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Advice on the kind of spoken language you need for everyday life

23/04/20143 minute read

When you are speaking English in ordinary, everyday situations, you will need to find the English formulae that you need. As you gradually become more used to speaking English around you, you may find the following strategies particularly useful in improving your social competence:

  • Try to sound happy to greet the other person: “Great to see you”, “Hello, long time no see”, etc.
  • Try asking more polite questions/ interest questions if you can: you could begin with something like “I was just wondering….” or “I wonder if you could tell me if…”.
  • Using question tags (“isn’t it?”, “don’t we”, etc) is a good way to express interest, even when both speakers share the information (e.g. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?”, “He did well, didn’t he?”).
  • Make a few more polite requests: you could try something like “I don’t suppose you could…..could you?” or “Would it be at all possible to….”? The voice begins “high” in this sort of phrase (high intonation generally indicates politeness).
  • Decide to make a compliment to someone, by placing appropriate emphasis on the auxiliary verbs “do” and “did”: e.g. “that tie does look nice…”, “I did enjoy your presentation today”, “I do like that book”.
  • Try to use the word “Oh” a bit more: you can use it to express modesty “Oh, it was really nothing at all”, or to express surprise: “Oh, that does look nice”, “Oh I’m sorry to hear that”.
  • Try “commiserating” and “sympathising” with the person you are speaking to if they have had bad luck or bad news: “What a shame!”, “Oh dear, that is a pity”, “Oh, that must have been awful for you”, “Oh, how annoying…”.
  • Try to “make the right noises” when you are listening to someone else – it is especially nice if you can sound enthusiastic: for example, “A-ha”, “Oh really”, “Right”, “I see”, “Really?”, “Goodness me, how strange!”, “Well, I never did!”, “Fancy that!”, “Good heavens, I bet that was funny!”, etc.
  • Show when you haven’t understood: “I didn’t quite catch that”; “Sorry, I didn’t quite get what you said there”.
  • Make your apologies sound a little stronger and more sincere: “Oh, I am sorry”, “Oh dear, I do apologise”, “I’m awfully sorry”, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am…”, etc.
  • Invite someone to do something in a friendly way: “Would you like to…?”, “Do you fancy coming to my party…?”, “Shall we…?”, “How about…?”.
  • Accept invitations with plenty of enthusiasm: “Oh, thanks a lot!”, “I’d really love to”, “What a good idea!”, “That would be great”, “Oh that would be really nice…”, “How very kind of you”, etc.

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