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5 Ways Storytelling Can Help with Language Learning

April 9, 2024
Naomi Weeks

Stories and storytelling have provided humans with our histories, our knowledge, and ideas about the world around us since time began. In this post, b small publishing will share why storytelling is pivotal to helping you learn a second language – and why utilising stories is the best way to learn!

It’s National Storytelling Week! Stories and storytelling have provided humans with our histories, our knowledge, and ideas about the world around us since time began. In this post, b small publishing will share  why storytelling is pivotal to helping you learn a second language – and why utilising stories is the best way to learn!

1. Stories are enjoyable and engaging  🥰

The process of learning a second language often has a reputation as something that can be quite tedious. But learning a new language is something that should be FUN, and exciting! It doesn’t have to just be dusty textbooks and exams. Enjoyment is key to picking up a second language – you are so much more likely to want to continue learning if you are enjoying the process. Stories also provide us with an opportunity to relax and engage our minds – making us more receptive to learning new things. 

2. Stories provide us with a natural learning process 📖

Storytelling is a very natural method for learning, and stories are used to teach us about morals, beliefs, feelings and behaviour from childhood. Babies and children are read bedtime stories and children’s books as a way not only to provide entertainment, but to provide information about the world around them. Psychologist Jerome Bruner estimates that facts are 22 times more likely to be remembered if part of a story. Our brains are wired to want to listen to stories and to generate stories in conversations – we are, Bruner explains, storytelling creatures, and that ‘Stories, finally, provide models of the world’ (Jerome Bruner, Making Stories, 2002).

3. Stories give us context for new vocabulary 😲

Another reason for employing storytelling to help with language learning is that storytelling lets us create perfect context for learning new vocabulary. It’s much more effective to learn full phrases rather than singular words, and hearing new vocabulary in sentences allows us the opportunity to deduce the meaning of new words without having to focus on single words specifically. Stories also allow us to hear in what context words are used. Rather than learning long lists of isolated vocabulary, we can see when and how specific words are used in the natural flow of a story. 

4. Stories naturally teach us grammar and syntax 👀

Learning how to accurately use grammar and syntax when learning a new language can seem daunting and not very fun. But stories allow us to understand grammar and syntax intuitively, noticing and adopting patterns and styles without having to memorize complicated rules from a textbook. With enough repetition within the context of a story, the rules will naturally stick!

5. Stories give us connection 🫂

A good story taps into our emotions and engages us personally in the plot and the outcome. Engaging the reader in this way will lead to motivation to learn the new words, understanding the grammar and staying involved as the story progresses. Stories provide us with a deeper personal connection than memorizing word lists could ever do! As well as this, reading fiction has also been proven to build up understanding of other people and instil empathy. There are so many countless benefits to storytelling and reading stories!

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Of course, reading or being told a story is only part of the picture. b small publishing run an annual storytelling competition, where participants aged 6-11 are encouraged to send in a story written in a language other than their mother tongue. Writing a story in a different language is a fantastic way to apply what you’ve been learning in school or at home – why not give it a go?

Want to hear another short story? Once upon a time there was a company called This is School, and they offered teachers a 14-day free trial of their platform, with no strings attached. The end.