Sunday 15 March 2009

Understanding Irony

Understanding humour and irony in a foreign language can be incredibly challenging, but is also very important. I think this is especially true of British humour which can be very dry. That's why I think one of the new features on BigThink is so useful. There are a series of clips of British writer, actor and comedian Ricky Gervais on the site and some of these give excellent examples of this kind of humour.

What's also really useful is that the site also provides tape scripts, so it is possible for students to read first and then see how the intonation, facial expression and other paralinguistic features change the meaning of the words.

An excellent example of this is a short clip of Gervais talking about how the economic recession has effected Celebrities.


Quick suggestion
  • To use this you could introduce the topic by getting your students to think about their opinions on this topic.
  • Then get them to read the tape script and see if they agree with the celebrity.
  • Then watch the clip and indicate on the tape script where they think he is joking or being ironic and when he is being serious.
  • You could also get your students to try identify the paralinguistic features that indicate that he isn't serious.
If you would like to contrast this with more serious clips then you could try
All of these clips also have great examples of very natural speaking, with lots of pauses, repetition, self correction and 'fillers'.
Hope you and your students enjoy this material.

Related links:

Nik Peachey


N Winton said...

Thanks for this! Perfect preparation for Higher pupils in Scotland preparing for their final exam.

I've always found 'tone' questions to be a real sticking point for the pupils so anything like this is going to be a great help.

Nik Peachey said...

That's great. Glad you found it useful (and so quickly - only published it a few moments ago!)