In the previous post, I explained how I use an improvisation exercise to learn German. In this post, I will explain why and how I use theatre improvisation to learn German. Of course, German is just an example, the method can be applied to learn any language.
What is improv?
Theatre Improvisation, also called improv, consists of performing small theatre scenes without following a script but rather by interacting spontaneously with the other actors on stage. The only skill that an improvisation player should have is the willingness to say whatever passes through its mind and the willingness to not worry too much about how he/she performs (the latter is also a good requisite to learn a language).
To initiate a scene I usually extract randomly a sentence from a German book, but there are many other methods that can be used. For example, one could start by acting some activities or by uttering just the first thing that comes to his/her mind and the other actor/s would follow up from there.
When you want to use improvisation to learn a language the only difference with classic improvisation is that you would play in your target language and with actors that are native speakers in that language.
Why is improv useful to learn languages?
Last week I visited the video-games museum in Berlin. One of the panels in the museum argued that playing has always been important for humans because it gives the chance to learn skills in a safe environment before using them in the real world.
The beauty of using improv to learn a language is that it allows you to replicate a lot of different real social situations. One would argue: “why to replicate social situation instead than learning by using real talk in real social situations?”. Well, having real social interactions and real talks is great to learn to speak a language but you may live in a place like Berlin, where after you uttered the first sentence in German people will switch in English to have a more comfortable dialogue. By doing improv in your target language you can increase the amount of time that you spend using the language in the same way it is used in real-life situations.
The other element that makes improv really good to learn languages is that improv is really funny! When we have fun we learn faster and everybody who attended a boring lecture and a witty lecture know what I am talking about.
Finally, improvisation usually develops into short stories and as I discussed in previous posts the human brain seems to be wired to learn and remember better information when it is packaged in the format of stories.