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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Jul 24th, 2006, 06:13 am
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Default When to use formal speech

How do you explain when to use formal vs. informal speech to your students?
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Unread Jul 25th, 2006, 09:49 pm
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Default Re: When to use formal speech

To adults, I would explain that you use formal English when speaking to the boss, business contacts, and informal English with friends.

You could come up with some situations where people use informal English where they shouldn't - jb interview, explaining smthing to a customer...
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Unread Jul 26th, 2006, 09:03 am
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Default Re: When to use formal speech

I sort of explained that formal speech is generally used when there is some distance between the speakers, respect for the other, and or stance to be maintained of the speaker. Informal speech is generally used when there is a closeness between the speakers, a social order in play, or a lack of respect for the other.

I might say 'Hey, John. What's up?' at a meeting if John was my close friend, regardless of his status as my boss. If John's superiors are around, I might distance myself to show respect for him. So, situations have many variables.
  • At the dinner table, I ask my son, 'Would you please pass me the ketchup?' Not, 'Hey! Gimme the ketchup.'
  • However, when he climbs up on the table to get a cookie, I'll shout, 'Get down. Now!'

The first example being that I try to be polite to show him respect and to teach him to be respectful. In the second situation, the level goes down to point out he is out of place and doing something wrong. (I could ask him politely, but it's the 15th time, for crying out loud.)
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Unread Aug 29th, 2006, 05:21 am
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Default Re: When to use formal speech

Any thoughts about formal speech and informal speech on the internet. I find that a lot of 'misunderstandings' on forums come from people using more casual tones that can be read different ways.

Do you think we should encourage our students to use more formal speech when they are chatting or posting on forums?
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Unread Sep 1st, 2006, 01:31 am
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Default Re: When to use formal speech

I find the opposite! I find lots of misunderstandings on forums from people using overly formal language.

Personally, I encourage my students to use relatively informal language on forums, but avoid using 'i' 'u' and so on because it doesn't help them learn.
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Unread Sep 5th, 2006, 08:46 pm
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Default Re: When to use formal speech

This is a good question from Mesmark and an important area of language, get the wrong level of formality and it’s possible to cause great offence. And as Emile says this works both ways – too informal or too formal.

It is very much a question of the ‘appropriate’ use of language and the very reason why only focusing on the grammar of language is insufficient to equip your learners as effective English users.

I tell my students that the level of formality necessary in a given situation depends on a mix of two aspects – person and purpose. Basically, who are you talking to / what is your relationship and why are you talking to them.

It’s pretty common sense really –
  • The closer the relationship the more informal the language can be, e.g. parents, siblings, friends, classmates.
  • The more distant the relationship the more formal the language, e.g. boss, bank manager, customer.
  • The ‘easier’ the reason for communicating, e.g. inform, invite, congratulate, the more informal the language.
  • The more ‘difficult’ the reason, e.g. requests, complaints, debates, the more formal the language.
How these two aspects interact dictates formality of language, e.g. congratulating your boss on scoring as goal during a friendly football game – informal. Asking your father for some money – formal. Etc.

Often a student’s cultural background will allow the student to already know what kind of language is appropriate or not. In other cases it is this cultural difference that leads directly to the inappropriateness. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to know these cultural differences and raise awareness of them in the class.
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Unread Sep 5th, 2006, 10:53 pm
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Default Re: When to use formal speech

I like the second point. It makes it really clear.
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