• Jonathan White

Shared Experience

A couple of 'first' cultural experiences were crossed off our list over the weekend. We really immersed ourselves deep into the local 'culture' here in Istanbul!

My wife bought our 2 year old daughter tickets to her first ever theatre show. The production in question was children's show 'Sevimli Dostlar' which played to a packed house of wired children and tired parents. I won't be reviewing the acting, production values, musical arrangement or indeed critiquing the duck's costume which closely resembled a chicken! I was hoping to use this space to discuss the concept of 'shared experience'.

Attending this live experience with my daughter got me thinking. As the cheerful catchy tunes washed over me and along with the 'complex' lyrics due to the language barrier - it dawned on me that I was attending my first ever theatre show in a foreign language.

My daughter, my wife and all I thoroughly enjoyed the show for totally different reasons. It was both familiar and unfamiliar territory for our senses. The simple parenting stories being told through this cartoon adaptation have played out in homes all over the world. Through one of the songs I learnt the word 'share' or 'paylaş' in Turkish. The scenario of toddlers tantrums over the concept of sharing toys is all too familiar. I also learnt the Turkish words for both the main characters fish (balik) and duck (ördek), luckily this wasn't Shakespeare!

The stage show is based upon the popular Turkish TV programme for kids streamed from YouTube since 2013 with over 4 million subscribers. In terms of the country's media consumption it sits in 8th place overall, impressive statistics for a poorly animated talking walking orange fish, a duck and the two children!

Collective learning versus solitary learning.

I am sure the audience all took something away with them and I am not just talking about the branded merchandise on sale in the foyer. Although the 24 piece puzzles were an excellent purchase! This 'shared experience' (paylaşılan deneyim) was a real treat for all all the family despite my initial scepticism. I experienced first hand, how live theatre can transcend generations and crash through language barriers. John Dewey an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer famously said:

"Things gain meaning by being used in a shared experience or joint action."

In contrast to a world in which we are all guilty of being overly reliant on our mobiles (which were switched to airplane mode for the duration of the show), I genuinely 'liked' the interaction and being part of the wider audience experience. It offered me a real alternative to learning words in isolation using mobile platforms like Duolingo or on CleverDeck (think FlashCards on steroids), it provided an all-important visual context. In this rich 'cultural' backdrop, I guess I felt more involved than I do with my scratch-resistant multi-layered glass screen.

Learning a new language is difficult. Like sharing your favourite toy!

One word at a time, one phrase at a time, someone wise once told me...

Until next time, tesekkurler.

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