Viv and I have been using improv activities based on gibberish these past weeks as part of our work exploring ways of faciltiation.
Gibberish, in the world of improv, is not nonsense, but an invented language made up by participants. Initially, what each player produces may sound random, but slowly they set patterns and find ways to make their personal version understood by listeners. As they advance, players can co-create a shared gibberish language.
This may sound like a waste of time, but we've found the results of gibberish training very satisfying. By stripping away the assumptions of a common language, gibberish forces people to focus on the non-verbal parts of their performance. If you're invited to give instructions to a sample of participants in gibberish, you learn to be much more creative and demonstrative. This has often proved a great and fun way to get tense learners to loosen up, become more playful and create more physical engagement... instead of staying rooted to the spot in anxiety, delivering detailed instructions in a somewhat flat tone.
What we especially love about working with gibberish is this. We've been lucky enough to work with folks from a huge variety (over 35) countries over three weeks. For many of them, English is not their native tongue. They're used to speaking it, but for many we felt only using English was creating barriers to participation, and creating a filter that gave prominence to anglo-saxon participants.
When we switched to gibberish, it felt like we levelled that playing field and released a lot of enthusiasm and experimentation.