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Wow. Such IATEFL

(Note – this blog post has also been submitted to the IATEFL Hungary Budapest Online website as part of their coverage of the conference – click on the link to see blog posts and videos from the conference)

If there was one thing that interested me most during this IATEFL, it wasn’t some new view of teaching or language and it wasn’t a demonstration of any techy tool. It was a talk and pecha kucha about something that had actually been annoying me greatly over the past year or so.

‘I Speak Meme’, a talk given by Nina Jerončič on the morning of Thursday 3 April, demonstrated a really quite innovative adaptation of internet and youth culture to the language classroom and for language teaching. A meme, the shortened form of mimeme, is a term originally coined by British biologist Richard Dawkins to describe the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena (1). However, in the days of the internet and social networking, it has come to be a term used more often to refer to images, videos and catchphrases that spread over the web, determined by a few key characteristics:

  • the use of humour,
  • the way they spread virally over the net, and
  • the fact anyone can make them

Here’s Nina getting ready to deliver her session, probably looking at some memes…

These images, videos and catchphrases, which I suppose could be considered as some kind of token of digital culture, get shared again and again and again, often via social media. In fact, if you’ve ever spent even a bit of time on Twitter, Facebook, etc you have probably seen one.

Geordi LaForge note that this meme contains bad language

Nina talked about how she had taken advantage of her students’ interest in these memes (usually in the form of images with superimposed text – referred to as image macros). We were told about the changes in language that often happen in the creation of meme images, usually resulting in non-standard collocations and spellings, but Nina also showed us two memes that actually raise awareness of what are usually quite tricky grammatical concepts to contextualise (conditional structures): Captain Hindsight and Supercool Ski Instructor.

Captain Hindsight

Supercool Ski Instructor

The meme theme continued during the evening entertainment on the Friday night and Lindsay Clandfield’s pecha kucha on his research into these virally popular internet images. Lindsay showed us a few other memes, including Y U No Guy and Ffffuuuu. You can see some of his research in the video below (it should start at the beginning of Lindsay’s PK, but if not it is at 56:40):




So maybe using memes in your teaching is a way that you can introduce your students to complex grammar, or how you can tap into their (sometimes weird) interests. Either way, fun?!