Posted in Conversation Classes

Complaining in English

dare_to_complain

In this class students will learn some useful phrases for making complaints, discuss complaining and practice the language in a role-play.

You will need:

The handout with phrases for complaining:

Complaining in English (language)

Complaining discussion questions handout:

complaining discussion

Complaining role-plays handout:

Complaining roleplay

Instructions:

Put “to complain” and “to make a complaint” on the board. Ensure that students understand them both.

Put students in small groups (3-4)

Tell them to think of a time when they made a complaint. Tell them to tell their classmates the story:

  • Where were you?
  • Why did you complain?
  • How did you complain?
  • What was the result?

Tell students to listen carefully to their classmate’s story because after they are going to tell the rest of the class the same story.

Give the class 5-10 minutes to swap stories. When they have finished each group takes it in turns to tell the rest of the class each complaining story. This helps to recycle the language, also people love telling stories about complaining! Especially if they got some good freebies out of it!

Hand out discussion questions

Put students in pairs (A + B). Students ask and answer discussion questions.

Brief feedback to the rest of the class.

STUDENT A’s QUESTIONS (Do not show to Student B)

1) What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘complain’?
2) Are you a complainer?
3) Who do you usually complain to?
4) What complaints do you have at the moment?
5) Have you ever complained in a restaurant, hotel, airplane or train?
6) How often do people complain to you?
7) How often do people complain about you?
8) Do you have any complaints about English?
9) What are your biggest complaints about your friends?
10) Do men or women complain more?

STUDENT B’s QUESTIONS (Do not show to Student A)

1) What kinds of things do you complain about?
2) When was the last time you complained about something?
3) Have you ever written a letter or e-mail of complaint?
4) Do you like complaining?
5) What is your complaining style – polite or aggressive?
6) How often do you complain to yourself in public?
7) Do you think complaining relieves stress?
8) Do you like to watch when other people complain?
9) Have you ever got a better service after you’ve complained?
10) Why might people complain about you?

Hand out Complaining in English

Tell students to read through the sheet briefly in pairs.

Then go through and clear up any vocabulary problems and emphasise the cultural note.

Cultural note

It is important to remember that English is not as direct as other languages. It is important to be polite and follow rules for socially acceptable behaviour. For example, it is normal, when making a complaint, to start by saying “sorry” or “excuse me”, even though you haven’t done anything wrong. Being polite will help you get what you want.

Example:

In a shop

You’re in a shop and the assistant gives you the wrong change.

Excuse me, I think you’ve given me the wrong change.”

OR

Sorry, I think this change is wrong, I gave you £10 not £5.”

In a hotel

Customer

Excuse me, but there’s a problem with the heating in my room”

Sorry to bother you, but I think there’s something wrong with the air-conditioning.”

I’m afraid I have to make a complaint. Some money has gone missing from my room.”

I’m afraid there’s a slight problem with my room – the bed hasn’t been made.”

Hotel worker

Normally the worker will apologise deeply for the problem and promise some immediate action.

I’m so sorry sir / madam, I’ll send someone up to look at it immediately.”

I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll get someone to check it for you.”

Hand out role-play cards

There are two complaining role-plays so each student has a go at being the customer and the worker. Encourage students to use as much language from the previous handout as possible.

Complaining roleplay:

Student A: You are staying in a 5 star hotel, there is a famous rock band staying in the room next door, it is 3am and they are having a wild party, throwing televisions out the window and keeping you awake. You have an important business meeting at 9am.

Student B: You are the receptionist in a 5 star hotel, it is 3am a guest has come to complain about noise, there is a famous rock group staying in the hotel, they have paid €1million to have a party in their room. The hotel is full.

Student A: You are checking out of your hotel. When the receptionist gives you the bill it is very high, you have been charged for 2 bottles of don perignon Champagne from the mini bar and 2 “adult” movies on the TV, you didn’t drink any champagne and you didn’t watch the movies.

Student B: You are a hotel receptionist, student A is coming to complain about his / her bill.

Wrap up:

Who was the best complainer?

Which role was easier in the role-play?

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Author:

Barcelona based English Teacher, blogger and sometime actor and director.

6 thoughts on “Complaining in English

    1. Well I originally put this plan together about 4-5 years ago for a group conversation class I was teaching. Their average level was high-B1-B2, so they had a relatively good grasp of the language. It would tie-in quite well with FCE or CAE preparation as they can be required to write letters of complaint. I hope this has been helpful.

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