Language teaching is storytelling


It may not look like it from the outside, but storytelling is an integral part of language learning, not just as a teacher, but also as a student.


Contrary to what school led some to believe, language learning is not a purely theoretical subject that can be acquired by studying grammar alone. Languages are meant to be spoken and language learning is about communication.


When a student tells me about their favourite holiday ever or even the previous weekend, using both imparfait and the infamous passé composé, they're not only practising those two past tenses, but they're telling me a story. And because it is based on their own experience and lives, they're more likely to remember each sentence they make. As I always tell them, if they write examples in the language they're learning that are based on what they know, the writing will be easier and so will remembering any of it.


Pretty much every single language point I teach, big or small, comes with a story and/or a metaphor. While my students are busy focusing understanding the newest language point they're learning, they don't always realise that I'm using any storytelling trick available in my book, pun intended, to help them achieve just that.


While they might find it funny that their French/Italian/English teacher has an obsession with the colour blue or dark chocolate, it probably doesn't occur to them that I'm creating a memorable context around a language point. And, yes, it doesn't hurt that the wall behind me is cobalt...


I will quote examples taken from their own lives, experiences and moments they've shared with me, but also from my own experience both as a teacher and a learner.

I use stories to help them see their own learning curve through my eyes, rather than their own severe prism. Without ever naming any student, without ever comparing anyone, I show them through storytelling that they're not alone in experiencing doubts and frustration from time to time, and that their progress is more solid and consistent than they think.


And time and time again, I use stories to make it clear that making a mistake is an integral part of language learning as well. In fact, I use stories about the mistakes I made, pointing out the humour in it, because making a mistake when speaking a language you're learning is invariably funny, and not at all humiliating as most people think.


For example, when I told a whole minibus filled with Italians that I like my drink! I meant to say that I'm 'like a sponge', absorbing languages quickly, which is correct in itself, but instead introduced myself as a tippler, which is the most common use for such an expression!


Or how, a couple of months ago, the only correct sentence in an A4 sheet that I had written for my Hebrew lesson, was ironically to say the least, the one that said 'There are many mistakes in Caroline's sentences'! Or how the sentences I write in Hebrew every week always include corrections, in other words, that expecting to never make any mistakes when learning anything is both unrealistic and absurd.


Stories are everywhere, not just in books or films, and not only make learning more efficient, but also more fun!


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