A big part of teaching English is, in my opinion, teaching students about the culture that comes with it. I love travelling to English speaking countries and seeing how similar or different they are. That includes language, definitely, but also customs and food.
I went to Australia a few years back and was faced with the task of trying the contents of this seemingly harmless jar.
I can’t say I liked it. Like most foreigners, though, I probably just did it wrong.
With this in mind I’ve recently had a lesson about Vegemite with a group of B2/C1 students, who are around 16-26 years old. I started by showing them the picture above and asking:
- Have you ever heard of Vegemite?
- What do you think it might taste like?
Most people associate it with Nutella or honey, and think it might taste sweet (if they only knew!). So, after eliciting answers from students, I got them to read a blog post from an Australian University. You can find it here.
The questions they were supposed to answer were:
- What is Vegemite made of?
- What does it taste like?
- How should you eat it?
Students are usually disgusted when they realize what yeast is.
To make things more interesting, I found a video where Australia’s own Hugh Jackman teaches Jimmy Fallon How to eat Vegemite (I used it up to 3:10).
- What was Jimmy’s first impression of Vegemite? Does he change his mind?
- Does Jackman follow the rules from the article?
- According to him, what do you need to do to properly appreciate Vegemite?
After watching the video and discussing the answers, I proposed these questions:
- Is Australia a place you would like to visit?
- Would you try Vegemite if you were there?
Most of my students would love to visit Australia (in fact, one of them already had) and the more adventurous ones went as far as saying they would be eager to try Vegemite.
Now, if you paid close attention to the video, you might have noticed a couple of interesting pieces of language. The ones that drew my attention were as follows.
I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with you, man, you were talking a bit of smack last week about Vegemite.
– I tried Vegemite
– And you didn’t really dig it.
C’mon, man, we’re mates.
We gotta get the crappiest bread possible.
I would suggest covering some of the key words and getting students to watch part of the clip again and see if they are able to fill in the missing words. You could also provide them with a script (or part of one) and use that to draw students’ attention to the language you want.
After being exposed to the language items, I asked students to tell their partners what they thought the words and expressions in red meant. They struggled a little with ‘have a bone to pick with someone’ but dealt with the others without too much trouble.
To wrap things up I asked students to discuss questions I had come up with using the language from the video, much like what I had done with the language from the marijuana article in my previous post.
Thanks for reading.