Giving students a taste of real English

We know that Jeremy Lin was not condemning people for not trying, and for not knowing. This is an abbreviated form of ‘If you never try, you (will) never know’, and is a very common sentence pattern in spoken English. Yet, this structure is never taught in school (correct me if I am wrong), despite the elaborate treatment of the so-called type 1, type 2 and type 3 conditional sentences in coursebooks.

Here is a possible language awareness mini-lesson for upper primary and secondary students:

STAGE ONE: Presentation

T (showing any picture of Lin): Who is this guy (again, ‘guy’ is a word seldom taught in school)? What is his name? What is he famous for?

SS: He is …

T: (showing the picture below). Lin said this during a recent visit to HK. What did he say?

SS: You never try, you never know.

T: Lin was saying this to the teenagers who came to see him. What did Lin mean? Was he unhappy with those teenagers? (And guide SS to rephrase as ‘If you …’)


T: Which did Lin mean? (A) You people are wimps (or a milder description). You never try anything. Moreover, you don’t know anything. (B) You young people should try doing what you really want to do, because if you never try, you will never know whether you can do it or not.

SS: A (or B)

T: Why would Lin think that?

(and so on)

STAGE TWO: Controlled Practice

T: Now try to say these sentences in a different way. Robber to woman: If you shout, you will die.

SS: You shout, you die.

T: Young man to another young man: If you don’t tell her, she will never know.

SS: You don’t tell her, she never knows.

T: Teacher to students: If you turn in your homework late, you will get no marks.

(and so on)


Meanwhile, I will issue the following warning to my new groups of students at the first class in September: ‘YOU MESS WITH ME, YOU FLUNK THIS COURSE.’


One thought on “Giving students a taste of real English

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