Where in the World….? Helping students use articles with languages, countries, and nationalities

I’ve finally posted my video lesson on the use of articles with names of languages, countries, and nationalities. Thanks to discussion with colleagues and a detailed comment left on my blog by Rachel Spack Koch, I was able to draw some conclusions and compose a set of guidelines to help learners master this topic.

Of course, one of the first comments on my video by a YouTube viewer was actually a tricky question about the use of articles with “(the) Ukraine” and “The Hague”. It goes to show you that just when you think you’ve provided enough guidelines, you’ll soon discover there’s more to explain. I believe that the definite article is no longer required with “Ukraine” because it is an independent country.  It is no longer a republic or region within another country (namely the former Soviet Union).  As for The Hague, I’m less certain. Perhaps someone reading this has more insight. I don’t speak Dutch, so I can only guess that Wikipedia is right about the original name being “the count’s woods”. Would that account for the article in English? (Full article can be retrieved here.)

In any case, practice is in order. Through meaningful use of articles, students will gain more accuracy and more confidence.

  • Partner or Small Group Survey. Answers can be recorded in single words or phrases, but they should be given in complete sentences to practice the use of articles. Questions could include:
  1. In which country were you born?
  2. Name a country you’d like to visit.
  3. Name a country (other than your own) that has a rich history in your opinion.
  4. If you could suddenly have the ability to speak 5 languages fluently, which languages would you like to know?
  5. Were all of your ancestors from the same country? Are there any other nationalities in your family tree?
  • Webquest. Challenge students to gather information on the Internet and report it to the class. Tasks can include:
  1. Find the countries with the ten biggest Spanish-speaking populations.
  2. Find out the official languages of lesser known countries, such as the Marshall Islands, Uganda, and Monaco.
  3. Identify a country that is ethnically diverse. Provide statistics.
  • Online geography quizzes.
  1. 123Facts.com has a quiz on Little Known Countries among others.
  2. Lizardpoint has a large set of quizzes that include maps. If done as a class, the quizzes would prompt use of articles in oral speech.
  3. About.com also offers a lengthy set of quizzes. The multiple choice format puts articles in a meaningul written context.
  4. A4esl.org offers a short quiz that nicely pairs cities with nationalities. Another pairs countries with languages.

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