Face Tattoos — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking


Are tattoos popular in your country? What kind of people have them?

Do you have any tattoos? Why/why not?

What about face tattoos? Would you do this? Why/why not?

You Have a Tattoo Where?

Tattoos have been around for hundreds of years and have often been seen as a strong sign of rebellion.

Many years ago, a person with tattoos on their body was often regarded as an outsider. Someone who chose not to live life by the usual rules or conventions.

Then there came a time when tattoos became cool.

It wasn’t long before everyone had at least one tattoo. Maybe a Gothic band around the top of their arm or a flower on the wrist or ankle.

A cryptic message scrawled on some part of their body, which, when read by another, the owner would take time to explain the meaning.

Tattoos were a symbol of individuality. Where the ink on the wearer’s skin became like a journal, mapping out the person’s life and history.

But still, they were taboo in certain environments.

It was fine to show off all your inkings on a beach where tattoo owners could compare their markings and tell their story of them.

In the workplace, it was a different thing altogether.

They were still regarded as taboo in the office or boardroom.

If anyone had full-sleeve tattoos, they had to cover them up with shirt sleeves. A small inking on the back of the neck may be hidden by a collar or a scarf.

There was still a time and a place to reveal your tattoos.

But that came to an abrupt end when younger people started to put tattoos on their faces. It was the final boundary.

It practically said: I do not fit into society’s rules, and this society does not accept me.

A person with face tattoos crossed the last border. No office jobs for them.

What could they do? Cover their face with a mask while sitting at the desk?

There had been face tattoos before. A tear or two beneath the eye that ex-prison convicts wore to signify how many years they did inside.

Maybe a swallow on the neck. But that was as close as it got.

This new crowd made sure their face tattoos were brazen.

A full insignia below the eye — a message written with some floral decorative feature surrounding it.

Or the numbers to show gang affiliation. Names of loved ones — the ultimate homage to show respect?

A whole music scene is attached to this new tattoo culture. Referred to by those not in the know as mumble rap, no self-respecting mumble rapper has a tattoo-free face.

It is the final border for tattoo aficionados to cross. There is nowhere left to go.

Once you tattoo your face, you show the world you stand outside of society. That you don’t belong.

And there is no way to hide it.

You are showing the entire world every day.

Reading Comprehension Questions

How long have tattoos been around?

Have they been seen as a sign of social acceptance?

How was a person with tattoos regarded many years ago?

Did tattoos stop being cool?

Name two kinds of tattoos that began to become popular.

Are tattoos like a diary? Or some other written form?

Which place were tattoos seen as cool?

Which place were they not accepted?

If you had tattoos on your arms, what would you need to do when at work?

Nowadays, which part of the body do people have tattoos?

Is this the last boundary?

What kind of face tattoos could we see many years before?

What kinds of tattoos do people have on their faces today?

Are these tattoos gang-related?

What music scene are face tattoos associated with?

Essential Vocabulary




Gothic band







mapping out












gang affiliation


mumble rap





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:


Notebooka 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.”


Discussion Questions

Do you have any tattoos? Can you tell the class about them? Why did you get them done? What does your family think of them?

Are tattoos acceptable in your culture? Why/why not?

Do you secretly want to have a tattoo? What is stopping you?

What do you think of face tattoos?

Why is this ‘the final boundary’?

Are there any people with face tattoos in your country?

Do you think face tattoos could catch on in your country?

In what other ways do people have tattoos? For example, women having their eyelashes tattooed or their eyebrows or lips? In what way is this different to face tattoos?

Do you agree or not that the workplace must have rules about tattoos? Why/why not?

In what jobs are tattoos acceptable? Why is this so?

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2 thoughts on “Face Tattoos — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking”

  1. Tattoos like many other things are coming to the forefront recently when people are breaking boundaries like never before. I think this is more common however in developed countries. In other cultures it is less prevalent. It would be interesting to see the stand that EFL students have on the subject. Tattoos are worthy of discussion in the classroom as they don’t step on deeply ingrained cultural barriers.

    1. Yes, I agree. I have found a vast difference in opinions about tattoos in different countries. Also tattoos have become hugely popular in very conservative countries in the last few years. I have always found this a great topic for conversation in the ESL class. Many thanks for your comment Leona.

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