A sign of the times – a lesson idea.

As all travellers know one of the most amusing things are the signs you can find that are written in English in a country where English is a second or foreign language. Sometimes these signs give us an insight into the culture or thought processes of the local people, or the society in terms of laws etc. Such signs make fantastic materials for teaching with. There are a number of things you can do with such signs. For example:

  • Discuss what the meaning is (or the implications)


So are dogs not seen as pets? If not, what are they? Who is the sign aimed at? If the dogs are strays (and don’t have owners) are they meant to read the sign? If so, can they read English and not the local language?

  • Discuss why a rule exists.


Why can’t people discuss politics? What would happen to people if they did? Do such rules exist in your country? What other restrictions would seem strange to you?

  • What’s wrong with ignoring this sign?


I can understand why you need to drive in one direction or on one side of the road. I can understand why on stairs or escalators it’s sensible to walk up one side or stand on one side, but in a park why do people need to all walk in the same direction?

These are just a few ideas. Of course you can get students to write their own signs, do gap fill activities, jumble up the signs, do matching activities etc. The list is almost endless.

Sign are also a great source of texts in English that can easily be found in many countries. The use of English is now so widespread it means that students can be exposed to English on a regular basis. As you’ll notice from the three signs on this page there is absolutely nothing wrong with the grammar or the vocabulary so why not exploit such opportunities?





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