The Internet TESL Journal

Nationalities and Their Stereotypes

Gerard Counihan
profesorSs [at]

Activity A

Get the pupils to, individually and spontaneously, write down on a piece of paper the typical characteristics of a set of nationalities. The exercise is, of course, a matter of personal opinion. For example,

Activity B

Now get them to reveal their choices and see how many people got similar descriptions. You can debate the correctness or truth of the choices,

Activity C

This is simple but goes down very well. Show them a list of the stereotypical characteristics (now a bit out of date) of the "typical Englishman". Then, get the students to write in their corresponding stereotypes (or perceived ones) alongside the English ones and under the heading "You". (For example, in the Basque country the typical person would wear bright clothing, and does not have a garden; they have plants instead). Later, you can compare the "facts".

This topic can be quite interesting if you have many different nationalities in class. Get the L2s to explain their choices.

                         English                   Basque            You	
                         -------                   ------            ---
Works:                    In a bank                Factory

Lives:                    In a house               In a flat

Hobby:                    Gardening                Watch TV,
Carries:                  An umbrella              -

Drinks:                   Tea                      Coffee

Eats:                     Plain,                   Elaborate
                          simple food				
Newspaper:                The Times                -
                         (The Star?)			    
Favourite part of paper:  Crossword               Sport section

Wears:                    Dark suit/clothes       Colourful
                          and a bowler hat

Talks about:              The weather             Family, friends, weather ...

Loves:                    The Royal Family        -

Has:                      A garden                Plants
                          A pipe                  A cigar
                          A Morris Minor          Opel Kadett

Pets:                     A tiny dog              Canary

Sport:                    Cricket                 Football

Behaviour:                Reserved                Gregarious

Emotions:                 Cold                    Can be serious.


(Once again, the above are surely only applicable to the middle class in England, but it does not matter if the headings are not completely factual; the idea is to get the L2s thinking about approximate correspondences-and talking).

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IV, No. 9, September 1998