5 Cracking Complaints and Annoyances Language and Speaking Activities

Complaints and annoyances are a part of everyday life. Talking about complaints and annoyances in the classroom is a great way to engage students. It’s a great way to get students to express their feelings and opinions. Textbooks often seem to avoid this great speaking and discussion topic  but I find it generates interest,  a lot of input and can be a lot of fun.

1 Everyday annoyances (with answers)

This is an ESL speaking exercise for discussing everyday complaints and  annoyances . Students match vocabulary to the pictures. Then they can ask each other the the questions at the bottom of the page. Click on the image below or the link at the right.to download the printable PDF file.

Complaints and annoyances speaking activity for ESL learners.

Everyday annoyances (PDF)

2 Talking about annoyances

This is a second ESL speaking exercise for talking about everyday annoyances. Students match the phrases on the left to the appropriate pictures. Finally they can have a conversation using the questions at the bottom of the page as a guide. 

Annoyances 2 vocabulary and speaking skills worksheet

Talking about annoyances 2 (PDF)

3 Complaints, annoyances and responses (with answers)

Students write the problem and solution/advice for each picture.They may try to use modals and the passive tense.

Complaints and annoyances vocabulary and speaking activity worksheet.

Complaints, annoyances and solutions (PDF)

4  Consumer Complaint Menu Role Play Lesson

As a class elicit a few problems you can have with these companies and any others you can think of:
Home improvement company
Mobile phone service
Mail order company
Travel service
Car dealer
On the board write “MAIL ORDER COMPLAINT MENU” then ask around the class for sample complaints. Write them on the board. The board might look like this:
shipment never came
got the wrong order
goods were broken
expensive delivery charges
bad customer service
not the same as in the ad
no instruction manual etc….etc
Put students in groups of 3 and have ready an A4 sheet of paper for each group. Each sheet of paper has a heading similar to the following:
Each group of students then chooses one of the complaints topics and begins to write complaints as you modeled on the board.
Rotate the complaint menus every 3 or 4 minutes so each group gets to work on each menu. In this way they get a feel for the different kind of complaints.
Once the menus have rotated right round the class or the sheets of paper are full of complaints tell the students to stop writing and model the final part of the activity – the roleplay. Pick up one menu (Travel Service Complaint Menu) and address a pair of students saying………
STUDENT A(CUSTOMER COMPLAINER): Good day, may I see the complaints menu…..
STUDENT B(TRAVEL SERVICE): Certainly here you are……….
STUDENT A (CUSTOMER COMPLAINER): Yes, well first I’d like to complain about your guide…..he was very impolite……
STUDENT B(TRAVEL SERVICE): Well,…..I’m sorry but he is new…..
STUDENT A(CUSTOMER COMPLAINER): Secondly, I’d like to complain about the bus..it was too old………
STUDENT B(TRAVEL SERVICE): Yes..but you chose the cheap tour…etc.
Finally, select one student out of each group to be the complainer. Give this student one of the complaint menus. The students then begin to role play. An excellent way to get students to rotate to other groups is to play the “Scissors, paper, rock” game. The loser moves to another group.

Consumer Complaint Menu Role Play Lesson (PDF)

Personal Complaint Menu Lesson

5  Feelings about very common annoyances

1. Present

Begin with a list of contemporary annoyances and elicit how they annoy the students.

What do you think about…..

people who jump the queue in supermarkets…

ketcup packs you can’t open……….

people who talk about soap operas………….

people who steal your answers in class……..

songs that have bad lyrics……….

slow walking shoppers………..

people who crack their fingers to show off…..

mosqitoes you can’t kill………………………….

waiters who look the other way…………………

blackouts in the middle of good movies………..

2. Review

It maybe a good idea to review “negative adjectives” and their uses and variations…..

....silly, lazy, impatient, …are annoying,….annoy you,..drive you crazy,…make you mad,…frustrate you,….are frustrating, ..irritate..etc.

3 . Model/speaking

Model a short discussion conversation and put the students in groups.

A: What do you think about people who jump the queue in supermarkets?

B: I think they are annoying and they should be scolded.

C: On the other hand, it’s ok if they ask first…………..

Feelings about very common annoyances (PDF)

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