Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Teaching ESL Students “Air Quotes”

You know. When we take our first finger and middle finger of each hand and drawing the quotes in the air when we say certain words or phrases. It’s easy enough to show your ESL student how to do this, but describing when to use them is more difficult. At least it was for me with a student yesterday.

According to Wikipedia, air quotes are used “express satire, sarcasm, irony or euphemism.” I think this definition will help when I go back to my ESL student today and further try to define this concept to him.

I haven’t found air quotes in any ESL curriculum or lesson plans, but I think if it comes up in the classroom, it is a teacher’s responsibility to teach these little cultural “gems.” Knowing such things helps to enhance a student's communication and speaking skills.

Does anyone remember the Friends episode where Joey kept using air quotes incorrectly? Finally, by the end of the show, he was able to use them correctly.



Anonymous said...

Never really crossed this bridge, I suspect because the "air quotes" coming from myself would never happen. A controlled learning space has been my motto, now if this was on the learning list for the day, it would be tackled. Showing the Friends episode would be a good introduction, have the students act-out the scenes in front of the class, some of the dialogue, etc. One can find the dialogue online somewhere, I do this in class for movies as well 'see below).

Most students from Japan anyway, do not use their hands to accentuate a point. A wonderful cultural lesson and one which is used by all in differing ways. The student needs to know we native speakers from N.A. often have no idea what some "hand language" from the UK means, and vice-versa. Often I find students assume native speakers of English, all act, speak and understand the same. "Same same" as my students would say. One pot so to speak. I was shocked to discover the deaf in Japan use a different type of hand language than other countries, in other words, I am told all deaf communicators use different sign language depending on their geographic area of language. This makes sense, I simply thought "same same".

Cheers, Steve

Scripts (movie/TV): http://www.script-o-rama.com/
Gestures, great examples and resource list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_quotes


Anonymous said...

This is fascinating. I'd never considered hand gestures as being a part of the ESL process, but it's clear it would be. There are such things as idiomatic gestures, right? Many of them obscene.


Anonymous said...

Yes! I used the Friends' episode, the student's were laughing hysterically! (there's a lot of slapstick in that episode too, funny even for low-level learners). They loved the fact that Joey also had no idea how to use them. You can get a great short version of it on youtube. Before I showed them the clips, I explained that "air quotes" are just like written quotation marks, in the sense that they indicate you are repeating the exact word or words that someone else said. Usually we use them to indicate that we disapprove of the words, either we think they are wrong or stupid. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

I am teaching air quotes to my english class now, and actually showing the video from friends with joey's quotes :


Anonymous said...

Steve, I bet your students "love" your "controlled learning space."