Use the Soccer World Cup in Germany as an English Language Teaching Tool?
No, I’m not kidding. Using popular events like the soccer world cup in Germany to teach English is in fact, practical. The learners’ Affective Filter (Krashen and Terrell, 1983) is so low using events like these to teach English, “a cockroach could leap over it”.

Can you imagine the reactions of my learners when I announced, “For English class everybody has to watch the world cup matches”?

“That’s great!” “Teacher, you’re the best!” “Oh man, we’ve never had an English assignment like that before!”

Although not a huge soccer fan myself, I did think it would be interesting to see matches between teams you know never get to play each other during a regular season. Italy vs. Ghana? The USA vs. the Czech Republic? Holland vs. Ivory Coast? Awesome!

To work the games in to English language practice, learners must use their skills in a number of different ways by applying Task-Based Learning (J. Willis, 1998) in addition to some Content-Based Instruction (Richards and Rogers, 1993). Do Ghana and Italy do business together? If so, what kinds of products or services? Useful activities for learners include ones such as:

o Preparing and giving profiles of the competing countries including economics, geography, capitol cities, etc.

o Being able to locate the countries on a world map and give bordering countries and geographic features

o Talking about key players on each team or dialogues between players / coaches / fans

o Describing aspects of key players on each team – age, height, weight, hair, looks, marital status and other features like bald, braces, glasses, tattoos, etc.

o Soccer match elements like player positions, scoring, and even how to play the game

o Giving commentary on game plays and goals using active or passive voice

o Making predictions using future tenses “going to” or “will”

o Using discourse markers or modals to express uncertainty (perhaps, possibly, maybe, might, could, may, etc.)

The learners are free to work up whatever formats they wish as long as they stay active and involved in the process. Some games are recorded with highlights reviewed / discussed in class. A few games are watched during class hours via multi-media facilities available at the university.

Other activity possibilities are:

o Reports

o Developing vocabulary lists in context based on vocabulary elements (Thornbury, 2002)

o Discussion / descriptions of cities where games are played

o Local architecture

o Regional foods

o Holidays

o Clothing

o almost any cultural aspect learners may find new and interesting

At the end (gasp!) of it all, learners will have compiled an extensive “portfolio” of written and multi-media materials that have allowed them exhaustive practice in the four English language basic skills. Written practice can be either Process-based (White, 1987) or Product-based (Fowler, 1988) Learners have also had extensive listening comprehension practice in English. With different sports moderators and commentators from different countries speaking English with a variety of accents, elements of listening and their associated difficulties can be examined. (Brown and Yule, 1983)

So, these activities are turning the soccer world cup in Germany into a marvelous English language teaching tool. The process could be rolled over and used with other international sporting events as well, like the Olympics, Baseball World Series, American football Super Bowl or numerous other world regional events. Think about sports or other types of events where you live. How might you effectively exploit them to teach your English EFL or ESL learners?

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