Who's your googlegänger?

Is anyone wandering about the planet with your name?

What do they do? Where do they live?

Do they have a better job, make more money than you do? Have they written a book, do they lead a football team, are politicians or doctors?

Are they busy creating a digital footprint more weighty than your own?

A great conversation activity for EFL students, especially after a Getting to Know You lesson, is to ask your students to research the 'net for others walking around with the same or a similar name (perhaps an anglicized version) and to report back to the class on what they've discovered.

Good sites to check include Google obviously, however Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Geneology sites can also produce interesting results.

Once in class, encourage them to share their findings in pairs, along with notes and photographs if they found these, and switch groups as often as time allows.

However, after the second switch, they should leave their paperwork behind and simply discuss their googlegänger freely.

At the end of the session do group feedback, asking participants to tell you about the most interesting thing they found out about another colleague's name-double and discuss some of the authentic words and expressions which came up as a result of their forays into the internet.

Post-task activity
Students write an email to their googlegängers introducing themselves and commenting on what they learned - what they both have in common or don't and they don't need to send these, but can if they want to.

p.s. My googlegänger is an artist in Trinidad - one day I'm going to buy some of her paintings! Do you know who yours is?

17 Responses to “Who's your googlegänger?”

  • Glennie says:
    October 30, 2009

    A wonderful activity Karenne.

    Your classes must be such fun.

  • Unknown says:
    October 31, 2009

    Love the idea! One of my googlegangers is a bluegrass banjo player and I sometimes send his video on YouTube http://bit.ly/UdRFM to friends to show off my musical skills!

    But another is porn video director and start of 'Frankenpimp' so you better be careful about the web searches! Haha...

    Thanks for the idea Kareene, makes a great alternative for a getting to know each other style first lesson.

    Tony (@cuppa_coffee)

    October 31, 2009

    Thanks Glennie, Tony - yup!

    It's a very fun activity... yesterday one of my students found a CEO earning 300k+ with his name and told me his wife reckons there must have been an error in the book of her destiny ;-) another told me that someone once bought a car of his - who had the same name and the German bureaucracy had a wee problem with that and wanted him to buy back the car!

    One found a dead politician and then spent 2hours (crazy) trawling the 'net for more information on what he'd done in his life ;-).

    Too funny about your porn video director, Tony! So, yes, readers, do warn your students that interesting discoveries may turn up upon search!


  • Andy says:
    October 31, 2009

    Mine's a Shakespearian actor. We vie for most mentions in the first page of a google search (though he's in things like IMDB so he usually wins). We "met" on facebook a while ago.

    Great activity

  • Darren Elliott says:
    October 31, 2009

    I'm a hockey player, apparently. But google isn't too fussy about the spelling, so if I put my name in inverted commas, it actually comes up with me!

  • Moomin says:
    October 31, 2009

    I just love this idea Karenne. Thank-you so much for sharing :)

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    October 31, 2009

    What a great activity for all students! It is also a lot of fun! I will definitely try this and tell you how it goes!

  • Nergiz Kern says:
    November 01, 2009

    I agree, nice activity and certainly a lot of fun but what if someone doesn't have a googlegänger, like me, for example? ;)

    (Now, I see you all googling for my name to prove me wrong :-))

  • The TEFL Tradesman says:
    November 01, 2009

    I pity the poor sod who shares my name. Think of the shame - ooh, the pain of it all!!

    If they consider paying me to change my monicker, I'd certainly give it some thought...

  • Vicki says:
    November 01, 2009

    I'm surprised by the secret lives of my family. I've just checked google, and one of my brothers has moved to NYC and the other has taken up 'emotional photography'. Reassuringly one of my sisters has remained herself, but the other has grown a beard and become a tree surgeon.
    Lovely lesson idea! Thank you!

  • Unknown says:
    November 01, 2009

    Very cool idea! I did this once for It's magazines a couple of years ago. I'm happy to say that I have not yet found one other person with the name Lindsay Clandfield though...

    Although when I've done this with my students some of them have like a million googlegangers (e.g. Rosa Lopez or Maria Gonzales). Still, lots of fun!


    November 01, 2009

    Hi Lindsay.. and there I was thinking I was the original mastermind behind the googleganger search concept (ah, well, there's probably loads of us who check out our own names and then think, hmmm, this'll be fun for students too).

    Re the millions of googlegangers - like Maria Gonzales, the best is for them to choose the first one or two in the google-ranking or one they like most.

    We have the same thing in Germany with names repeating often however sometimes people can't find anyone with their own name: one of my students has one Finish parent, one German parent so he has a mixed name but with diligent searching he anglicized both his names and then found a Mayor in Lafayette!

    Sandy.. considering that your real name isn't even Sandy McManus - you can't comment on this activity LOL.

    Andy you should see if that gets you free tickets to a play or two ;-)

    Emma ta! I meant to answer your rant the other day... loved it, thank you for sharing too!

    Shelly do let me know how it goes and what fun things your students find out.

    Darren that's very cool: you do realize that that hockey player is sitting in front of his computer going... lives of teachers, what's that? And how do I become more famous - you're on a race for the best digital footprint now mate!


  • Sue says:
    November 01, 2009

    Great activity!

    My googleganger back in the days when I was single was the actress who played Lolita in Kubrick's film: http://bit.ly/1fo0Db

    I used to do the odd a bit of acting in my youth, and my dear old gran (bless her!) would sometimes ring up to congratulate me if one of her old films got a mention in the TV times!

    Thanks for sharing this; it looks like a lot of fun and I'll certainly be giving it a go sometime.

  • Nick Jaworski says:
    November 01, 2009

    Very cool homework idea. I never like giving homework unless I think it's interesting and it'll pull the students in to even more language.

    Strangely, my googlegangers seem to have personalities resembling mine. Nobody too famous, though. Oh well, guess we Nick Jaworskis are destined to live quiet lives and hold facebook or myspace accounts :)

  • Jeremy Day says:
    November 02, 2009

    Nice activity.

    My googleganger is a German pop group, the Jeremy Days. http://www.jeremydays.de/. I remember they played a concert in Berlin when I lived there (1993) - it was very embarrassing to see the posters all around town.

    November 02, 2009

    Ha, ha - Sue, totally got this picture of your Gran telling all her friends how famous her granddaughter is...

    Nick - this means the playing field is wide open for you to own google through your name!

    Jeremy, I didn't know you lived in Germany! Soo... does that mean that you were such a huge fan that you moved on over there just to be closer and in fact changed your name to match? I would have torn down a poster and kept it forever ;-)

    November 02, 2009

    Hmm.. something odd with the comments/spam filter function, hi Nergiz and Vicki, your posts only just popped up!

    Nergiz - was very tempted to, you're right (Marisa in Greece had the same problem, she tweeted)... maybe if you go 20 pages deep in Google they'll be another lovely you.

    Vicki - love the grown a beard and become a tree surgeon, I can't imagine explaining that to students, which gives me another idea: this sort of activity could also be used in a general English class to search "your alternative family" or even in business English - look for a company somewhere in the world with the same acronym or similar name and then report back on what they actually do, size of company etc!!!




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