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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: September ::
Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0803  Monday, 18 September 2006

[1] 	From: 	Kent Richmond <
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 	Date: 	Friday, 15 Sep 2006 10:49:26 -0700
 	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0794 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students

[2] 	From: 	Walter Cannon <
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 	Date: 	Friday, 15 Sep 2006 13:21:23 -0500
 	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0794 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students

[3] 	From: 	Billy Houck <
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 	Date: 	Saturday, 16 Sep 2006 14:25:16 -0700 (PDT)
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0788 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kent Richmond <
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Date: 		Friday, 15 Sep 2006 10:49:26 -0700
Subject: 17.0794 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0794 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students

I am a long-time ESL teacher at California State University, Long Beach 
currently writing a college-level ESL reading/vocabulary textbook for 
Oxford University Press. I am in somewhat of a unique position to comment 
on the ESL question.

At the university, of course, Shakespeare plays no central role in any ESL 
language development program that I know of. Using 400-year-old English as 
the basis for preparing students to read academic materials and write 
college papers would raise questions about the teacher's competence. But 
California high schools face a different challenge because the language 
arts curriculum is responsible for exposing students to enduring 
literature and improving language skills. Shakespeare is asked to kill two 
birds with one stone.

To meet curricular standards, many ESL teachers now use storybook versions 
of Shakespeare or severely truncated versions of the plays. Cambridge 
University Press has such a series, I believe. Some use side-by-side 
translations with a "hip-sounding" prose translation on the odd-numbered 
pages, with the original bumped to the page on the left. Too often, I have 
noticed, the characters sound the same, using a tone I would describe as 
"chipper." The message seems to be "Look how easy Shakespeare is."

Inspired by an article by UC Berkeley linguist, John MacWhorter, I joined 
the Shakespeare industry and have written verse translations of five 
Shakespeare plays. Thirty years ago, as a graduate student in linguistics, 
I became interested in (well, actually obsessed with) iambic pentameter, 
wrote a couple papers on it for classes, but abandoned study of it until I 
read MacWhorter's article. Suddenly I found myself trying to recreate 
Shakespeare's language in more modern form yet retaining the rhythm and 
complexity of the original.

I did not imagine this project as an ESL-related endeavor. So far, my 
translation of Romeo and Juliet is more popular with teachers of honors 
students. Even in translation the plays are challenging for the 
limited-English-proficient. Shakespeare was trying to be difficult, it 
seems.

But if anyone is interested in experimenting, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth 
Night, and King Lear are available in print. Macbeth and Much Ado will be 
available soon. The plays read as literature, maintain the rich 
characterizations, and are lexically and syntactically challenging. I 
punch up the jokes a bit and find modern equivalents for the less 
accessible puns and figures of speech but try to remain faithful in every 
other way.

You can find more information about the translations on this website 
(www.fullmeasurepress.com), or email me.

Kent Richmond
California State University, Long Beach

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Walter Cannon <
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Date: 		Friday, 15 Sep 2006 13:21:23 -0500
Subject: 17.0794 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0794 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students

On a related note, I'm looking for Arabic translations of Shakespeare's 
plays. On-line editions or inexpensive print versions readily available 
here would be best. Can anyone point me in the right direction? I have a 
few Middle-eastern students in my classes who are interested finding full 
text versions of the plays in Arabic. We could probably get them abroad 
somewhere, but I was hoping to find something a little closer and quicker.

Walter Cannon

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Billy Houck <
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Date: 		Saturday, 16 Sep 2006 14:25:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0788 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0788 Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students

>A student of mine, majoring in Secondary
>Education/English, is
>researching how one might go about teaching
>Shakespeare to a classroom
>of students for whom English is a second language.
>He's particularly
>curious about how one manages the Elizabethan
>English and Modern English
>pedagogical demands.

Actually, I think it works pretty well.

Since English is a second language, why not Elizabethan English as a 
second language?

The rhythm and rhyme make it easier to read.

ESL students can perform it well, too.  It also helps if you don't tell 
them it's "hard" or "advanced". Just read it. Discuss the characters. My 
ESL students seem to understand the notion of Fate better than mainstream 
American students.

Billy Houck
Arroyo Grande High School
(where the kids say "Take Shakespeare, it's easy!")

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