I speak in Two Voices
One of my favorite lessons for ESL students is The Two-Voice Poetry. It is a form of poetry written to be performed by two people. The poem is made up of two columns and is read from top to bottom. One takes the left hand part, and the other reader takes the right. The poem is to be read by the two readers at once. Speakers take turns going back and forth between the voices however; some lines are composed to be said out loud together by both speakers.
This is just an innovative way to use the poem with students who can speak more than one language. It is exciting to see and hear the combination of different languages read out-loud. They can sound like a dialogue or even a song. The poem can be used with any language, from Chinese to Arabic. At a WITS Parent Literacy Workshop, I had the opportunity to see parents work with their children combining their mother tongue with English. There were parents who spoke Tamil, Arabic and some Spanish. In the world we live in today were schools have children from around the world, this is just one fun way to showcase both worlds blended into one.
How does this work? How does one set it up?
A prewritten color coded poem sample was handed out. Left was shaded in blue, right in green. When the poem was meant to be read by both speakers I shaded it yellow. I chose a parent and had everyone else follow along as we both read our parts.
I had previously cut out different color strips to match the ones on the worksheet. The strips that were yellow were longer. They indicated that both speakers had to read at the same time. The green and blue strips were of shorter lengths and they helped to show how they had to alternate left and right speaker.
For practical purposes I instructed that their native tongue be in green and that English would be blue. When it came to writing on the yellow paper were both speakers had to read at the same time, I asked them to write the sentence in both languages. I also explained that whatever was written on the green piece of paper whether Arab, Tamil or Spanish, they had to write the same idea on the blue one in English. This way the audience would know what the poem was about. When the transition of the poem had yellow then both speakers had to read and speak the same sentence in two different languages at the same time.
It was somewhat like a directing a choir. Parents and their children were working together. I realized then that as much as the parents were practicing their English with their child, their child was practicing their native tongue as well with their parents.
Once the parents figure out how to read in two-voices they started playing with the paper strips. It was fun to see the parents negotiating with their child how they were going to organize their poem and what they were going to say.
Just to give a visual example it may be written like this.
Mi nombre es Mar√≠a
My name is Alexander
We are family¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† We are family
Somos familia¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Somos familia
I learn from my mom
Yo aprendo de mi hijo
Together we learn¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Together we learn
Juntos aprendemos¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Juntos aprendemos
I speak English
Yo hablo espa√Īol
We speak in two voices¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† We speak in two voices
Hablamos en dos voces¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Hablamos en dos voces
Yo soy su eco
I am here echo
and I follow her tune
aprendo sus palabras
y cuando lo miro
I learn her words
when I look at her
I see together ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†I see together
we are one¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†we are one
Juntos somos uno¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†Juntos somos uno
What I found after doing this project was that it served two purposes. Sometimes children, who are raised in bilingual families, do not know the pronunciation or cannot read the words that their parents use in their native language. Since this exercise implies reading out loud the child and the parent were both working at practicing the language that they felt the most comfortable with and the one they needed the most practice on.
Do you live among family members that speak different languages? Try writing a ‚ÄúTwo-Voice poem‚ÄĚ in two languages and share it here in the Blog. I would love to see what you come up with.