Notes: Theatre maker and drama teacher
My name is a Marion Geoffray, I'm a theatre maker, drama teacher and the artistic director of Theatre Sans Accents, an innovative bilingual theatre company in Edinburgh that promotes language learning through the arts to children and adults as well as producing original pieces of theatre by bilingual artists.
I perform in several languages as well as teach how to improve linguistic skills on stage.
Which languages have you learned?
I've learnt English, Italian and Spanish at school in France and I'm trying to learn Gaelic using drama.
How have any language skills helped you in your work or personal life?
English definitely widened up my horizon in terms of my acting career. I trained at RADA in London and that's when I realised the importance of drama techniques to develop better linguistic skills and later on gave me the idea to set up TSA. On a more personal level, speaking more than just one language encouraged me to travel more, make friends all over the world and undoubtedly better my accent.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
For anyone wanting to learn a foreign language, I always advise to fully immerse yourself into the language and the culture: try to interact with a native speaker, listen to music, read and watch movies in the target language, cook, travel etc the idea is to try to envisage language learning as a journey rather than a goal to achieve, not just a system of communication but a multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience. In my workshops, I always say that language learning is like a social performance in which you the speaker is the actor playing that character who speaks a foreign language. Remember to have fun most of all, whenever I try to learn a foreign language I always try to make it fun: it might be thought the use of very specific colloquial words that I introduce progressively in my vocabulary or an intonation or a gesture. I tend to remember better through body language and intentions.
Any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
When I started to learn Gaelic from scratch using my own methods, I found it very daunting because it was so foreign in both the pronunciation and writing. I was collaborating on a school project where two Edinburgh high schools partnered up to stage a play in Gaelic commemorating the tragedy of the Iolaire. So I worked with a teacher who was a native Gaelic speaker as well as young people who had been learning Gaelic throughout their education. I've asked them through drama games to teach me basic vocabulary such as numbers, emotions and hello, thank you etc. I had both a script in English and Gaelic to understand at first. But where I really learnt was through the repetition process in rehearsal and the interactions between students and teachers where I picked up key vocabulary that I would then later use. By the end of the project, I still had a very basic level but I had gathered vocabulary that I could use with others and that I was confident using. So the key here is to listen and to build up the confidence to just try and dare to make a mistake to learn even more.
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