Saying Hello

article by Donna Sharp , illustrated by Fifi Colston

Learning Intention:

I am learning how greetings in different languages change according to social context so that I can better understand how social roles affect language use in Australia.


Success Criteria:

  • I can understand how greetings in other languages change according to social context.
  • I can explain how different social roles and situations affect how people greet each other in Australia.
  • I can roleplay greetings in different social situations.


Oral language and communication

Draw a horizontal line across the board and label the left side “informal” and the right side “formal.”

Brainstorm with the class all the ways we can say hello. Answers include:

  • G’day
  • How’s it going?
  • Hey, what’s up?
  • Sup?
  • Good morning
  • Aboriginal language greeting appropriate to the country on which your school is located
  • Additional languages other than English that children are familiar with

For each answer, the student can write on the line where they think the greeting belongs. For example, “good morning” would be closer to the right side of the line, because it’s formal.

Ask students to consider what sort of circumstances they use might good morning versus when they might use ‘sup. Students might recognise a more formal greeting is often used with teachers, whereas they might use ‘sup with their friends.

Ask students what kind of greeting they might use with royalty.


Understanding text:

Read Saying Hello as a class. Ask students to hunt through this issue of the Orbit magazine to find the word of the month (it is on the contents page - bilingual). Discuss the meaning of the word and, if appropriate, have a discussion in the class with students who speak multiple languages and/or dialects. Ask what sort of greetings they use in their other languages, including variations depending on social context.

Visit Cultural Atlas’s site on Japanese Greetings and go through the dot points with the class. (You can find various informal videos online for help with pronunciation.) Explain to students that these lessons in etiquette are not necessarily needed to be studied and remembered by Japanese students, as they have been raised in these social contexts. Explain that similarly, Australian students have a good understanding of etiquette in Australia without needing to explicitly be told.


Creating text:

Students write out a list of dot points like on the Cultural Atlas webpage explaining to foreign visitors how to change their greetings based on social context in Australia. Students should have at least eight dot points outlining what to say and do in different situations. They can include an explanation of handshakes in their explanation.

Some examples:

  • When greeting a store owner or someone in the street in a small country town, you can say “G’day”.
  • When greeting your teacher in the morning, it’s acceptable to say “Good morning” and the teacher’s name, with their title at the beginning, such as “Good morning, Mrs Smith.”
  • When meeting an important adult, shake your right hand with their right hand in a firm, but not clenching, grasp. Make eye contact and say “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.
  • When catching up with friends, you can say a variety of greetings, such as “Hey”, “Hi” and “What’s up?


Assessment for/as learning:

To finish the lesson, have students form two equal lines on either side of the classroom. Call the first pair forward and assign them a role (for example, a queen and a peasant) and have them greet each other according to social rules. Remind students that royalty requires a bow or a curtsey, though the situation will unlikely come up in Australia.

Some other roles:

Student and teacher

Prime minister and student

Student and student

Parent and their own child

A student and their friend’s parent

Two friends in a small town

A tourist in a small town and a resident from that town

A famous singer and a fan

A husband and wife

A zookeeper and a student visitor

A principal of a school and a prospective student