A Good Servant
Advertising Texts in EL Classrooms
Among the phrases which appear most frequently in our scientific and methodological articles and newsletters are the following: “We are teaching English in a changing world”, or: “Learning process should be motivated”, etc. This reflects the ever-increasing interest in the cognitive methodology of language teaching. Specialists working in the field have agreed that a foreign language should be taught as a functioning interactive system. Language teaching today demands new learning methodology and new approaches, including teaching both a foreign language and the culture of this language. Successful communication in a foreign language is possible only if a speaker is culturally aware, otherwise saying if he/she knows the sociocultural implications of the linguistic units he/she is using. Therefore, the study of the relationship between languages and cultures is essential in both teaching and research work. Language and culture are so closely related that mastering a foreign language presupposes acquisition of certain intercultural competence. More than that, effective teaching of a foreign language depends on a clear realisation of the needs of the learners and the types of the activities they will have to perform in a foreign language in their practical work.
As we know, one of the problems that language teachers often confront pertains to the choice of teaching materials. For obvious reasons teaching materials age fast: they are to meet new social and cultural requirements. Among the texts which can be successfully used when teaching a foreign language are those belonging to the register of mass media (including advertising texts). Nowadays we can observe a lot of interest in this type of texts. This interest is quite justified. First, because at present we have the opportunity not only to aquaint ourselves with a lot of different newspapers and magazines from the English-speaking countries, but also to watch and to listen to various radio and TV programmes. Secondly, recent changes in Russia and Europe – the integration of the economy, trade, a rapid extension of international communication – have affected the market and have called for professionals in the field of mass media.
Of course, modern mass media present a wider range of linguistically-distinctive varieties than any other domain of language study. The register of mass media provides a variety of news reports, reviews, letters, announcements, literary readings, weather forecasts and many types of advertising. Advertisement offers many advantages to a teacher.
Advantageous use of advertising texts for teaching purposes is conditioned by the following reasons:
1) Advertising texts are ubiquitous; they are often familiar to the learners who may see them every day.
2) Advertising texts are easily available in classroom-friendly formats: they are comparatively short and can be used when discussing particular questions.
3) Advertising texts help make learning process more interesting, vivid and even entertaining: they incorporate interesting images and texts which combine manageable length with fascinating cultural resonances.
4) Practically all advertising texts are written in advance, therefore, these texts are properly constructed from the standpoint of structure and expressively coloured. It is quite understandable that very thorough and precise work is to be done before an advertisement is presented to a listener/viewer. When millions of dollars worth of business depend on the success of a single advertisement, then it is natural that a person making an advertisement should weigh the words and the ways in which they are arranged in a text just as carefully as any poet does. Unconventional spelling and grammatical constructions are as a rule stylistically determined, and can serve examples of expressive uses of linguistic means. Thus, pun, metaphor, parallelism, repetition, are to be mentioned as rhetorical devices used in advertising texts. For example:
Cutex Strongnail with nylon for long, strong, beautiful nails.
The pun is based on the double meaning of the word ‘nail’.
Such texts can be used when teaching creative writing. Thus, it may be explained that pun is a linguistic device which consists in the use (often humorous) of a word in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications, or the use of words having the same or nearly the same sound, but different meanings. Then, the learners should explain the use of pun in a given text. For example, the following text may be suggested:
Watch the world. Tissot.
The answer should be: the pun used in the texts rests on the double meaning of the word ‘watch’: 1) watch (verb) – to look at, to keep under observation; 2) watch (noun) – a small portable device indicating the time, usually worn on the wrist or carried in the pocket. Examples of rhyming, alliteration, use of homonyms are also numerous.
types exactly what you say.
2. Try Internet free for three months.
3. Don’t get bored before you board.
Free gifts and special promotions are waiting for you 24 hours a day. The only one stop shop.
Rhyming and parallelism are often reinforced by alliteration:
Looking Foxy. Feeling fantastic.
Such texts may be used when teaching vocabulary. For instance, learners may be asked to find a word which would rhyme with a given one.
Don’t feel out of place
In уour office . . .
For all your retail, office and industrial accommodation call Liberty Life Properties on (011) 408 5000. Liberty Life Properties. Developing. Managing. Leasing. Administering.
5) Advertising texts reflect the value, system of the society where the language is used, thus, providing access to information about culture, traditions, customs, historical facts, etc. The role of culturally-imposed rules in advertising can hardly be overestimated, because in advertising we cannot confine ourselves to a content area expressed by means of special terms. Besides, disregard of possible cultural implications may cost a company money and reputation.
One of the linguistic devices which causes a lot of difficulties is a great number of sociolinguistically determined words and phrases (such as lines from famous poems and songs, famous popular quotations, names of people and geographical names, and their derivatives, which require definite cultural background to be properly apprehended). Thus, a line from a very popular song is used in the following text:
Wish you were here.
Four words are worth a thousand pictures.
Share the best of your Flyaway holiday experiences while you put your mind at rest. Call home to family and friends while you are abroad.
Recognising and memorising such lines and phrases may be both a fun and intensive work for the learners.
It should be pointed out here that many advertisements consciously endeavour to create or reinforce a stereotype. Thus, the advertisement of Marlboro cigarettes idealises the Wild West, laying special emphasis on freedom, rugged individuality and masculinity. “Marlboro Man” suggests that by smoking his cigarettes we will somehow become a part of this culture. L&M also goes for an American image, but a different one: beautiful people hang out in expensive, shiny cars under a cloudless sky, and invite us to join them in the American Dream. Such texts may be successfully used when discussing stereotypes and images.
The following text may be used when discussing jokes:
Just imagine that militia will find out . . .
The joke used in this text is based on the belief that American militiamen consider donuts to be a delicacy.
6) Advertising texts can be successfully used when teaching the principles and methods of translation. The meaning of each text is not only a sum total of its constituent components: it is the purport of the text which always comes first. Therefore, it is concepts which are to be transferred to speakers of a different language. At this stage the learners should understand the difference between literary and literal translation. Then, two types of exercises may be suggested: 1) compare an original text with a translated one (examples are easily available and numerous: from professionally translated texts to funny, ridiculous and even intolerable ones); indicate the advantages and disadvantages of the translation; 2) translate a text (when translating advertising texts one should always bear in mind that the process of translation presupposes various types of compensation, replacement, transformation, etc., the result being always compared with the original). Advertising texts have the “stopping power”: they are created to capture the attention of the mass audience by means of a short message. The aim of the admakers is to make the message very forceful, convincing and clear.
Advertising texts are usually highly expressive and laconic, no matter in which language they are presented. In this sense the character of advertising texts can be defined as ‘international’. At the same time advertising texts should be not only grammatically accurate and expressively coloured; they should be appropriate to a particular situation: any kind of text should be regarded with awareness of the cultural components it contains. As it is put in the text advertising a bank system:
When you head into the foreign territory, be sure you have the right guide.
I hope that our efforts will help our learners to better understand not only certain types of texts, but also the hierarchy of value stereotypes and norms of cultural behaviour, to communicate naturally in a foreign language and to become comfortable in the culture of a foreign language.
By Oksana Ksenzenko,
Moscow State Lomonosov University