Sunday, October 30, 2011


So, here is the thing: storytelling makes English classes awesome.

My mother teaches high school English in Hungary. That is where I started to practice storytelling five years ago, and it is the best audience anyone could ever wish for. Let's face it: most English teachers over here get away with grammar tests and lists of words that everyone forgets as soon as the test is over. Sure, there is some listening practice from tapes (!!!) and CDs, but that's mostly two people talking about homework or reserving a table in a restaurant. If you are a teenager, that is the exact definition of BOOOOOORING. And if you are not lucky enough to have a teacher who wants to make you enjoy speaking a foreign language, you are stuck with it for your whole high school career.
Well, my mom has that crazy idea that speaking a language should be fun, which makes her a minority among her peers. Sure, she teaches grammar and stuff, but she also makes her students chat, just for the fun of it; she makes them sit in a circle instead of rows, and she makes them sing and act and watch TV shows in English.
And because I am not always available to be passed off as "listening practice", she also borrowed the storytelling CDs I accumulated over the years, and decided they were just as good. Except, better.

I would like to give a special thanks to all of the storytellers who have inspired me. And I would like to give a special big thanks in the name of the students and my mom to the following tellers:

Barbara McBride-Smith. Her Texas Greek myths are awesome. One of the girls in the school decided she wanted to tell Medusa in an English contest. Have you ever tried performing storytelling in a foreign language? Try doing Greek myths with a Texas accent... but she loved it, and she did great! You could see how much she enjoyed telling, just by looking at her. Thank you, Barbara!

Gay Ducey. She introduced me to Mouse Deer, and and I fell in love with the little critter. I told Mouse Deer stories in the school; some girls decided they wanted to tell one for an English contest. Complete with puppets and funny voices. Kantjil became an all-school rock star. They even had posters on the walls. How could one possibly resist a creature this handsome? Thank you, MaryGay!

The Storycrafters. Our education system in Hungary does not include public performance or public speaking, and it genreally doesn't encourage students to perform at all. So, when two teenage guys volunteer to do a rap story in a foreigh language, you know you are doing something right. For the same reason, at school competitions the audience is usually very quiet and very polite, applauding at the end of every poem or song; so when the whole audience jumps up and starts cheering and clapping during the performance, you know you are doing something even better. When other students the following year decide to look for a rap too, and beacuse they only find half of it, they make up the other half on their own, in English... you know you are doing something magical. Thank you, Storycrafters!

And the next step in the plan? Get funding and bring all these peole to Hungary, so these students (and many, many other students too) can meet and hear them in person! In one CD can make such a different, imagine what a live storyteller could do...

(If you would like to see a video snippet of what I am talking about, go to the school's homepage here:
Scroll down to the section called "Letölthető dokumentumok"
Download the videos titled
Egy rövidke (4 perces) bemutatófilm

And enjoy the show!)

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