The Price of Water in Airports - Using Anger to Create Discussion in an EFL Classroom

So there I was in Stuttgart Airport, minding my own business, dipping in and out of the book on randomness (The Black Swan) recommended to me by a banking student, waiting to board my flight to London.

An announcement interrupted the silence with the message that the flight was delayed.

Not being in a real rush, this didn't bother me.

Hmmm... felt a bit thirsty.

Walked on over to the big shiny drink dispenser where I was met by Coca-Cola's demand for €2.50.


for what's essentially tap water and it struck me, as everything does these days, that aside from the fact this is annoying as all get out, it's the basis for a lesson with my EFL students and a blog posting.

It's these fundamental, ridiculous, all too prevalent, little ways that the world has changed into a dog-eat-dog society -something we all notice but aren't doing squat about, that I'm both blowing a fuse and showing you it's this very kind of thing that can initiate interesting conversations with your language learners.

  • Nothing feels better than the occasional gripe, whinge and moan.

  • Can your students complain, bitch and say what sucks, in English?

  • Can they decry humanity?

Have they got the language skills to do this?

Seriously, discussing the things that piss us off is a very vital part of the way we communicate - and generally, this lexical set isn't featured in your textbooks, is it?

We wouldn't want to upset anyone.

  • 'It annoys me when' is sorry, not 'It drives me up the wall'
  • 'I can't stand it when' is not 'I've had it up to here'
  • 'It frustrates me when' is not 'It gets on my nerves' or 'It makes me madder than a tick on a cow's back' (I think that's Caribbean) and it's not 'It makes my blood boil.'

For heaven's sake, let's treat our students like the adults they are.

Personally, I'm fed up to my back teeth of companies that think that it's okay to make €2.49 in profit out of one of my basic human rights. What if I was an old lady who needed to take a pill? What if I was a poor student who had to go home to visit a dying relative, using up my last pennies to catch a flight? I should just go without a drop to drink unless I fork over my hard earned cash to buy some kingpin yet another yacht?

I tell ya, I'd like to give Coca Cola a piece of my mind.


Feels great to have a good rant and blow off some steam, vent a bit, doesn't it?

I have a theory.

If any of you can back it up with a sweet SLA (2nd Language Acquistion) quote, that'd be great - Scott Thornbury, you're a wonderful walking quotapedia, got anything for me?

This is my not an academic theory:

Expressing anger appropriately (i.e. not always politely) and effectively (i.e. not the F word, Mr Pinker), is excessively difficult and in my opinion, it could well be one of the last steps to successfully mastering another language.

I know that this task would not be easy for me to do in Spanish and near on impossible in German. But what about when I need to? What if I'm meeting up with a group of colleagues and I want to tell them that something in our project is driving me nuts?

What do you think?

How would you use this lesson tip in a class? Would you tell a story like this first (using your own pet peeve or niggling issue - you need the passion) giving your students a list of idioms to follow along with?

Or would you present the lexis first (see bold vocabulary) and ask your learners to make a list of things that bother them then share your own story as part of the conversation?

Do let me know your thoughts and tips for using Anger in an EFL lesson.


7 Responses to “The Price of Water in Airports - Using Anger to Create Discussion in an EFL Classroom”

  • Jamie Keddie says:
    April 23, 2009

    "Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain"

    Lily Tomlin

    April 23, 2009


    Great one Jamie, much better than any SLA quote!


  • The TEFL Tradesman says:
    April 25, 2009

    Karenne, just try the toilets (OK, restroom to you?), where there is an endless supply of free water available from that thing called a tap (faucet) by the sink (washbasin).

    Failing that, just remember to take your own bottle of water with you before setting out on any longish journey. You can buy one for a quarter the price at your local corner store/shop, or just fill an empty bottle at home!

    April 25, 2009

    Sandy, that's actually the point... in fact today in the beer garden I was musing on whether or not there's some kind of shady deal going on in the background.

    Look, here - I don't know about in the UK (or you're in the UAE?) you can't go through customs with a bottle of liquid, of any description.

    My friend also mentioned the toilets - last I was taught that's an unsanitary option.

    And why should one?

    The point (aside from the fact it's not actually this situation that is the reason for the post, it's more that the lexis for discussing things you want to rant about isn't usually taught to language lessons)... the biggest point is that why should anyone have to pay €2,50 when they could have a water fountain available in the departure lounge or at least sell the water at a price marginally more than a supermarket.

    The only reason Coca Cola can get away with this price is because there are no other options available to the passengers and that my dear, Sandy, is what 's got my knickers in a twist. ;-)


  • Sharon says:
    April 26, 2009

    Karenne, this is a great post. I love the way you weave those expressions in - a way to teach by example. Nicely done!

  • Anonymous says:
    October 18, 2010

    Singapore and Kuala Lumpur airports have drinking fountains all over the place.

    October 18, 2010

    You're very lucky! In Germany, you can't get a drop to drink once you have gone through bag control and to top it off, once you are on the flight, if you're flying with German wings you even have to pay for water on the plane.

    I actually think this is a violation of human rights...


Visitors and Regular Readers


FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed

Communities of Practice

Blog Archive

Directories, catalogs and Back Links

Adult Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

The EFL ESL Blog List - ESL/EFL/TEFL Teaching Jobs and Teacher Resumes

International Blogging Directory

Recent Posts

Simply Conversations

Pedagogically sound materials designed to get your students actively talking:

Free Samples
Conversation Control

General English
Business English

Learn more on why these work