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Opening Up Language Through Tongue Twisters

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.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Judith Sloan