Elias Tembo
Pause for a second. Close your eyes and try to refresh your childhood memories. Where did you tend to listen to stories? Who told or read you the stories? How did you react to the stories? Now that you are older, have you read or told stories as an adult? Could storytelling motivate students to learn a new language? For thousands of years, humans have told stories to entertain, communicate, and pass down information from generation to generation. Because language learning begins with listening and speaking, storytelling is an important tool for teaching language. It is against this background that this article discusses storytelling in language classes.

By and large, telling and listening to stories is an ancient tradition that can benefit foreign language learners of all ages, languages, and levels of proficiency. Stories contain linguistic, paralinguistic, discourse, and cultural features that provide the comprehensible input and output that students need to develop their conversational skills. Most importantly, while stories make learning more fun, they also foster the use of imagination and creativity among learners of a new language. Furthermore, they help the learners experience diverse cultures while increasing their verbal proficiency.

There are different storytelling techniques that can be helpful in language classes. These include mixed-language storytelling and multi-voice storytelling. Regarding mixed language telling, the story is narrated in two languages: the target language and the learners’ native language. Here is an example:

There was this man, and he seemed very agitated. This andras, this guy, went round and round the kipo behind his house (a kipo is a garden) looking for something. The andras got down on his hands and knees and started scrabbling around in the border underneath the traiandafila, the roses.
Now the wife of the andra, his yineka, happened to be in one of the upstairs rooms of the house. The yineka looked out through the bedroom parathiro and saw her andra searching for something in the border under the traiandafila.
She asked him what he was doing. ‘I’m looking for my house keys,’ her andras shouted back. ‘Did you lose your house klidia down there in the kipo, on the border under the traiandafila?’ ‘No,’ said her andras, ‘I didn’t lose my klidia here under the traiandafila, but the light is so much better here!’

This technique is ideal for a group of beginners. The learners “internalise” the new or target language without realizing they are doing so.

In multi-voice storytelling, the listeners or learners help you tell the story. As teacher, you can invite your students to sit next to you in a circle. You can start the story of your choice and then ask the pupil on your left or right to continue with his or her own idea. When told in this way, the group is a much bigger part of the story than if the teacher were to tell it all. In conclusion, I would like to quote Kenneth Blanchard, who said: “The best way to teach people is by telling a story.” 

  1. Davies, A. (2007). Storytelling in the classroom: Enhancing traditional
    oral skills for teachers and pupils.London.SAGE Publications Inc.
  2. Mario, R (2022). Storytelling: The language teacher´s oldest technique.
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  3. Morgan, J., & Rinvolucri, M. (2004). Using stories in the language
    classroom. Cambridge: University Press.