Dizzee Rascal and the textbook

The way we use language can differ dramatically according to context. This creative lesson asks students to translate from one context into another. This is a great approach that allows students to apply their implicit knowledge of language, and to analyse linguistic features naturally and implicitly, based on their intuitive language skills.

Goals

  • Identify differences in language between two contexts.
  • Discuss features of language in terms of grammar and vocabulary.
  • Apply our understanding of context and language to 'translate' a text from one context to another.

Lesson Plan

Part 1

The teacher explains that today, we will discuss language in context. The way we use language differs dramatically in different contexts. We will look at examples of particular language use in particular contexts. Students will be asked to identify what's happening in the examples, and then to translate the examples.

If you click on 'Activity' (bottom right of this page) you will see the lyrics of Dizzee Rascal's first hit single, 'Just a Rascal'. (You can display them on a whiteboard using the icon top right of your screen.) Alternatively, any other lyrics might be used at the teacher's discretion – lyrics can be easily found online. Some students may prefer to find more recent examples of grime or hip-hop, or of any other genre of song lyrics.

(As a side note, Dizzee Rascal received an honorary doctorate from the University of East London, which might be a discussion-starter in itself!)

Looking at the lyrics, first identify words and phrases that are representative of the singer/rapper and of the genre of hip-hop or grime. What do these words and phrases mean? Where would they be used? Are they appropriate for the playground, the weekend, the classroom, a job interview? Can we translate them? Students might identify the following words and phrases:

  • too da max
  • big money stacks
  • platinum whacks
  • chaks
  • dax 

Having discussed lexis (words), go on to discuss grammar. Does Dizzee Rascal use complete sentences? Are there interesting examples of grammar? Where would such grammar be used? Is it appropriate for the park, the classroom, a job interview? Can we translate this grammar? Some examples include the following:

  • ain't got no need…
  • I ain't gotta…
  • I got (rather than I have got)
  • Got this game (rather than I have got this game)

Now comes the fun. The students should translate the lyrics into a formal, written form, using words that any given teacher or parent (or grandparent) would understand. Think of it like translating the song for a BBC audience. Do this in groups, and spend an hour or so working on it, then share and present to the class. Discuss what you changed. What words had to be changed? What grammar?

Part 2

Now take a look at a textbook. The students or the teacher may select any textbook extract. The students should now try to translate this text into grime lyrics, using Dizzee Rascal's lyrics as a template. What words will you change? What grammatical tools will you use? Will your lyrics rhyme? Do this in groups, and spend some time working on it, then share and present to the class. Discuss what had to be changed.

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