Learning language ‘dramatically’

Claudia Bartholomeyczik uses a rather interesting medium to teach the German language - theatre.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The little boy tugged at his mother’s arm.

  Mama, ein eis?


  Mama, bitte!! Ein kleines eis!

  Na gut!

  Hurrah! ein eis!

Greek? Nope; German.

 There, in fact, was no little boy who wanted an ice cream or his frowning mother at the airy Government Women’s College auditorium on Wednesday morning. Only ‘drama pedagogue’ Claudia Bartholomeyczik and her trainees play-acting in German.

 Bartholomeyczik, a pleasant German from Berlin, uses a rather interesting medium to teach the German language - theatre. She was in the city on Wednesday for a three-hour session organised jointly by the Goethe-Zentrum Max Mueller Bhavan and the German Department of the Government Women’s College.

 ``The idea behind using theatre to learn a language is that you really ‘use’ the language,’’ says Bartholomeyczik, who has been employing the method ever since her high school teaching days in Germany in the early ‘90s. On Wednesday, Bartholomeyczik had some 20 or so youngsters, most of them girls, hopping around the auditorium shouting German dialogues at each other.

 Unlike the conventional method of learning a language - inside a classroom - Bartholomeyczik adopts a holistic approach, based on the theory that language generation is a mixture of differing elements; sound, feelings, rhythm, gestures and creativity, all of which are  possible in theatre.

 That’s also where it differs from acting out a model conversation in a conventional teach-yourself-German book. ``I encourage my students to use natural body movements and gestures while acting. For example, there are typical Indian gestures you use a lot. A gesture is often enough to convey the meaning,’’ she says.

 Bartholomeyczik, 41, belongs to Northern Germany, but lives in Berlin. She took up teaching French, history and civic education in high school in 1991, where she first tried out her ‘language through theatre’ concept to teach French. Learning languages is a passion with her, and she can speak English and a smattering of Russian, apart from German and French.

 When she started developing the concept as a high school teacher, she lacked experience with theatre, so she attended a one-year course at the Michael Tschechow Acting Studio in Berlin, and later, a three-year course on amateur theatre at the University of Arts, Berlin. From 2004, Bartholomeyczik started working as a freelance theatre teacher and, in 2007, for the Goethe-Institut in Germany. Since then, she has been globetrotting showcasing her technique.

 During her current Indian visit, she organised language workshops in New Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. A session was held at the Trivandrum International School on Tuesday.


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