If you’re looking for some of the best functional language games and activities in English, keep on reading for the top picks. Help students get things done with functional English.
What is Functional English?
Functional English is language that is used to perform a function. For example, making requests, giving advice, complaining, disagreeing, asking permission, etc. Basically, it’s the language you use when you want to get something done! Here are some functional language examples:
- Ask for directions
- Ask a question
- Describe someone
- Describe a place
- Give personal information
- Extend an invitation
- Make a request using modal verbs
- Small talk
- Talk to someone on the phone
Besides these ones, there are many, many more examples of function English. Keep on reading for some of the best ideas for teaching functional language to our students.
Functional English ESL Activities and Games
Let’s get into the best games, activities and ideas for teaching functional language.
#1: Asking for Permission
Asking and giving permission is one of the classic examples of functional English. Here are some of the best games and activities for teaching this important skill:
#2: Expressing Likes and Dislikes
A common English function is to express a like or dislike and it’s in fact one of the first things found in all beginner ESL/EFL textbooks. There are lots of interesting ideas for teaching this:
#3: Talking about Locations
Prepositions are one of the key parts of speech that are used to talk about the locations of things in relation to other things. And it’s a textbook example of functional English. Check out some of my favourite ways to teach them:
#4 Functional English: Make a Prediction
One of the more advanced examples of functional English is to make predictions about the future. This requires some higher-level language skills and the future verb tenses as well as the use of things like conditionals. Have a look here at some of my favourite ideas:
#5: Engaging in Small Talk
Small talk is one of those necessary English language skills that all students need to master. Of course, it has a very specific function as well—to get to know someone without revealing too much personal information about yourself. Have a look at some of my favourite activities:
#6: Comparing Things
In English, there is very specific language to compare things (comparatives) and also to express degree (superlatives). Being able to do this is an important English function that can be found in most beginner ESL textbooks. Here are some ideas for teaching it:
#7: Using Money
One of the most practical lessons in an English class for people heading to an English-speaking country is to teach students how to use money and talk about it as well. Here are some ideas:
#8: Describing Something using Functional English
One of the most common language functions is to be able to describe something, whether it’s a person, place or thing through the use of adjectives. Have a look at some of my top ideas here:
#9: Talking about Daily Schedules
Being able to talk about daily things and time is an important part of functional English. Have a look here at some of my ideas for teaching students this important skill:
#10: Functional Language in an ESL Listening Lesson
One of my favourite ways to teach functional language skills is through a listening lesson. Of course, there are various forms of functional English so find a listening passage that targets that and then check out these simple steps to follow:
#11 Functional Language Skill: Ordering Food
If you travel to another country, of course, you want to be able to order food in a restaurant! That’s why many people actually travel! These activities are functional English made fun. Have a look:
#12: Giving Directions (Functional English)
It’s very common in any language to ask for and give directions which makes it an important language function skill. The good news is that it can be quite a fun unit to teach! Have a look here at some of the best ideas:
#13: Writing Quickly
Writing in any language is a combination of fluency and accuracy. Both are required to write at the highest levels but most textbooks and many teachers focus almost exclusively on accuracy. Have a look here at this activity that focuses on writing quickly:
#14: Using Reported Speech
Reported speech is a higher-level English language function. It’s basically reporting what you heard someone else say and it can get a little bit tricky with the grammar. Have your students practice it with some of these activities:
#15: ESL Reading Lesson with Functional Language
It’s easy to plan a TEFL reading lesson for just about any topic. Find a passage with your target function and then follow these simple steps:
#16: Giving Advice
People love to give advice and it’s a very important example of functional English. Here’s my favourite activity to help students practice it:
#17: Asking Questions
A large part of functional English is being able to ask and answer questions about a variety of topics. Have a look here at some ideas to practice this important skill:
#18: Using Modals
Check out some of these activities to teach modal verbs. Verbs like can, could, may and might really get things done in English!
#19: Classroom Language
One of the first things that students need to learn is classroom English. Things like:
- Open your books to page ____.
- Can I please go to the bathroom?
- Sit down.
For some of the best ideas for teaching this kind of vocabulary, have a look here:
#20: English Drilling Games
A nice way to teach functional English is with a drill. Help students get things done easily, in English by practicing some of the key things they need to know. Have a look here for some of my favourite ways to do that:
#21: Use an ESL Speaking Lesson Plan Template
It’s easier than you might think to plan an English-speaking or conversation lesson for just about any kind of functional language. Here are some simple steps to follow:
#22: Information Gap Activities
Create worksheets with missing information that students need to gather from each other through conversation. This encourages communication to exchange missing details.
#23: Problem-Solving Tasks
Present students with scenarios that require problem-solving and decision-making. They must use functional language to negotiate solutions.
#24: Travel Dialogue Simulation
Provide travel-related situations where students need to interact with airport staff, hotel receptionists, or fellow travelers using appropriate functional language.
#25: Email Writing Tasks
Give students tasks like writing an email to request information or make a reservation. Focus on functional language for formal communication.
Organize debates on relevant topics, encouraging students to express their opinions and use persuasive language to support their arguments.
#27: Emergency Situations
Simulate emergency situations (e.g., reporting a fire or a lost item) and guide students to communicate with appropriate functional language.
#28: Job Interview Practice
Provide students with job interview scenarios. They must use functional language to introduce themselves, answer questions, and inquire about the job.
#29: Guess the Job
Describe various jobs without revealing their names. Students must guess the jobs based on the functional language used in the descriptions.
#30: Customer Service Scenarios
Role-play customer service interactions, where students play the roles of customers and service representatives, using appropriate language.
#31: Making Complaints
Students practice voicing complaints in various situations, such as returning a defective product or expressing dissatisfaction at a restaurant.
Functional English FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about using function language. Here are some of the most popular ones.
What is functional English and examples?
Functional English is language that you need in day-to-day situations. For example, how to greet someone, introduce yourself or ask for directions.
Why is functional English important?
Functional English is important because it allows the learner to operate confidently and independently in an English-speaking environment in both life and at work.
What is the difference between functional English and English literature?
Functional English is the language necessary to operate in daily life while English literature is studying written works like novels, poetry, drama, etc. The main difference is how necessary the language is for life and work in an English-speaking country.
How can role-playing benefit teaching functional English?
Role-playing provides learners with opportunities to practice real-life scenarios, use functional language in context, and build confidence in their communication skills.
What types of activities are effective for teaching functional English?
Activities like simulations, dialogues, problem-solving tasks, and communication games allow learners to practice functional language in meaningful and engaging ways.
How can I integrate functional English into my lessons?
Choose topics and situations relevant to learners’ needs and interests, and design activities that mirror real-life interactions using functional language.
What role does vocabulary play in teaching functional English?
Vocabulary is crucial, as learners need words and phrases specific to different contexts to effectively communicate and achieve their goals.
How can I provide authentic practice for functional English?
Incorporate real-life materials such as maps, menus, advertisements, and emails to expose learners to authentic language and situations.
What are the benefits of teaching functional English in terms of learner motivation?
Teaching functional English motivates learners by showing immediate practical applications of language skills, making learning more relevant and engaging.
Did you like these Functional Language Ideas?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 81 Pages - 06/22/2021 (Publication Date)
Yes? Then you’re going to love this book that you can find over on Amazon: 39 Task-Based Language Teaching and Learning Activities. It’ll help students get things done using English.
You can find the book in both digital and print formats. The key to better TEFL classes is a wide variety of interesting, engaging and interactive activities and this book will help you get there in style. Pick up your copy today for better English classes tomorrow:
Functional English: Join the Conversation
Do you have any activity ideas for teaching functional language for things like agreeing, disagreeing, asking for advice, giving directions, engaging in small talk, etc.? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2023-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API