Glocal Perspectives in Film-Based Foreign Language Education

Teaching about Sustainability with “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (2019)


  • Jan-Erik Leonhardt
  • Annika Janßen, née Kref
  • Carina Leonhardt
  • Britta Viebrock


glocal education, glocalization, critical foreign language education, sustainability, film


The film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is based on the memoir of William Kamkwamba and tells the story of how William’s family battles a life-threatening draught in Malawi. Through a glocal lens, i.e. by looking at the interplay of locality and globality, the film offers critical insights into the importance of sustainability with regard to lasting and viable ecological, economic and social structures (cf. Volkmann, 2016). On a local level, the farmers in the film struggle to provide food for their families. A corrupt national government shows little interest in establishing economic support structures and education. In addition, the context is embedded in global dynamics and influenced by the legacy of colonialism. Focusing on topics such as sustainability, we will discuss how the film lends itself for a content-based approach to the teaching of English as a foreign language. Drawing on the theory of glocal education in the context of critical foreign language education that goes beyond functional language teaching and puts forward a critical understanding and the value of a democratic, pluralistic and sustainable life (cf. Gerlach, 2020; Niemczyk, 2019; Volkmann, 2014), the focus of our contribution will be on task development. Starting from the assumption that sophisticated tasks are needed to encourage learners to engage critically and reflectively with the film’s content and aesthetics, we will suggest a viewing-log and scenic interpretation for dealing with the film in creative and personally engaging ways, which can also be transferred to contexts beyond the foreign language classroom.