What language learners can learn from actors
Last weekend our family were on stage in The Magic Toyshop by Andrew Willment.
I was helping backstage and it got me thinking. Acting is a lot like language learning. Here is why I think so.
Actors learn lines and phrases. They use cues and context to learn their lines. Many polyglots start a new language by learning key phrases and build from there. When I started to learn Mandarin in January 2015, a phrase I picked up quickly was:
Wǒ xiǎng yào yībēi kāfēi xièxiè. – I’d like a cup of coffee thank you
It was not long before I figured out how to ask for a cup of tea.- Wǒ xiǎng yào yībēi chá xièxiè.
Actors learn a script
Benny Lewis in his book Fluent in 3 months talks of the value of writing a script in the target language, and learning it to start basic conversations. I’ve been learning Urdu with Eurotalk this month. I’ve learned to say good morning – Subah Bakhair, Thank you – Shukria, goodbye- Alwidah. With these simple greetings I’ve been able converse with Urdu speaking parents and build up more Urdu as the speakers helped me.
Good actors are able to improvise when dialogue goes off script.
Good language learners are not flummoxed when they do not know a word in another language, they simply explain using word they know and communicate their point. I use this a lot when talking to my mum in law in German!
Acting is a lot of fun and allows to you be another person (or simply a more confident you!)
A Turkish proverb says
“One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people.”
I’ve taught my first Chinese New Year class of 2016 this week. When I can communicate and sing in Mandarin it’s an amazing feeling; as I get into the swing of the class I feel I’m flying!
My favourite part of the Magic Toyshop play was these lines…
No look up there, he’s flying …. up… in the air!
Heavens above that’s impossible!
Yes, and someone needs to tell them that or they are going to carry on doing it!
So I tell you… go and do the impossible. Go out there and have a go at communicating in another language, and let me know where it takes you.