Shakespeare for ESL students…
We had a British theater group come to the school the other day to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You can imagine how well that was going to go over with a bunch of Gallego-speaking children.
Well you are wrong. We were too. We spent several classes trying to explain to kids what the hell happens in that play, but it turns out we didn’t need to. The performance started with these two people coming onstage and explaining the skeletal basics of the play.
Then they asked for six volunteers. The English teacher next to me turned to me in horror and said “there are only two people in the group”. I debated if I should raise my hand to go up so that I could whisper secret directions to the kids, but in the end I didn’t, and that was fine.
No one raised their hands, partly because they didn’t understand and partially because these kids are generally shy with newcomers. So the two actors came into the audience and chose six students. They ended up choosing six kids who were wonderful for the roles. Only one girl looked slightly uncomfortable—the others had a blast.
The kids played the roles of the lovers, Puck, and Bottom, while the actors were Titania and Oberon. The actors gave the students cue cards with their lines (which were in simple English). They only performed the subplot of the lovers and Titania and Bottom so as to keep the play short.
The students in the audience LOVED watching their classmates be forced to do goofy things. Even the ones who didn’t understand any of the words loved the play.
Watching the play was like seeing my life inverted. I am in a world of people saying incomprehensible words, and things are happening around me and I’m not sure what I should be doing. And I don’t have cue cards, so I just make shit up. I said that to Julian, the very awkward English teacher, and he told me that he feels the same way. And I felt very sorry for him, because I can go home and escape that feeling. He is already home.
The only problem for me was that after the lovely, delicious slice of watermelon that was listening to English spoken by real, live people, I had to return to reality. I speak English all the time in class, but it’s not the same as having other people speak it to me. It’s like trying to give yourself a back massage. It’s just not as satisfying. For the rest of the day, I floated around on my English cloud and had an extra-super-hard time focusing on Spanish or Gallego.