The Play’s the Thing!
Use drama to improve your language skills
When you’re learning a foreign language, it’s easy to stick to reading the prescribed language texts, or the recommended websites. However, if you’ve been steering clear of reading drama, you could be missing out on a unique opportunity to hone your language skills, as well as establishing new friendships!
It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare
There are plenty of modern dramas, or adapted novels that are very accessible for foreign language students. An internet search will point you in the right direction of texts to seek out. There are even some available to download. Start off with adaptations of well-known tales, so you can focus on dialogue without having to concentrate on the plot.
Make it a group experience
Unlike other types of texts, drama lends itself to group participation. Get together with friends to read your play. Meet in a cosy bar, a friend’s house or your favourite restaurant to make it a social experience. Group support is extremely valuable. You’ll have the chance to hear the linguistic skills of others and can iron out issues together. It’s particularly valuable if you’re able to have a native speaker as a member of the team.
By its very nature, drama texts require you to read out loud. The benefits of reading aloud are well documented when it comes to language learning. It can aid pronunciation, improve fluency and expression as well as boosting confidence.
Reading a drama piece cuts out the narrative of the story, so you’re left with just the dialogue, the bare bones of character interaction. There’s a feeling that you’re getting to the very hub of the meaning when you’re reading solely dialogue. For foreign language students, this often brings a text alive. There’s no sidetracking into descriptions of the landscape. Characters convey the plot through dialogue and action alone. It’s a very accessible form.
Up on your feet
Get up and act! Adding the action to the dialogue will help to bring the text alive and will further cement your understanding. You’ll be adding deeper meanings to the words and may even discover ambiguity of meaning in the language. You could make it a public performance. Book a hall and perform your chosen play for family and friends.
Professionals in action
Make an effort to watch a play to further extend your skills. It’s fascinating to hear the nuances of language, and experience different interpretations of the dialogue.
Perhaps it’s time to add a drama text to your reading list. Reading a play can enhance your language skills in a way that no other text can. What’s more, you’ll experience themes and ideas handled in a totally unique way. After all, in the words of Alfred Hitchcock, “drama is life with the dull parts left out”. Who could resist?
Heather Foley taught English for over a decade before becoming a consultant at etsplc.com, a UK based consultancy company.