A letter to the teachers of English: 43Use newspapers in the English classes (2) [Archives:2004/712/Education]

February 16 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
In the last letter I have given a few suggestions as to how you can use a good newspaper for teaching English. In this letter, I would like to say something about how you can use the advertisements in the newspapers for the benefit of your learners of English.
In the Hodeidah Conference, one of the presenters dealt with at length the use of advertisements that appear in the Yemen Times; his attention was to show how the visuals in them take the prime place over the verbal to enable the Yemeni readers of English as a foreign language to communicate with them. However, he did not ignore the importance of the verbal aspect of the advertisements, which helps the readers in the process of understanding.
My attention in this letter will be on the verbal part of the advertisements and how the understanding of it enriches the English of the learners of English in our classes. The language of the advertisements is special in the sense that it has many exceptions: it is in fragments, may be a phrase or a word, (for example, Safety with comfort, Your first choice); it may not be grammatical, (for example, Buy the most or 18months warranty); it is cryptic (for example All your needs under one roof); it is deviant using words in new ways (for example, The tyre that never tires). The non-normal use of the language in the advertisements makes it beautiful and 'poetic'; there is a lot of creativity in it.
How do we use it in our English classes? Good and interesting ads can be chosen by the teacher and read to the class aloud for the learners to listen to and find the products advertised from the verbal parts. The choice should be carefully done keeping the learners' language level in mind and the interesting use of the language in the ads. The cryptic phrases can be expanded by the learners into normal sentences, thereby practicing transformation. In addition, they can practise the reverse of it: making normal sentences cryptic for imaginary ads. They can be asked to find out the special meanings attached to the words used in the ads. For example, The tyre with the muscle is the verbal part of an advertisement; the learners can be asked to find out the use of muscle here.(By asking questions such as Who has muscles? Does a tyre have muscles? Why is muscle used here? etc). The sound effect of the words used in the ads can be explored by the learners, for example, in The tyre that never tires, the word tire has been chosen to rhyme with tyre.
All these techniques in the making of the ads, if learnt well by the students through good exposure and practice, can be used for creating sample ads as a part of writing activity in the class. Instead of the dull and run-of-the mill writing activities we assign to the learners in the English classes such as 'write an essay on how you will feel while walking in the rain' or 'write a letter to a pen-friend inviting him/her to spend the holidays with you' (I don't know when we are going to put an end to these monotonous and uninteresting writing exercises!), we can ask them to create interesting advertisements for some imaginary or real products. This might help them to participate in the competitions some agencies organize for creating innovative advertisements for their products. One of your students can create this slogan for advertising the small Suzuki Alto cars: A car you can drive to your bedroom. I don't think anyone has thought of this as a part of the advertisement. Your students can think of better ones, I am sure. Give them opportunities to sharpen their intelligence by such activities. Goodluck!
Yours fraternally,