Speeding in Finland: a conversation lesson for adults.

Two of my private students may move to Finland next year. Because of that I’ve been keeping an eye open for interesting stories about Finnish people or that talk about Finland. A couple of weeks ago I found one that is general enough to be used with other adult students as well.

It turns out that in Finland speeding fines are calculated according to people’s income, which can lead to some pretty unbelievable amounts being paid. I thought this would lead to some interesting discussions and based a lesson around it.

I’d suggest starting this lesson by introducing the topic of fines. You could use a picture and the questions below. Show the first question and try to lead your students to the topic. Once the word ‘fine’ comes up, show them the other two questions.

  • What does this picture make you think of?
  • Have you ever received a fine for speeding? How much did it cost?
  • If you haven’t, what do you think is a fair amount for a speeding fine? Why?

Alternatively, you could show students the Finnish flag and elicit how much they know about the country. Finally, ask students if they think laws in Finland are more or less strict than in Brazil.

Tell students they are going to read a New York times article about speeding fines in Finland. I don’t generally pre-teach vocabulary, but I think it’s worth checking if your students know the word ‘income’ as it appears throughout the article and it will help students answer the comprehension questions below.

  • How much did Reima Kuisla have to pay for a speeding fine? How did he react to it?
  • Why was his fine so expensive? Do other people think it was fair?
  • How much would a regular person pay for a speeding fine in Finland?

After getting feedback from your students, it may be a good idea to ask them a personalized follow-up question, such as this one.

  • Do you think a similar system should be used in Brazil? Why or Why not?

Unfortunately, all of the students to whom I asked this question think it wouldn’t work in Brazil.

You can find the original article here and this is my adapted version: Speeding in Finland (The NY Times)

If you choose to work with the language from the article, these are my suggestions.

to turn out (to be)
to sting
to blurt out
be stinking rich
(an egalitarian) streak
to draw attention

The reason I chose ‘draw attention’ is that I think it’s a collocation that is underused by students, even if they understand it in writing.

After working with meaning and pronunciation you could offer questions to give your students an opportunity to use the language in context. Here are some possible examples.

  • Do you have any friends who are stinking rich? Are they full of themselves because of it?
  • Have you ever regretted blurting something out to your boss?
  • Have you ever received criticism from a boss or professor that really stung?
  • Does anyone in your family have a stubborn streak? Are they easy to talk to?
  • Do you have any friends who wear clothes that draw attention to themselves?
  • Have you ever been to a party that turned out to be worse than you expected?

You could also finish the lesson off with a funny element. Ask students what excuse they might come up with if they were stopped for speeding. Board suggestions and tell them to watch the video below and see if any of their ideas come up. (Watch up to 2:11)

Watch the video again and now ask students to choose their favourite and least favourite excuses. Collect feedback from students and tell them to justify their choices. This should lead to some pretty good laughs.

Thanks for reading.

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