Great job. Way to go. Oh yes, I am very excited.

These phrases are usually spoken and read as being positive; however, they can also be sarcastic where in fact the person did not do a good job on something and the person is not excited. The phrases change depending on the inflection a person uses to speak the words, or the context clues if the words are written down.

This common use of sarcasm in American culture through person to person interactions, movies, songs, and television, can be quite confusing for English Language Learners. ELL students are learning the English language in terms of particular word meaning with specific definitions. For example, in a soccer game if an ELL student missed blocking the goal and the other team scored for the win, a teammate might say, “Great job”. This would be confusing because the ELL student knows he did not do well, so why did his teammate say “great job”?

It is the role of teachers to show ELL students the various sarcastic phrases they may come in contact with and how the English language is ever changing with new generations. To do so, teacher can incorporate a variety of video clips from television shows or movies. I found a clip on YouTube to explain verbal irony and how it is used. It is part of a TED ED clip.

Students can then practice verbal irony they may use and show how the phrase they choose can be meant how it is suppose to, or how it could be said sarcastically to mean the opposite.