Tell me a story…(Part 1)

We all love share stories with each other; stories about our lives, our experiences, the small or big things that happen to us that we find funny, unusual or informative.

Storytelling is something that connects you with your friends and family. But it can also help to build stronger relationships with your colleagues, and your customers and clients when you are in more informal situations.

But telling a story in English – when it is not your first language – can be difficult. Many of our clients find that speaking English in this kind of personal situation is a challenge, even when they know it is an important part of their networking or socialising.

Did you know there is a structure to a personal story? Identified by Labov and Waletsky in the 1960’s is follows the framework of:

*abstract > orientation > complication > evaluation > resolution > *coda

These 4 stages are necessary to tell a story well:

  • The orientation stage tells the listener the place, time and people involved in the story
  • The complication stage explains what happened to the storyteller that was memorable or unusual
  • The evaluation stage (which can occur more than once in the story) tells the listener why the storyteller thinks the story is important to tell; how he/she felt and what reactions were received.
  • The resolution stage explains how the storyteller or another character in the story resolved the problem or unusual situation

*The abstract – a short introduction or summary of the story – and the coda ­ – usually a final comment on the story when it is finished – are useful but not obligatory.

Of course, there are lots of other areas of storytelling that are important to make sure that the story is clear, engaging and has the correct forms of  grammar and vocabulary. These will be explored in Part 2.

class-e produced a specific 4 hour conversational storytelling course,  which was carried out with some class-e clients on a one-to-one basis on Skype.

Firstly, the clients told a story about an experience they had had in the past. This was analysed in detail to see where their ‘gaps’ existed compared to the ‘storytelling framework’ and other linguistic elements.

After the 4 hour course the clients told another story, applying all the parts of the course they had studied. These stories were analysed in the same way to make a comparison of their improvements.

In addition, the clients were asked to consider and say how the felt about their ability and confidence to tell a conversational story in English after the course.

We are pleased to say that all the clients that took part improved their ability according to the analysis, but most importantly they all reported that they had learned a lot from the course, and felt more confident in their ability to tell a personal story – and in their speaking ability in general.


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