Self Introduction Spotlight

by Helene J. Uchida

Being able to introduce oneself in a foreign langauge is quite an exciting challenge. But what does one say after giving one’s name and age? Here is a successful technique, which builds confidence while encouraging students to introduce themselves to small or large groups; it also promotes understanding others’ self-introductions in the target language.

We use the Self-Introduction Card (shitajiki) which is available from the Little America Mail Order Service. The text for this card (shitajiki) is as follows:

Hello. My name is __________.
I’m ____ years old.
My birthday is __________.
I go to __________ High School.
I’m in the _____ grade.
My favorite subject at school is __________.
My worst subject is __________.
I belong to the __________./(I don’t belong to any clubs.)
There are _____ people in my family, my __________ and me.
My favorite singer/group is __________.
My favorite sport is __________.
My hobby is __________.
When I grow up I want to be a(n) __________.
I would describe myself as a __________ person.
I am happy to meet you.

First, we have the students write in all the answers in pencil. Since the information is all student-focused, the students are pretty interested in doing this. Upon completion of this activity, the students show their self-introductions to the teacher for corrections. After they have been corrected, the students can practice their self-introductions in pairs. I always encourage students to lower their eyes to look at the card for reference but to also raise their eyes and look at their partner when speaking. The emphasis should be on communication, not reading or memorization. In addition, the more the students practice, the better they become, reciting the self-introduction almost naturally.

The role of the student who is listening is to listen and comprehend his/her partner’s self-introduction. If and when the partner listening gives visual responses like smiling or good eye contact or nodding in approval, it is a tremendous boost to the speaker.

Once this activity has been repeated many times (like five minutes per class for five sessions), the students are ready for one self-introduction per class. The first time I do my own self-introduction, giving them a model format to base theirs upon. I speak slowly and clearly while glancing at my Self-introduction Card. I also look at the students in the class from left, to center to right to involve everyone with my presentation. Upon completion of my self-introduction, I then make my announcement, that a selected student will be “The Self-introduction Star” for the next class; I then announce who this student will be. (This way the student can practice at home and prepare.) The next class that student is asked to do his/her presentation and the rest of the students listen.

It’s an activity greeted with enthusiasm because the students are all interested in each other, and they are given the chance to hear each other speak English. Also, since they know the meaning of the text, they can comprehend it without the use of dictionaries or translating into Japanese. It’s a strong confidence-building technique for the student doing the presentation and for those listening. With higher level questions, you can ask students in the audience to ask the speaker a question.

This is a pleasant way to start or end a class. Everyone enjoys this activity, including YOU because it’s a wonderful means to learn more about your students in the target language.