Teaching insults or Shakespeare? Why not both?

Some say the language we teach should be fine and proper. It is the responsibility of a teacher to ensure that students use complex grammar and sophisticated vocabulary, we should introduce our students to the beauty of English literature…

Is it just me or does it sound boooring?

Mind you, I love reading, I even enjoy poetry (Keats stuns me every time), but I’m not delusional and I realise most people learn English to communicate, not to appreciate literature as they usually have no time (adults) or simply hate reading when they’re told to (teenagers).

And imagine modern students enjoying William Shakespeare!


It’s obvious that our students would rather use a more common version of English. To be honest, their register tends to be rather low – after all, it’s something they watch on the TV and not all films and TV series are as linguistically challenging as True Detective.

Ones of the most common issues are, obviously, swearwords. Since English is not their native language, my students – especially teenagers – don’t realise how heavy various expressions can be. I think it’s worth a try to make them understand that the f-word, while carrying impressive diversity, is not always a proper choice (and bloody sounds better anyway)…

We must also realise that people live online, they play and chat. And it’s more than likely they are being offended and offensive. Life.


Fortunately, we can make our students familiar with old Will and bring some fun to the classroom at the same time. I found this book in Glastonbury and loved it – so when I could get my own copy, naturally, I did.

Well, that’s simply a generator of Shakespearean insults. With a dictionary (woohoo). It’s funny, it’s interesting, it’s enriching one’s vocabulary. Pure awesomeness 🙂


I find it a perfect idea for one of those gloomy, lazy and waiting-for-spring-to-come lessons. When I told my students we could have a lesson on insults, they immediately loved the idea. When I told them it would be William Shakespeare, their smiles waned a bit and they asked about something more modern. But when I told them the idea behind the plan, they had to agree with me.

After all, what’s better than insulting people in the language of brilliant literature? Nothing else gives you a sense of well-deserved superiority.


How to incorporate the insults in a lesson? Well, I thought of one of those days where one just feels an unstoppable urge to mutter something offensive, in a situation like:

– having a total noob in your team when you’re playing online,

– there’s someone who doesn’t know a thing about your area of expertise and yet corrects you constantly,

– your friend giving away your dirty little secret.

And so on, and so forth – you can ask your students to make dialogues with their favourite expressions, or simply –  to go on a rant.

Enjoy 🙂