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Existing out of your comfort zone

Improv is a fun way to practice English

While learning a language, confidence is important. It is one thing to know the rules surrounding the grammar, and to have an advanced vocabulary, but possessing the confidence to express oneself in English is imperative to language mastery. This confidence revolves around one’s ability to improvise. To speak without always knowing where your words will take you.
As an English teacher, I often reflect on how to boost the confidence of my students. It is incredibly important to make mistakes, as they are a part of learning, and to be unafraid and unapologetic about making them. As social activities coordinator for Oxford International Eurocentres Toronto, I have found myself in a position that enables me to explore the facilitation of student confidence in ways that are not as easy to do in class.
To that end, I decided that it would be a fun idea to organize an improv class for students. If you haven’t heard of improve, I don’t blame you. It is not very common, but is it extremely fun. It involves acting out situations, without a script or any plan! That sounds intimidating, right? I thought so too, but it had a profound effect on me growing up.
I grew up watching the show Whose Line is it Anyway, a famous improv show, and always idolized the performers. Later in life, I decided to take improv classes when I became a teenager, to build my own speaking confidence. It is no exaggeration to say that it changed my personality. I became more outgoing, and more confident in life. I even studied teaching, and now speak publicly every day!
I wanted Oxford International Eurocentres Toronto students to get a taste of this experience, so I contacted an old friend of mine, who is a seasoned improv performer and ESL teacher herself, and asked her to come in to teach an improv workshop.
Some students where a little intimidated at first, but they were told that all they needed to do was one thing.
That was it.
And they certainly did. They demonstrated resourcefulness, creativity, and most importantly, their sense of humour. And it was hilarious. My face hurt from the laughter. Students pretended to be everything from trees and parents to airline pilots, and got to truly let loose.
You see, the key to building speaking confidence, and in fact confidence in general, is simply to leave your comfort zone, and to allow yourself to be surprised by the results. Incidentally, this is also the key to having fun. So take an improv class, learn to dance, or become a skilled cook. You would be amazed at what is possible.
In the end, language learning is an incredible thing, as is human connection and collaboration. When these elements of our existence connect, it is truly a unique experience. It is what I hope everyone who leaves their country to learn another language can experience, and it is what makes my job so enjoyable.