Theatre: Another way
of learning English!

Want to learn how theatre helped me improve my English?

To ignore something; not to take care of something.

A person who writes plays.

To practise something; e.g. a scene from a play.

Talking too much and dragging on for too long.

(Expression) Said when one thing leads to another very quickly.

Without limits or restrictions.

To practise something repeatedly until you master it.

(Metaphorically) To become accustomed to a situation.

Looking back on something from your current perspective.

A feeling of excitement.

By Jose Viera

Whenever we talk about strategies to learn English, there are certain forms of entertainment that come to mind almost immediately: all learners of English have been advised, at one point or another, to watch a TV series without subtitles, or to grab a book and get a feel for English literature. Fewer people, however, think of another type of art which, though strongly linked, remains neglected: drama.

As a university student of English literature, drama was one of those arts teachers only mentioned in passing: emphasis was generally on novels and short stories, and the only playwright we got to know in depth was William Shakespeare. Fortunately, my teacher Maureen loved to think outside the box and introduced us to the author in the most dynamic of ways: I have fond memories of the whole class rehearsing scenes from Much Ado About Nothing, moving around the class to experience drama through practice. Definitely more memorable than the long-winded lectures we were used to!

The course came to an end and so did my relationship with theatre… or so I thought! A year later, our degree counsellor told us about a drama club focusing on Shakespeare plays… and next thing you know, I was signed up!

I am not totally sure what led me to join the club, but part of me thinks it was my way of going the extra mile. I had never felt particularly confident about my English… so what better way to step up my speaking game than by exposing myself, no holds barred?

I recall having a tough time adjusting to the lessons at first. To start with, it was my first time interacting with a native speaker –our instructor, Jasper– who was not a teacher! We focused primarily on The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Even though we dedicated lots of time to reading scripts and drilling pronunciation, there was also a lot of room for improvisation, taking the scenes in a different direction if we felt like it. We even role-played promotional interviews and pretended to be Shakespeare himself! Through these exercises, we delved deeper into the world created by the author and breathed more authenticity into our acting. This, in turn, increased our confidence and helped us improve our pronunciation. Rather than learn everything by heart, the idea was to empathise with the characters and pour our hearts out on stage.

After a while, I began to notice changes in the way I spoke. Not only did my sentences flow a lot better but, for the first time in my life, I could have conversations in English without worrying about being right or wrong! Easing myself into the routine led me to open up and enjoy the experience. What initially felt like a challenge to improve my English soon became a cherished time of the week to have fun with people I shared a passion with.

Unfortunately, we never really got to act in front of an actual audience. A few months on, university assignments began to pile up and our degree took first place. In hindsight, however, I believe that the process was far more important than the outcome. Not only did the experience empower me to take risks and become a better speaker, but I also made precious friends and learnt more about the culture behind the language I was studying. That’s what really matters!

So… long story short, would I recommend theatre as a way to learn English? I positively would! The good news is that you don’t need to look too far to find them; all you have to do is sign up for our Drama Club classes. As a former coach, it was interesting for me to see how much we can learn just by putting ourselves in someone else’s place! Be it for the confidence you gain when speaking, the pronunciation tricks you grab as you go or the mere thrill of discovering new stories… what are you waiting for?

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