Having a laugh? – Using jokes

July 22, 2011

When I was talking at Language World about using authentic resources I gave an example of how a joke in the TL can introduce a serious topic.  The joke I mentioned  addresses the issue of foreigners in Germany, and in particular the status of Turks:

Lehrerin: “Bitte alle die Hand heben, die Deutsche sind.„

Alle außer Ali heben die Hand.

Fritzchen: “Ali, du bist doch hier in Deutschland geboren und aufgewachsen, also bist du Deutscher. Melde dich.”

Ali meldet sich. Als Ali dann nach der Schule nach Hause kommt und dem Vater davon erzählt, holt dieser aus und haut dem kleinen Ali eine runter.

Ali dreht sich um und sagt: “Oh man, kaum ist man Deutscher schon hat man Stress mit den Türken.”


The beauty of jokes is that the language is often very accessible whilst at the same time addressing quite complex concepts and issues.  After all that is the challenge of CLIL; to introduce concepts at the pupils’ cognitive levels whilst at the same time ensuring that the language is not beyond their linguistic level.

The example above could be used:

  • to introduce the Ausländer topic at A-Level
  • at key stage 3 or 4 to teach citizenship in the context of personal identity
  • to enable pupils to reflect on the multicultural society in which they live
  • as a model to be adapted by pupils to give biographical information
  • to show examples of specific structures/vocabulary in use e.g. the perfect tense,  subordinate clause word order etc.

Of course jokes can often reinforce stereotypes so obviously we need to use them carefully to make sure that we don’t get the wrong message across, but sometimes they can just be a bit of fun at the start or finish of a lesson:

Pourquoi les poissons-chats s’ennuient-ils dans l’eau?

Réponse: car les poissons-souris n’existent pas!