Chris has won the 2015 British Council/Macmillan Education Award for Innovative Writing and we are very happy to share her interview here.
How did your passion for Shakespeare begin?
When I was about 13 years old and stumbled upon Macbeth in translation. I still remember the beautiful blue leather-effect hardback cover edition with golden title letters and drawings. I had never read anything like that before; I was astounded. I read it in a day and started looking for similar editions of the other plays. I think my following one was Romeo and Juliet. I was less impressed though because I think if you come first to Macbeth, the other tragedies are likely to pale in intensity; perhaps with the exception of Hamlet and Othello. I think my experience tells us that we should not dismiss the importance of literature in translation as it may serve as a first contact and a portal that may lead readers to later exploration of texts in their original versions.
Why is Shakespeare’s English still relevant today?
Because it is part of the language we speak and use every day. It is a gross misconception that Shakespeare’s English is outdated. There are certainly parts of the texts that can be obscure and certain words and expressions that we don’t use any longer, but this can also be said of other more recent writers. Shakespeare’s language is part of the DNA of the English language. At a more superficial level, it shows in his extensive contribution to the English vocabulary and in the idioms and expressions that we frequently use. At a deeper level, it shows in the ways we sound when we speak, construct our sentences, and organize our thoughts when we write and speak. This very paragraph is an example of that.
How can teachers use Shakespeare in the ELT classroom?
It depends on what kind of classroom we are talking about: the age group, students’ level of language proficiency, the educational context (primary, secondary, Higher Education) and also the resources teachers have access to. Generally speaking, I would say it is important to approach Shakespeare in a way that lets students experience it as both text and performance. With children and young learners it is particularly important that we use drama techniques in the classroom. And, if you have the technology resources, use film adaptations and video recordings of stage performances. You will see that students engage much more with the plays than if you only used the texts. When I came to Shakespeare, there was no Internet and access to film was basically restricted to going to the cinema. This has all changed now. There are fantastic resources and teaching materials available online for a wide range of learners and teaching contexts; teachers just need to explore them.
What can participants of BRAZ-TESOL expect from your presentation?
I will explore the aspects I mention above about how Shakespeare’s English is still relevant today. However, I will also go beyond the language aspect to look at how much I think we do need Shakespeare in education, as a whole. I will end my talk sharing some resources teachers can use to bring Shakespeare to their learners.
Chris Lima’s plenary will be on the 15th of July, at 2:25pm