The Weakest Link is a UK quiz show. Versions of the programme exist (or have existed) in many countries around the world. The above clip is a very powerful one for demonstrating variation in language and attitudes towards non-standard forms. These are vital issues for any language learner to be aware of when coming into contact with texts that are not created specifically for language learning purposes.
- Language level: Intermediate (B1) +
- Learner type: Teens; Adults
- Time: 60 – 90 minutes
- Activity: Reading; Speaking; Role play
- Topic: Grammatical variation / dialects
- Language: Language related to insurance and compensation
- Materials: Video; Worksheet
Lesson plan part one: Ambulance chasers (outline)
Ambulance chaser is a derogatory name for a lawyer who aggressively seeks and represents accident victims. An ambulance chaser’s mantra is “someone is always responsible for your accident”. At its worst, the practice can create an unhealthy compensation culture.
- Write ambulance chaser on the board. Tell students that it is a fairly new term that has come from North America. Ask students to guess what it refers to. Guide them with the following questions/clues:
- Do you think that the term refers to a job or a hobby?
- The term is not to be taken literally (Note that students may guess that an ambulance chaser is a motorist that follows speeding ambulances in order to beat the traffic.)
- It is a derogatory term. What does that mean?
- An ambulance chaser is a type of lawyer.
- We associate ambulance chasers with North American compensation culture (see Wikipedia).
- Fine-tune tune students’ understanding of what an ambulance chaser is by showing them an advert on YouTube. There are many to choose from. For example:
- Getting you a fair settlement from stingy insurance companies is a lot like making sausage …
- If you don’t make the call, you’ll never know!
- Dad – it was a bad accident. Worse than we thought. John’s going to be out of work for a long time.
- Being the victim of a serious accident is never easy
- I’ll take care of everything and I’ll work hard to get you every dollar you deserve
- We’ll deal with the insurance company to make certain you get fair compensation
- Size matters!
- Put students into pairs or small groups to discuss the following questions:
- How do injury lawyers make their money? (Answer = they take a cut of the compensation that the accident victims are awarded if successful. Many will function on a “no win, no fee” policy.)
- Think of as many benefits as possible associated with a compensation culture.
- Think of as many negative effects as possible associated with a compensation culture.
- Conduct feedback. Whenever possible, use this step as an opportunity to introduce key language that is going to appear in the text (E.g. Entitled to compensation; insurance premiums; encourage people to claim; trip over a paving stone) as well as any other language related to the topic.
- Give out copies of the Mystery Dialogue worksheet (included in the PDF download) and ask students to complete the 6 questions. Students may want to work in pairs for this.
- Let students compare their ideas and go over answers (see PDF download).
- Show the Weakest Link clip and pause it just after Anne asks Marcus: Have you always had hairy arms? (0:41)
- Find out if students are aware of the format of the quiz show. Ask them if they have it in their own country or countries. If so, ask them to explain the rules. If not, explain to students that after each round of questions, players have to decide who is the weakest link (i.e. who got the most questions wrong). The player who receives the most votes is then told to leave the game. It is presenter Anne Robinson’s job to act as a hostile disciplinarian (a bit like some teachers!)
- Give out copies of the Muddled dialogue (included in the PDF download.) Ask students to cup the sentences and put them into the correct order.
- Play the rest of the clip and allow students to correct their answers.
- Ask students the following questions and discuss the issues that are raised (see PDF for ideas on how to get a class discussion going.)
- Specifically what grammar rule does Marcus break?
- Why does Marcus break this rule?
- Do you agree with Anne that he is being ungrammatical?
- Is Anne correct to criticize Marcus? Why or why not?
- Marcus doesn’t know what he has said ‘wrong’. He suggests that he used a double negative. What is a double negative?
- Can you think of anything in your own language that receives similar criticism?
- What is the difference between a language and a dialect?
Set up a role play – put students into pairs and give them the following roles:
- Student 1: The accident victim (Should decide on the nature of his/her accident – as imaginative as possible!)
- Student 2: The ambulance chaser (Remember the mantra: Someone is always to blame for your injury.)
Ambulance chasers should visit accident victims at home. They should interview them about their accidents, and then try to convince them to sue.
Expose your students to examples of non-standard or dialectal English. Their task can be to identify the non-standard aspects and convert them to standard forms (see examples below). There is a lot of material on YouTube.
- I amn’t doing anything special tonight.
- I’ll give it you tomorrow.
- I seen you in town yesterday when I was on the bus.
- What would you do if it would happen to you?
- I loves you Porgy.
- It don’t sound right.
- Where’s me cup of tea?
- Can you help me? I’m needing some advice.
- I’ve ate hardly anything today.