Learn Languages through Improv

Last Sunday English Improv in Budapest became Hungarian Improv in Budapest as Red Ball Theater ran its first bilingual workshop. With 6 attendees from 5 countries, this was a real-life tower of babel.

We first played games to warm-up and learn the fundamental rule of improv - just say something! anything! This is how kids learn languages. They see a pillow and say "pill" "pill" until Mommy corrects them saying "yes sweetie, that's a pillow." As adults we can still learn languages quickly if we speak with the same fearlessness of a toddler. Using this attitude, famous polyglot blogger Benny Lewis learned Hungarian in just 3 months!

At Sunday's workshop we had great success with what I call the 'Cooking' exercise. Conveniently there were 3 Hungarian speakers and 3 non-speakers in the group so we split the group up into 3 pairs. In each pair, the Hungarian speaker was in charge of making goulash and gave instructions to the non-speaker - entirely in HUNGARIAN. With basic knowledge of how a kitchen works and emphatic gestures by the Hungarians, even those with NO Hungarian knowledge were able to follow the recipe. Everyone left knowing significantly more kitchen vocab before.

We then repeated the exercise with other "instructables" like setting up Ikea furniture. For the finale, we flipped the script and had the non-natives instruct the Hungarians in how to make a cocktail in their own language. Our Brazilian friend Mauricio loved making a Caipirinha in Portuguese.