Updated: Dec 19, 2021
This article is written by Myron. Part-time thinker, part-time doer, and a student at Master Dutch.
Why is storytelling such a timeless tradition? From as early as we can remember, we have been putting our teeth under our pillows and (insert something you do because of a story), so it comes as no surprise that storytelling is important in a multitude of ways. It isn’t solely for entertainment purposes, either - storytelling can be used as the vehicle to get you from A to B in learning not just the names of the Seven Dwarfs, but a second language as well!
How is storytelling impactful to language learning?
It is enjoyable.
Feeling Bashful (there’s one) when thinking about learning a new language? Even with all the motivation in the world, you’re still bound to hit a snag. So what role can storytelling play here? Following along with a storyline provides an enjoyable way to increase the effectiveness of your language learning and helps to familiarize you with the rules of the language– perhaps without even realizing. Work and enjoyment together doesn’t just mean quicker progress, but also means you’ll gain a more natural sense of accomplishment. Learning without enjoyment - where’s the fun in that?
It is inclusive.
A good story stimulates the mind of any person that comes into contact with it. It’s a feast for ears, eyes, and minds. For visual learners, the vivid imagery conjured in their mind can help to recall important information. Auditory learners can focus on listening to the words as they’re spoken and take mental notes of them this way. Kinesthetic learners will remember the details through their emotions, and how the scenarios in the story made them feel. Regardless of your learning style, there is guaranteed to be something suited to you.
It is diverse.
Much like the connection between a tree and its roots, each and every language is deeply intertwined with its culture; one cannot exist without the other. Learning a language is more than just educating yourself on vocabulary, the meaning of words and grammar rules. It includes gaining knowledge of the culture that surrounds it. Engrossing yourself in stories by native speakers can help you to familiarize yourself with the culture in two ways: it gives you insight into the ways it can differ from your own culture, but more importantly, it can highlight the similarities between your own culture and that of your target language, and make it feel less ‘foreign’.
It is memorable.
I feel so adult using bullet points; they come in pretty handy for language learning, too. But I cannot begin to tell you the amount of things I have forgotten in teaching myself Dutch, simply because of the way my mind works. And whilst my page ended up looking like a game of ‘connect the dots’, it didn’t exactly do the trick. But what has worked for me is stories. I will give you an example from my personal experience in learning Dutch:
My tutor wanted to teach me the use of the verb ‘laten’, but instead of listing off the meaning and showing examples of it in commonly used sentences, he turned it into a story. About how he would show me the Van Gogh museum (laat me het Van Gogh museum zien),
followed by me dropping my drink in an The Hague restaurant (ik laat mijn drankje vallen) and then ending with me leaving my wallet behind (ik heb mijn portemonnee laten liggen).
Although Jurassic Park’s plot might be more captivating, this approach used in teaching me how to use this verb was not only fun, but also unforgettable thanks to it being presented in a way that involved me personally and kept me engaged throughout. Had this been shown as just a textbook definition, I can safely say I would’ve forgotten it already.
Does this mean you need to read non-stop Nijntje to make a big impact on your personal language goals? Keep this in mind: the key is to be captured by a story, find the link between culture and language, keep on fueling your desire to make memorable lessons learned while you master Dutch (or your language of choice), and enjoy it. As for me, laat me een beetje rusten; all this talk of Snow White has made me Sleepy…
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