Native English speaker use of sarcasm varies culturally, but nearly all culturally native speakers use it to some extent.
While some teachers might argue you cannot teach a complex “humor” tool like sarcasm, this one argues that you can at least try. Why? Because it will be like no other class your students have had before, and you will all be laughing at the end! Three games to mix up your normal conversation class integrating sarcasm follow.
Try These 3 Situational Games to Teach Sarcasm
Don’t You Take That Tone with MeTone is a very important conversation skill that we often neglect in our conversation courses.
Many times, sarcasm is portrayed in a tone of voice. The tone can be an accent to the sarcasm or it can be the sarcasm itself. Tone is a very important conversation skill that we often neglect in our conversation courses. To respond properly to a native speaker, an EFL learner has to pay attention. Give a list of 5-10 comments that could be sarcastic or sincere, and change their meaning with your tone. Have your students work in pairs to replicate your tone, and have them practice responding to each other in turns based on their tone. Examples include:
- I just love your outfit today. Are those blue sneakers?
- I can’t wait for my workout today at the gym!
- Eating healthy just makes me feel so good. I really don’t miss cake.
Light Lies That Contradict
Sarcasm can seem like lies or contradictory language to a non native speaker, and hence it is important to point out when it is intended to be funny or to make another point as opposed to being “untrue”.
- I just love Mondays, especially after a big football game when I only got 3 hours of sleep.
- Children are such a delight when they spill coffee on your new $1,000 laptop.
These sarcastic lemon drops do not need a tone change, and hence can be confusing and difficult to read. Teach that when a student suspects a statement is untrue, he should consider sarcastic intent before branding the native speaker a liar. Tell students to visualize the situation and how one would really feel – because this type of sarcasm evokes imagery. The first comment makes one feel tired and possibly hung-over and thinking that they do not actually like Mondays, hence it is sarcastic. The second comment makes one annoyed at the child as opposed to feeling delighted. Focus on looking for that contrasting imagery! Create a list of 10-20 sarcastic comments and have them pick out the contrasting emotions/feelings underpinned.
Sarcasm often relies on puns, and puns are very fun to teach, especially to advanced learners! First explain what puns are and how they are used in sarcasm by deconstructing two or three statements. Students should pick out the play on words and then explain how it is sarcastic. For examples:
- Sure, she was attractive; she was pretty ugly.
- I want to beat the clock because I am tired, not because I am in a rush.
Put two or three other puns on the board, and have students design sarcastic statements from them. Then have them work in pairs or groups to invent their own puns or use ones they know to express sarcastic ideas.
The subtlety of sarcasm in English humor is difficult, but not impossible to teach.
Use it as a fun tool for your advanced or even intermediate conversation classes to mix up their normal practice! At a minimum, it will help them deconstruct complex meanings of particular words and phrases, and all will have a good laugh.