Improv, by its very nature is an exercise that helps practitioners think on the spot, so applying it to second language acquisition actually makes a lot of sense. For those who know nothing about it, improv, improvisation or theatrical improvisation consists of actors, amateur or professional starting a scene or dialogue from a set premise or a phrase and continuing it with whatever comes to their mind.
It is based on the cooperation of the actors, their willingness to truly utter whatever first comes to their mind as well as their ability to tie it all together and make a logical, continuous, often amusing scene. It is used as a form of entertainment and relaxation. People often go to improv clubs to see professional actors play along a set of very thin lines or even try it for themselves as there are many open-mic clubs or amateur improv companies specially dedicated to the art form.
Improv Is Rarely Associated With Learning A Language
Using it as an English learning exercise is a rarity, however, it can lead to incredibly good results. It doesn’t require any previous knowledge in the field just the ability and willingness to look a bit ridiculous and lose any preconceived notion about performing or speaking a foreign language. The exercise is mostly dedicated to intermediate and advanced students as beginners will have a hard time keeping up with the fast pace of the dialogue.
It can be done among English students or by a student with several fluent or native speakers. The exercise could focus on a book, play or even an English lesson. Participants can start with a single phrase from that lesson and build on it over the course of the exercise. Trying to understand what the other actors are referring to can be a difficult but rewarding exercise as it will force the student to understand idioms, slang or complicated phrases in the quickest possible time and to respond in turn with something relevant. It can help students review what they already knew or add new words, idioms and slang terms to their vocabulary. It can also improve their accent and speech cadence and rid the student of any anxiety or fear of speaking his newly acquired language in public.
The best part of this practice method is that it is a lot of fun. It can be done with just about anyone and costs little to nothing. Because it is fun, it can lead to better retention rates as several studies have suggested.
Have Fun And Maybe Explore A New Opportunity
The exercise can also be done as part of an English class. It is also a great pretext for students to actually practice and use what they learn in class in a real life environment. The more they do it the better their retention rate will be. By filming their performance, they can review it and see where they need to practice more, what words they mispronounced or what grammar rule they consistently broke.
It can also open up new study or career opportunities as some students might pick up acting as a hobby or college option if they find the process that enjoyable.