Opening Up Language Through Tongue Twisters

Three students in Sloan's workshops, Mohamed, left, Jonathan and Joanna.

Students draw on their experiences as immigrants in Judith Sloan's theatre workshop. Pictured here, Mohamed, from Egypt, left; Jonathan, from Ecuador; and Joanna, from Poland. (Last names withheld at student's request.) Warren Lehrer, Crossing the BLVD hide caption

itoggle caption Warren Lehrer, Crossing the BLVD
Students like Nergies draw on their experiences as immigrants  in Judith Sloan's theatre workshop.

Nergies, shown in performance, immigrated from Afghanistan without her mother, who remains in Pakistan. (Last name withheld at students' request.) Jennifer Duncan-Stone hide caption

itoggle caption Jennifer Duncan-Stone

The students in Judith Sloan's theater program in Queens, N.Y., are mostly new immigrants. Like any group of high school kids, they can be hard to motivate.

A performance was coming up, and lines were supposed to be memorized. When Sloan arrived for rehearsal, she found some of her students playing games, the rest were sprawled on the floor. They were exhausted from speaking English.

So Sloan asked them to show her all the verbal tricks they knew in their own languages — songs, games and tongue twisters. Their energy came back, and the game playing also helped them to share and develop their stories of immigration. The result, says Sloan, were pieces touching on the themes of longing, memory, friendship, the future, and the homes they left behind.

This piece was originally commissioned for the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

Books Featured In This Story

Crossing the Blvd

Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America

by Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan

Paperback, 393 pages | purchase

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Crossing the Blvd
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Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America
Author
Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan

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