Let me hear your body talk: Experiencing the Word for additional language development

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Scally, Garrett
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Department of German, University College Cork
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This article describes a research project created to investigate the application of theatre devising strategies to create a heightened awareness of non-verbal language and embodied experience of words in second language acquisition (SLA) learning and teaching. This is in response to the tendency in SLA teaching to lack an understanding of the importance and the potential of the body’s involvement in the process. Four workshops in Basel, Switzerland were designed and facilitated with adults from distinct cultural and linguistic backgrounds as part of my doctoral research from February-March 2013. I use data generated by an ethnographic approach to fieldwork by analysing interviews, written responses in the project blog (both by the participants and my own), and observations of responses from participants during the workshops. I discuss the theatrical activities used for this purpose reflecting on the possible effects on participants’ linguistic ability and awareness of their physicality as part of an ongoing research process. I draw on Bourdieu’s notion of linguistic habitus and Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the ‘body experiencing the world’ to provide a theoretical framework for analysing the processes of these workshops. These frameworks also support the development of a theatre practice to support SLA that I am tentatively calling “experiencing the word”. I propose that this approach better provides the pragmatic and social conditions, re-created and rehearsed through drama, needed in learning an additional language. This can be done by turning attention to language learning as an embodied experience.
Non-verbal language , Ethnographic approach , Linguistic habitus , Body experiencing
Scally, G. (2019) 'Let me hear your body talk: Experiencing the Word for additional language development', Scenario: A Journal for Performative Teaching, Learning, Research, XIII(2), pp. 111-138. https://doi.org/10.33178/scenario.13.2.8