Globetrotters: Practice with nationalities

IMG_5808Learning the names of nationalities in English is challenge…even for an ESL teacher. I just spent considerable time trying to learn what someone in Northern Ireland might be called!

A while back, I offered some practice with geography and nationalities. (See post from 2013.) The topic is still in demand, and so I’m back with more tips and ideas.

First, the tips for students:

  1. Learn the names you’ll need to use the most. What’s your nationality? What are the nationalities of the people in your life and the people you have contact with?
  2. Pay attention to the influence of geography, but know there are exceptions. Yes, many Asian countries end in -ese, but then we have adjective forms like Portuguese and Korean.
  3. Look for patterns and learn them. It’s a good guess that a country ending in -a will use -an in the nationality. For example, people from Russia are Russian, so people from Croatia must be…Croatian.
  4. When in doubt, use a dictionary or use alternative wording. There are quite a number of patterns, and native speakers mix them up, too. Do we call someone Nepali or Nepalese? To be careful, we might opt to say, “My new neighbor is from Nepal.”
  5. Find a good reference and know where to find it. Next Generation Grammar 3 has a sizable list of nationalities in the appendix. (I used it to write the handout.)

For classroom ideas, please consider my Globetrotters_handout.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. William Ivory says:

    Just to be certain. Someone from Northern Ireland is British. Check the front of any passport from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. They’re all Britain.

    1. Hi William. Thank you for clarifying that for everyone, me included. 🙂 Sadly, I’m sure many Americans fail to differentiate between the U.K. and Great Britain, let alone remember that people from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all British citizens. Likewise, our use of “America” and “Americans” seems to confuse ELLs. In my search for the adjective “Northern Irish” I was looking for an equivalent of English, Scottish, and Welsh. I once had a colleague from Wales, and she clearly identified herself as Welsh. In my handout, I wanted to mention Liam Neeson, an actor from Northern Ireland. Thanks again. Kind regards!

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