Adult Class Level 3: Manners, etiquette and culture shock

Tuesday 15th January

Tonight is the last lesson of the four-week block, so will culminate in an oral test: I will listen to all the students individually for three minutes or so, then give a grade and some brief feedback.

The bookwork covers vocabulary, speaking and pronunciation, so that’s a great opportunity to prepare the students for the speaking review.

I’ve just finished a short booklet about how intermediate learners can move up to advanced levels:

The book advocates teaching / learning collocations (which I always teach) and ‘chunks’ of language, or frequently used expressions.

Collocations are words that always go together, for example take a photo (not do a photo, make a photo), jump on a bus, grab a bite to eat, make your mind up etc.

This can be so helpful to an English-language learner, as the words form one unit – ‘take a photo’ is ONE unit, not three separate words. This can really help in reading – instead of seeing a mass of words, patterns will emerge, almost like breaking a code. With practice, students will be able to predict a sentence / phrase just by its opening word/s.

Frequently used phrases are beneficial to make speakers sound more natural (and that should be the aim, in order to progress to a higher level of proficiency), and they are so common, they can be used in everyday situations. On p. 18, Richards quotes some common expressions:

This one’s on me It was lovely to see you I’ll be making a move then

I see what you mean Thanks for coming Let me think about it

I don’t believe a word of it Just looking, thanks It doesn’t matter

I don’t get the point I’ll be with you in a minute You look great today

As I was saying

We’ll talk about how and where these expressions can be used, then do some exercises, role-playing. Classic CELTA-style method: present then do controlled practice (the third stage is produce – to see if the students are able to use the phrases with correct intonation and in the correct situation).

Friends are having drinks in a pub / bar

You go into a shop but not necessarily to buy anything

A customer arrives but you are busy

You meet an old friend

Compliment someone

You don’t understand what someone is trying to prove

You understand what someone thinks (but not necessarily agree with)

Someone tells you a story – you think it is false.

You are asked a question but need time to consider

There is a small problem / Someone upsets you but you want to make it OK

To continue with a conversation that was interrupted. 

Then the students will work in pairs to produce simple conversations, for example: Oh, it’s late, I’m tired / I’ll be making a move then (I will leave).

I’ll then introduce a visual activity, as it’s good to vary the tasks; something I learnt from Eisenstein’s film theory (Sergi Eisenstein, Soviet filmmaker, NOT Albert Einstein, physicist), the ‘Montage of Attractions.’ This is basically having lots of different things following each other, linked together, to maintain interest and constant stimulation. More of this in other posts as it is especially applicable to young learners.

I’ll show a slide of various activities and ask which are acceptable, polite, impolite, illegal. This comes under the umbrella heading of culture shock – different customs, different countries. For example, this friendly gesture in the UK is impolite in Vietnam:


This, I falsely believed, was the universal sign for ‘good luck’ so, during tests, I (being polite and friendly), wished my students (usually young learners), ‘good luck’. No one took the time to tell me it didn’t mean that in Vietnam; it is, in fact, a representation of female genitalia. Whoops ! What message my students took from my inadvertent gesture is a matter of speculation. Here are some other social no-nos:

Totally acceptable in the west, but an insult in Thailand where hands must be pointed down. My US friends also tell me that they use two fingers, so if the taxi drives past, they can keep one finger up to represent their feelings. We would never do that in Britain … well, almost never.
Street micturition – a ubiquitous sight in Vietnam.
Pregnant woman stands while three men sit.

Lastly, I will conduct a simplified version of last night’s lesson. I show photos of my bad day (it was one of those days). I’ll board some details, times and events, show some photos and ask the students to make sentences, pushing them to employ adjectives, adverbs and discourse markers. The full activity can be found on last night’s IELTS notes

Before a test, most students find it hard to concentrate on learning new material, so I’ll use the 90 minutes to encourage as much speaking as possible. Hopefully, they’ll be more prepared for the oral test and will do themselves proud.

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