Using Storytelling to learn a language

Peter Merrick
Jul 9, 2018 · 6 min read


Most students will have already done Module 1 and 2 with us. Students who have not done these modules with us have already got level B2. It’s important that every student has roughly the same level. However, everyone must understand that some people will be more confident with speaking than others and our mission is to support and encourage everyone to speak to the best of their ability with compassion and empathy.

To come to a storytelling session you must have a story ready to tell. If you have done Module 2 the writing, simplifying, editing, translation, error analysis, and transformation to an oral story has already been done and is included in the fee for the module.

Students having come through our program know the process we use to prepare a story. For others joining who are already comfortable with the grammar, the process is described at the end of this document.

If you are joining the storytelling module without having come through Modules 1 and 2 then we need to work together to get you ready to join.

Session Structure

Beginning: — synopsis (10 minutes)

Each person tells a synopsis of their story in between 3–5 sentences

Middle: — telling (60–70 minutes)

Every teller gets between 12–15 minutes

Each storyteller tells their story. The objective is to reach the end of the story in the allotted time. However, there is no requirement to finish the story. If the time runs out before the story is told the storytelling passes to the next storyteller.

Where the storyteller reaches the end of their story, the group questions the storyteller about their story. A conversation then takes place.

To begin with a story is always told in the present tense. When the teller is able to acceptably tell the story in the present tense, she/he tells it again in the past tense. The story is then complete. The storyteller then prepares their next story.

A storyteller will typically require 2–3 sessions working on the same story. It is to the storyteller’s advantage to prepare in advance to tell their story. The more preparation a storyteller does, the more stories they can tell and the more progress they will make.

Finish — master storytelling

The teacher will tell a story to the students.


When you go for the first time to a Module 3 session, you go with a story you are going to tell based on a true experience from your life.

You may discuss the theme of your story with us personally to brainstorm ideas and choose between options. Your story will have a beginning, middle and end. Something in your story will have gone wrong. There is a crisis of some kind. And the crisis is resolved.

Your story should include the line ‘and that’s when things started to go wrong’.

Before your tell your story — you have to write your story.

The written story is different from the oral story. The oral story based on the written story. The oral story is a simplification of the written story.

The written story will typically not be longer than 500 words.

This story typically includes the line ‘… and that’s when things started to go wrong.’ It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has some kind of ‘conflict’ and it has a resolution.

The process for writing your story

Write the story in ENG and send it to us

Everyone so far has been able to write in ENG. If you want to write in another language (your native language) then please tell us and we’ll arrange for that to happen.

We simplify the story and send it back to you

You translate the story into DE and send it to us

Your translation is corrected and returned to you

You compare your effort with the final result and make learning notes
Examples of student stories (written — corrected):

The process for telling your story

We take the original written story and simplify it again into the oral form in the present tense.

You extract all the verbs and nouns you will need. You may make a quiz to ensure you know the words you will need. Your task is NOT to memorise anything.

You think of (find, draw) a series of pictures/photos/images that in your mind represent your story. This will require around 5 images. These images may be physical or they may be ‘in your head’.

When you start to tell your story, you will have no notes. You may use physical images to help you. You will say:

I have a story to tell you. In my head I can see a picture and in this picture I see… then you tell the story by describing the pictures you see.

You can do this before you come to the session. You can do this riding on your bicycle or walking down the street. This is how an actor might prepare for a role and that’s what you should do also.

On the day you come to tell your story:

The other storytellers in the group need a piece of paper each that supports your story. This story includes:

  • the story in ENG
  • the verbs and nouns in DE you require


  • the physical images that represent your story
  • the verbs and nouns in DE you require

Here’s an example of a story prepared for telling…

Bare back riding — oral story preparation

I had a friend in middle school who lived in the countryside, near an apple orchard. I was at her house one day and we decided to go for a walk through the orchard.

middle — present
In the orchard there is a fenced area with a small barn. When we come to it we see two horses inside and no people around. We decide to hop over the fence. I ride horses regularly, so it seems reasonable that I would be able to ride these ones. We each chose a horse and somehow find our way onto their bare backs.

They don’t seem trained. We try to get the horses to start to walk. Neither my horse nor my friend’s horse is interested. Eventually they walk a short distance forward, but with no enthusiasm. Then mine gets angry. He starts walking quickly and then kicks his back legs up and throws me off. I fly up in the air where he manages to somehow kick me again in the thigh. I hit the ground. I have a massive black bruise. My friend sees this and makes the decision to get off her horse. I dust myself off and limp away.

Looking back it was not a good decision.


middle school Mittelschule
apple orchard der Apfelgarten
fenced area das eingezäunte Gelände
barn der Stall
their bare backs (without saddles) ihren nackten Rücken (ohne Sättel)
a short distance forward ein Stück vorwärts
the thigh der Oberschenkel
a massive black bruise ein massiver schwarzer Bluterguss
a good decision eine gute Entscheidung
reasonable vernünftig

hop hopsen
ride reiten
seems scheinen
choose wählen
train trainieren
gets (becomes) angry werden wütend
kicks treten
throws (me off) werfen von
fly up hochfliegen, auffliegen
manage schafen
hit (the ground) schlagen
make a decision (decide) entscheiden
get off absteigen
limp hinken
looking back zurückblicken

we try to get the horses to start to walk
Wir versuchen, die Pferde dazu zu bringen, gehen anzufangen.

pic: friend, house, orchard
pic: walk in orchard see horses behind fence
pic: sit on grumpy horses
pic: flying through the air, horse bucking
pic: you on the ground, friend dismounting
pic: limping away

Language Gym — Berlin

show up — work out

Peter Merrick

Written by

Language Gym — Berlin

show up — work out