What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘manpower’?
A. Working men
B. The Marlboro Man
C. Working women. Really?
On the International Women’s day, the British Council ran a fantastic webinar NON-GENDERED LANGUAGE: HOW TO TEACH IT, SHOULD WE TEACH IT? with Jemma Prior (you can watch the recording here) to discuss why dealing with gender-biased language is important in the English language classroom and give some practical tips on how to teach non-gendered language.
There is basically no language input in coursebooks “to help learners deal explicitly with using non-sexist language”, which might present many issues when using the language in real life situations.
My today’s post offers some ideas based on Google search games (see my post JUST GOOGLE IT), which might help get your learners thinking about the issue of gender-biased language and redraw the balance.
This game helps identify the issue of unconscious gender biases in the language.
Pair up or split students into teams. Hand out cards with (gender-neutral) words (different words for different teams) and ask students to use the Google Image Search and choose 3 images (3 levels of difficulty) to show to other students. The task is to guess the search word.
Example: a nurse
Image 1 (10 points)
Image 2 (5 points)
Image 3 (1 point)
(Images – screenshots of Google search by image)
Cards (click Cards to download them):
You can find it here. This game is highly addictive. Pair up students and ask them to think of gender-biased words and their neutral versions. You may suggest the following words:
See more examples of gender-biased words and their gender-neutral substitutes by categories here.
Ask your students to enter the keywords in Googlefight, and see comparative results in the bar graph. The student whose word returns the highest Google search results is the winner.
Guess the Google Search
This is the activity with Google autocomplete suggestions for words or phrases. Ask your students to give 3 guesses for the word starting, for example, with ‘man and’ or ‘women and’. Type them in the search field and read out a series of suggestions. Award one point per word guessed.
This game might help raise awareness of ‘man firstness’: men and women; male and female; sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; uncle and aunt; boys and girls; he or she, etc.
* See more activities suggested by Jemma Prior during the webinar.
It seems highly unlikely that every gendered word will get entirely removed from the language, but we could make small changes to raise awareness and teach gender-neutral words to make our communication more inclusive.
Thank you for stopping by and happy teaching!