“La Llorona” Folktale: A Tool For Developing Communication Skills by Natalia Bruccamonti “Don´t go down to the river, child, Don’t go there alone; For the sobbing woman, wet and wild, Might claim you for her own.” “La LLorona” – from the American Folktale Most probably, if we ask the adolescents we encounter in our classrooms nowadays, if they have ever seen the TV show “El Chavo”, they will answer “yes”. Many of them will start naming some of its characters and telling some memorable scenes. I’m quite sure that someone will recall the story of “La Llorona”. Undoubtedly, the story of the weeping woman is one of the most popular traditional folktales in Spanish-speaking countries. As it happens to every folktale, this story has got many versions. However, its central idea, its core remains the same when it is retold from generation to generation. María was a young beautiful woman who drowned her two children in the river in order to be with the man she loved; but he rejected her. After that she killed herself and was condemned to wander the rivers for all the eternity, weeping, in the search of her children. Jianing (2007) argues that “the primary reason to recommend storytelling in the EFL speaking classroom is that stories are motivating and immensely interesting, can best attract listeners and promote communication”. Another important contribution of the usage of storytelling in the EFL classroom is that “learners become more self-confident to express themselves spontaneously and creatively” (Colon-vila, cited in Jianing, 2007). Frederick (1997) asserts that “storytelling is a powerful tool that can help build literacy and critical thinking skills”. Furthermore, it contributes “to get students writing because it provides opportunities to identify important details and dialogues, understand and recall stories and story elements, and practise oral language skills such as vocal expression and exaggeration” (Parr & Campbell, cited in Campbell & Hlusek, 2009). The social nature of writing requires that students learn to write inside a community (Barbiero, 2005). Following Townsend & Pace’s thoughts (2005), it is possible to say that discussion and peer talk to rehearse, fosters deeper literacy awareness. In a research carried out by Campbell and Hlusek in 2008, they came to the conclusion that the use storytelling and peer talk in the classroom stimulates significantly more writing and higher-quality writing. The aim of this paper is to explore the idea that the traditional folktale “The Weeping Woman” can be used as a tool in the EFL classroom in order to improve student´s communication skills in English. “La Llorona” is a story that can help to develop oral skills in EFL students. As many authors point out (Campbell & Hlusek: 2009, Colon-vila:1997, Jianing: 2007) peer talk help students to diminish their reluctance to speak and in this way, oral skills’ development takes place. “The Weeping Woman” . This folktale is very well-known by Spanish-speaking students it can be used as a trigger for oral discussion. The different topics approached by the story (love, selfishness, vanity, murder, suicide, etc) can open different kinds of debates or round tables, encouraging students to speak as they would be more concerned about expressing their ideas than in the language mistakes they could make.
Spanish-speaking students learning English are “ready to begin writing as soon as they are able to speak in social and classroom situations” (Jarvis, 2002). The traditional folktale of the weeping woman can be used to work in EFL’s classrooms to improve writing skills. By listening and discussing about this widely-known story, students will be able to identify the structure of it and, as a consequence of that, it would be easier for them to start writing since they have a model to follow. In Campbell and Hlusek’s words: “...telling stories can provide a foundation and a rehearsal for writing them”. Before writing a new story, students can re-tell the story heard but using different settings or characters, as Campbell suggests (2009). “La Llorona” is an excellent resource to work with this kind of activity in the classroom because, as previously mentioned, it is a story known by most of Spanish-speaking students learning English and they can probably tell some of its versions. Storytelling can function as a good resource in the EFL classroom because alows students to feel confident when speaking and writing and, in this way, their communicative skills can be improved.
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