Some like to talk about money and others don’t, but the topic does come up even among those who haven’t a clue about payroll spreadsheets. A good number of news articles also make references to wages and taxes, so it’s worth preparing learners to handle these conversations and texts about earnings.
In my tenth lesson in the Language Notes video series, I focus on getting paid. One difference I decided to make clear is getting paid a salary vs. earning hourly wages. Other points of interest are the progressive tax system, gross vs. net income, and payment options, such as paycheck vs. direct deposit.
Another important point is cultural: Is it okay to ask people how much they earn? I state that most Americans consider this a private matter. If you wish to start a discussion on money matters (because it does mattter!), then I suggest using my Language Notes_10_classroom slides. Further discussion could be based on additional questions:
- When you talk about earnings, do you focus on how much a person earns hourly, daily, weekly, or annually?
- Why would people choose one particular payment option over another? Why would some prefer to receive a paycheck, to have direct deposit, or to be paid in cash?
Other questions lend themselves to a classroom debate:
- Which system is more fair, progressive tax or flat tax?
- Which payment structure has more advantages, having an annual salary or getting paid an hourly wage?
- Is it always a crime to get paid under the table?
- Should workers have paid vacations? Paid sick days? Paid overtime? Paid maternity leave?
For more debating ideas, please see my 2009 post on debate formats.
The topic of getting paid also inspires mini research tasks based on these questions:
- What is the minimum wage in (Massachusetts)? Which U.S. states have the highest and lowest minimum wages?
- Using an hourly wage calculator, find out the monthly gross income of someone who makes $(12)/hr and works (30)hrs/ wk. How much will this person contribute to Social Security each month?
- Using online statistics for average salaries, who earns more in the U.S, (an Executive Assistant) or (an Office Manager)? How much vacation time do people with more than 10 years have?
I also have interactive exercises on the topic of getting paid.