Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A mean-spirited way to learn English

I found a book, 101 Word Games, by George P. McCallum. It is a book of games to play with English learners. Cool, I thought; it might be useful for working with tandem partners.

Then I read the rules of one of the games called "Compliments and Insults," in which students ask one another why they like Marion and hate Jim (for example). Under the possible answers for why one hates Jim, it includes such niceties as "Because he's awful. Because he's boastful" (p. 113).

Uh, I can't say that this is an activity I'd want to replicate! Could you imagine, telling a class to say all these mean things about another student (or someone else they don't like)? Or, could you imagine a student who likes Marion and might not know that it's appropriate to say that one likes her because of...who knows what!

Work Cited

McCallum, George P. 101 Word Games for Students of English as a Second or Foreign Language. New York: Oxford UP, 1980. Print.


  1. Right - don't you wonder sometimes what someone was thinking? Teach compliments, and let them learn on their own how to insult someone (if they must)! This reminded me of some ESL materials I came across and wrote about:

    My students still refer to "Uncle Frank" now and then!

  2. Man, does Uncle Frank look scary and the cowboys thing was awful. I could see Germans liking it a bit, though (or at least the older ones) because think of all the Karl May stuff. (On that tangent, my friend always got so angry when South American street performers wore Native American regalia during their performances. I agree; it's not meant to be some cheap marketing ploy.)

    I think that one could play a game using negative adjectives, but it would make more sense to use an inanimate object that has no specific associations. Pointing out the deficiencies of another person is just awful though!