When I was growing up, I remember the nights by the fire where my sister and I gathered around my aunt and my grandma telling stories of long ago. They were varied, from the important exploit of our great grandfather to the ones we enjoyed the most about zombies and demons lurking in the dark at night that used to scare us both. But we never wanted them to stop and go to bed.

Indeed, storytelling has always had an important place in every society and culture throughout the centuries. The stories might be different, but they have never lost the magical power that they have on us. The role of stories has been to entertain, educate, and a means to pass on traditions to the younger generations.

Nowadays, things are not that much different. We are used to stories; they are part of our lives. Just think of the film and TV industries. We cry, laugh, and feel over exited with all the stories we watch and read daily including fiction and non-fiction books. They grab our attention, they captivate us.

Lately stories are used for language learning. You might wonder how they can help you learn a language.

Stories and general learning

Psychologists have documented the effect of stories on the brain. They activate various parts involved in learning, memorising, association of ideas at the same time allowing a stronger neural connection. We are “22 times more likely to remember facts that are given in a story” Jerome Bruner.

Impressive, isn’t it?

Why are stories so effective when associated with learning?

It is simply because it places any concept that you want to retain into context. So, it becomes easier to assimilate. People also engage with the story at an emotional level which allows what you learn to stick for longer, it is also because that when you are relaxed it is easier to learn and store the information.

People engage with stories at an emotional level.

Stories and language learning.

Learning a language through stories is remarkable. Your vocabulary pool grows faster. You can remember the new words more easily for two reasons, one because you are seeing the word in context which make it easier for recollection; second due to motivation as you are intrigued by the story line, and you are willing to get the gist of what is going on. You also get reacquainted to the same words, as stories tend to be repetitive. These become more meaningful and memorable.

On the other hand, you are learning all grammar structures in their natural environment, just like native children learn their language.

Stories are generally written in a colloquial way. This will allow you in turn to understand better native speakers when they use similar expressions.

Learning with stories is an excellent way to boost your motivation. You will certainly want to know how the story ends, so, you will be coming back for your daily dose of storytelling and your encounter with the language is more pleasurable. Your study time is not a constraint anymore.

Through stories you also learn about the culture of your target country. You can then mimic the way the language is used in real life.

You learn the language the same way the native children do.

As mentioned before, you learn the language the same way the native children do. They learn words, expressions, pronunciation, and grammar through the characters of the tales they are told and read about. What interests you is the story line and not infinite grammar rules that you feel constraint to memorise. Your focus is on the meaning of the words and phrases. And you will be able to communicate with others by repeating the learned expressions.

Stories work no matter your level of proficiency. Believe me, you will learn a great deal if you are a beginner. There are resources just for beginners where they use the right language to suit your level and they deliver a clear and powerful message wrapped up in exciting stories.

To enhance the advantages of stories, it is recommendable to use the text with the audio. You will be able to pair what you read with what you hear. This will help you improve your listening skills at the same time.

Where can you find resources?

With the internet, the world is your oyster. You have access to a myriad of materials for native speakers: books, magazines, podcasts with transcripts.

They are also a lot of story books in various languages and different levels for language learners.

Choose stories that are slightly above your level to help you reach the next one.

To conclude, with stories you focus more on how to communicate in the language you are studying. You build up a good vocabulary pool, you learn grammar in context, the same way children learn their first language, in a more relaxed environment, knowing that you will be able to use this new language in conversations when necessary.