Ali G on Human rights


What do you know about the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? (CLASS HERE)
Before we watch a talk show about human rights, have a look at Ali G's profile: Ali G (link opens on new page.)


1. Watch the video from the start to 1:43 and answer the following questions:
a) Is Ali G’s way of talking appropriate for dealing with a serious topic and his academic guests?
b) Does he seem interested in hearing educated points of view that may differ from his own?
c) Do his guests appear to take him seriously?
d) What kind of audience would a host like Ali G appeal to?

  • Answers to questions a-d.

a) Ali G’s language is completely inappropriate for the topic and his guests. He has very little knowledge on the subject of human rights and makes a number of mistakes due to his general lack of education. His style of speaking is very informal, whereas his guests who are academics and specialists in their fields adopt a more formal tone of discussion.

b) He doesn’t converse with his guests when they reply to his questions which a good interviewer would do, but simply asks another question as if he wasn’t particularly interested in what they had just said.

c) His guests make every effort to answer his questions clearly, ignore his mistakes and engage with him in conversation as if it were a serious discussion.

d) Someone like Ali G would appeal to a young fashion-conscious British audience with a similar cultural background and opinions to those he is adopting for his chat show.

But of course, it’s all a parody! The question is, who is the joke aimed at, the academics he has in front of him, ignorant youths adopting a culture and attitude which is not theirs or the very people they style themselves on? This was debated quite seriously by the British media. ‘The Guardian’ article here (Link opens on new page.)

There are 5 questions below. Click ‘NEXT’ after answering each question, then ‘FINISH’ to see your score. Click ‘VIEW ANSWERS’ to see how you did on each question.

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As you can see from the text in the last exercise, Ali G’s English is different to Standard English, and what seem like fundamental mistakes in basic English grammar are in fact examples of Jamaican Patois. (Link to article opens on new page.)
Of course Ali G does make mistakes, lots of them, but it would be an error to accuse him of speaking English badly because he uses ‘me’ instead of ‘I’. These basic construction differences are ethnolinguistic in nature and are not necessarily reflective of his level of education.
How many more examples of Jamaican Patois can you find in the text? Click ‘Answer’ below when you’re ready.
  • Answer
Jamaican Patois = JP, Standard English = SE
Don’t itDoesn’t it
me Juliemy Julie
but if she naggin’but if she’s naggin’
and sayand says
me new shoesmy new shoes
I is pregnantI am pregnant
that make me crazy, innit?that makes me crazy, doesn’t it?
4. Continue watching the video with the transcript. (PDF opens on new page.) How many other examples of Jamaican Patois can you find? Again, when you’ve finished, click ‘answer’ below.
  • Answer
Jamaican Patois = JP, Standard English = SE
Is you a feminist?Are you a feminist?
you ain’t gettin’ none of thisyou aren’t getting any of this
if them get equal rightsif they get equal rights
like what we is talkin’like what we are talking about
tryin’ well ‘ardtrying very hard

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