Why are folktales so useful in language teaching?


Certain typical characteristics of folktales contribute to relatively easy reading.

Three of the most important are:  Time-ordered story structure;

Repetition and Redundancy, and Predictability.



Time-ordered story structure

When it comes to telling stories, all cultures appear to do the same thing: tell about events in the order they happened. First ... then ... after this ... finally.... Time provides a structure for the story. By using a structure familiar to everyone, folktales are more easily understood than many other types of literature.


Repetition and redundancy

When you are listening, you can't slow down or go back and re-read if you miss something. As a result, stories from an oral tradition tend to have much more repetition and redundancy than those that haven't. Types of repetition:

building refrains - portions that repeat and get longer each time. This is especially useful for language learning, since a great deal of material is repeated, but students deal with one new piece at a time. (eg Stone Soup)  

There are also many redundancies in folktales. Saying the same thing more than once or in more than one way helps students get the idea even if they missed it the first time. Repetition helps language learners/weaker students because it:


condensed from Eric K Taylor, Using Folktales




If you tell me,
it’s an essay.

If you show me,
it’s a story.

Barbara Greene





Story Quote

 "Those who do not have the power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts."

Salman Rushdie

Language teaching

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