  • What do the two young men have in common?
  • Why do these young men speak at least two additional languages?
  • What cinematic techniques are used in the film to represent the characters’ attempts at communication?

Cultural

  • What is the filmmaker trying to say about the modern world?
  • What would it be like to travel around Europe by train? Discuss the different countries you would visit and which languages you would need.
  • Make a note of how many different countries and languages are mentioned or represented in the film. What do you know about these countries? What can you find out?
  • Stop the film at the different dialogue sections and discuss how well the characters speak the different foreign languages. Discuss whether speaking correctly is always essential and what the correct form would be.
  • Discuss the different languages and language groups in Europe and how they developed as distinct but often interrelated languages. You could mention the use of loan words in European languages and how these can help us communicate.
  • Research the development of Europe's “odd-man out” languages of Hungarian and Finnish. Discuss theories about how these languages might have developed.

Creative

WRITE

  • Write a short story about two people who are struggling to communicate.

MODERN LANGUAGES

  • Learn new vocabulary with a map of countries and capitals spelled in the particular language of study.
  • Compile an Emergency Phrasebook card for travel through Europe.
  • Using stimulus cards, ask pupils to communicate important phrases (e.g. "I suffer from hay fever." / "I've lost my ticket." / "Does this train go to Berlin?") to each other. This could be both verbally and non-verbally but without using any English words.

GEOGRAPHY

  • Provide pupils with a budget and the terms and conditions of an Interrail Pass. Ask them to plan a dream trip through Europe, making note of how long they would stay in each country or city, what they would want to see and do, the languages they would need, and what they would need to pack.

DRAMA

  • Discuss how people communicate without words through mime, gesture and charade-like play.

Clip Details

Resource Rights Holder Future Shorts
Year of Production 2004
Genre Live-action
Curriculum Areas French, German, English, Modern Languages
Director Barnabas Toth
Country of Origin France, Switzerland
Medium / Content Live Action
Themes Communication
Clip Length 10:45
Clip Length 10:45
Age Group S1-S3, S4-S6