The aim of this speaking activity is to discuss notions that students find representative of their countries. It is suitable for intermediate and more advanced students and complements such topics as national stereotypes, culture, and cultural differences. It was inspired by this article about Finland releasing a Christmas calendar that “is all about Finnish feelings represented in a set of emojis.”
Make sure your students are clear about the meaning of the word emoji (A small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication).
Distribute/show your students the Country themed emojis worksheet. Establish together what the emojis show. It is a good opportunity to introduce some new vocabulary (have/go for/take a sauna, a headbanger, unbreakable). Decide which country the emojis come from and what their meaning might be.
Here is how the authors of the calendar explained the meaning of each emoji:
- The Headbanger. It is dark in Finland and so is the music. There’s a small headbanger living inside of each Finn.(ThisisFINLAND / Bruno Leo Ribeiro)
- The Sauna. Doesn’t need introducing. Sauna is as Finnish as it gets. Naked. (ThisisFINLAND / Bruno Leo Ribeiro)
- The Unbreakable. The legendary Nokia 3310 is one of the highest selling mobile phones of all times. The phone was designed in Finland and it is known for its toughness. (ThisisFINLAND / Bruno Leo Ribeiro)
Tell your students that Finland is releasing a Christmas calendar featuring “Finnish feelings represented in a set of emojis” and the first three have just been revealed. Divide your students into pairs or small groups. Ask them to imagine their country was releasing a similar calendar. Their task is to come up with three ideas for emojis (they do not need to draw them though unless they really want to 🙂 ) that best represent their country and justify their choice.
Compare your students’ ideas together and try to come up with the ultimate list of three country themed emojis. Get ready for some discussion at this point.
In groups where students don’t come from the same country this activity gets even more interesting as they get introduced to a variety of cultural references. They might learn new things and confront their perception about other countries and cultures with that of people who actually hail from said countries and cultures.
I have tried this activity with small groups of adults and individual students. It has led to some fascinating discussions about the importance of traditions, the meaning of cultural differences, dealing with stereotypes, and being an ambassador for one’s culture as an expat. My students really enjoyed the emoji angle and all wanted to read the article that inspired the class (I might have contributed to popularizing Finnish culture just a little bit here 🙂 ). I would love to try it with teenage students and get to know their take on the issues this activity raises.