When I began teaching English in Thailand, one of my frustrations was getting my students to remember the difference between countries, languages and nationalities. Students would often tell me, “He is Germany” or “I go to American for my holidays” and, no matter what I tried, they couldn’t seem to remember the difference.
Eventually, I created a lesson plan that, over the years, has helped all my EFL/ESL students differentiate between vocabulary for a country, a language and a nationality. Hopefully it will help you too.
Expected Outcome: – EFL/ESL Students will be able to remember the difference between a nationality, a language and a country.
Materials and Resources: – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, handout of countries, languages and nationalities English vocabulary, colored flags of 20 countries
Step One: I always start out my class by asking students, “Where are you from?” The majority will say “Thailand”, some will just look blankly at me. The second question I ask is, “What nationality are you?” Here, it often becomes tricky as half the class will still answer “Thailand”. I then ask “What language do you speak?” Some smart-ass will say “English” or “Chinese”, and some will say “Thai”, others still will come up with “Thailand”, and this is where the problem lies.
Step Two: Now I explain the difference between “Thai” (nationality), “Thailand” (country where student is from) and “Thai” (language they speak). Once students can differentiate between vocabulary that describes themselves, it’s often easier for them to think about vocabulary that describes others.
Step Three: Distribute handout of vocabulary for Countries, Nationalities and Languages. I create my own with around 20 countries/nationalities/languages – which is usually enough for students to remember from one class. Go over the handout, making students repeat the vocabulary after you at least twice.
Step Four: – Countries, Nationalities and Languages Game – Before class begins, I spend 10 minutes taping up 20 colored flags from 20 countries (the same ones as on the handout) around the classroom and then I label the flag with the country it’s from. Just a regular A4 size sheet of paper per flag will do, and they’re available in thousands of places on the internet to print from, including Wikipedia.
a) Put students into teams – two teams for smaller classes, three to four teams for larger classes.
b) Teams must stand in a line, with the student at the front of the line the next person who will participate in the game. Explain the rules of the game (Teacher will shout the name of a country and a student from the head of each line must run to the flag from that country and touch it. The first person to touch it must say what country it is, what nationality live there and what they speak eg: “This is America, the people are American and they speak English.” If they get it correct, their team is given five points. If they are incorrect, the second person to touch the flag is given a chance etc).
This continues with the first person going to the back of the line when they’ve had their turn, and the next student moving forward.
c) I run this game for about 15-20 minutes with students getting increasingly silly but tired and happy. By the time each flag has been touched at least twice, most students are beginning to remember the difference between country, nationality and language.
d)*** Warning – Before you begin the game, make sure you clear desks to the side of the room, so no-one is injured slamming into desks. Also explain that any pushing will mandate immediate disqualification from the game, a second instance of pushing will mandate their entire team being disqualified from the game.
Evaluation: 1) participation in game, 2) can students remember the vocabulary? 3) can they play as a fully involved team member?
Photo – Traditional Thai hilltribe mother and child – copyright Alaskan Dude, Creative Commons License