Cultural Pollution — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking

This is an English speaking class topic about Cultural Pollution.

I want to give you some English speaking lessons that challenge the students a little more than the usual, generic speaking topics that you may find in ESL textbooks.

This is not a topic about pollution and the environment as students often talk about in class. But it is about the ever-expanding concept of popular culture finding its way into traditional culture and making a very heavy presence in a town or city.

This lesson is ideal for any speaking class. It includes a short reading passage followed by some discussion questions and vocabulary.

I think you could use this in an IELTS speaking class too as it challenges views and ideas for the students.

Try it and let me know how it goes in the comments below.


Introduction

Students often discuss pollution and the environment in an ESL speaking class but this may be a little different.

At the end of this lesson you could set up a council debate. One group could be council officials, the other the local residents. Maybe the council wants to rent out space to more chain outlets. And the local residents have had enough of all the fast-food places and coffee shops.

Things might get heated if you encourage them!

Reading

A disgruntled man describes his town:

It’s got to the point where I just don’t recognise the place anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free enterprise. I’m a local businessman myself. But this is ridiculous.

The whole town is filled with all of these fast-food places and coffee shops. And if it’s not that, we’ve also got these ice-cream shops too.

And all American.

Go down the old High Street and there’s a McDonalds at the bottom of the town, then at the top of the road, you’ve got another McDonalds. Then we’ve got a KFC halfway down the street. Two Starbucks and a Dairy Queen shop.

Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza and another pizza place I can’t remember the name of.

Why do we need all these things? And why does it all have to be fast food and coffee?

Years ago we had local things. A tea shop — that was replaced by one of the Starbucks — and a fish and chip shop. Now it’s a KFC.

I feel like I’m drowning in the worst of American culture. I would like to see some traditional British things. Is that too much to ask for?

What this man is describing here is called Cultural Pollution.

This is when we see too many products or services from another country — and that country is usually America.

Look at all the fast food names and coffee shop chains the man talked about above.

They are all American.

For many years now, American food chains and convenience stores have been spreading around the world at a rapid rate. We don’t complain when we see restaurants from other countries or products or services from another country appear in our own neighbourhood. Sometimes it is great to see an Indian restaurant or a Chinese supermarket. But when the entire street is filled with American big brands, we might feel that our own culture is being crushed out of existence.

At first, we might find the idea novel. To see a McDonalds appear in the town centre and see something of American life.

But these restaurants are quickly followed by others. And before we know it we are surrounded by the lowest form of American consumer culture.

It’s bad enough that these American brands appear in English towns but when they start to pop up in other countries, it makes you think they are taking over the world.

So we might see a McDonalds on an island in Thailand, a KFC just outside a temple in China, a Starbucks in a narrow street in Vietnam.

At what point do we say no?


Why not download the entire lesson plan today? You can use it in your class immediately.

Just click the link below!

Cultural Pollution

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

disgruntled

free enterprise

drowning in

food chains

crushed out

novel

the lowest form

consumer culture

pop up

taking over

temple

narrow street

Exercise

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebook—a small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

“I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

Questions

  1. What kind of American brands and chains can you see in your town or city? Describe the brands and what they are.
  1. Which of these American outlets do you enjoy? Why?
  1. Think about the food. But also think of the decor of the interior and the staff that work there. What do you like about this place?
  1. Do you think there are too many of these American chains? Why? Why not?
  1. What purpose to these restaurants and outlets serve? Think in terms of the local economy, jobs, how they affect local business owners, the community.
  1. Can you think of any examples where we should definitely not see any of these restaurants or outlets? For example, next to The Great Wall of China or in the middle of Red Square. Why do you think this? Why are they acceptable in other places?
  1. Do you think this is just a natural part of the evolution of culture? That a dominant culture will be seen in most cities? Why/why not?
  1. What is so special about the local restaurants in your town or city? Try to sell the idea of them to the class. Think of all the benefits of local cuisine and why your town or city needs local cuisine restaurants.
  1. Some would argue — quite rightly in many cases — that many American fast-food outlets are serving unhealthy food and making people fat.
  1. How can we change people’s perceptions of this kind of food?
  1. What do we need to teach people about this daily diet?
  1. Do you think these outlets should be outright banned? Why/why not?
  1. If you could start a food chain from your own country’s culture and take it to America, what could it be? Do you think the American people would like this kind of cuisine? Why/why not?

Teacher’s Notes

Students often discuss pollution and the environment in an ESL speaking class but this may be a little different.

At the end of this lesson you could set up a council debate. One group could be council officials, the other the local residents. Maybe the council wants to rent out space to more chain outlets. And the local residents have had enough of all the fast-food places and coffee shops.

Things might get heated if you encourage them!


I am sure you will find this English speaking topic useful in your own class.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!


Why not download the entire lesson plan today? You can use it in your class immediately.

Just click the link below!

Cultural Pollution

2 thoughts on “Cultural Pollution — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking”

  1. It’s a phenomenon that people take for granted but don’t consider carefully. This lesson will help students reevaluate the benefits of their own culture and food and will nudge critical thinking about the invasiveness of cultural pollution. On the bright side they might analyze what makes these places so popular and use that information to sell nutritious native foods while offering some of the same conveniences such as less waiting time or amenities for families with children.

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