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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Friday, September 28, 2012

ESL Teacher Blog: Teaching the Pragmatics of ‘Thank You’

When I complimented my Lebanese student on her shawl, she took it off and insisted I own it from now on. When I said to my Iranian student her cake was delicious, she closed the lid on the plastic container the cake was in and handed it over to me urging to take it home to my family. And when I praised a group of my Chinese students for a job well-done, they replied: “No, it wasn’t (that) good”. At the end of the class, some students shower me with elaborated ‘thank-you’s’ wishing all the very best to my (extended) family, hoping G-d can make me happy and blessing my heart and soul.
I’m certain the learners intend to be polite and find their responses very sweet; yet, I know these reactions are inappropriate and would be considered bizarre or over-the-top in the real life situations beyond the classroom walls.
Over the years, our learners have had plenty of opportunities to practice the linguistic aspect of expressing gratitude, yet often fail to realize that expressing gratitude and accepting compliments/praise is done differently in English than in their first language. Our job as ESL instructors is to emphasize that mere literal translations from language to language and carrying over their cultural knowledge to English can often lead to a communication breakdown.
Practicing different contexts for giving and receiving thanks suitable to the English language culture and norms is the best way to avoid miscommunication.
Here are some common formulaic expressions to convey thanks in English. Practicing these can teach learners to show acceptance and appreciation in their response to compliments/praise (not denial/avoidance/rejection). These are generally uttered in a friendly and sincere way.
Help students notice:
The words ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ aren’t always explicitly used while giving and replying to thanks.
- It’s common to briefly comment on or specify the value of the service/favor etc. received (e.g.: Thank you. These are beautiful. How did you know it was my birthday?)

a general thank-you for a favor/good service/material goods/praise etc.:
Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate your feedback.
Sure. Always glad to help.
I love your idea. This is exactly what we need.
Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.
Thanks for the shirt. I love this style. It’s so flattering.
Happy you like it. Enjoy!
Thanks for holding the door.
You’re very welcome.
Thanks for the flowers - they’re beautiful. But you shouldn’t have.
It’s nothing. Just a small thank-you. You really helped me on that day.
Thank you for the party invitation. Looking forward.
Certainly. It promises to be an unforgettable night. See you then.
Thank you for introducing me to your boss. He asked me to email him my resume. I owe you big time.
Not at all. You’re an excellent programmer.
a returning thank-you:
Thanks for coming over. It was a great night.
Oh no, thank YOU for having us. I don’t remember the last time I danced so much!
Sorry to keep you waiting and thank you for your patience.
Thank YOU for noticing the error on the bill. You saved us a lot of hassle.
downplaying a favor thank-you:
Thanks for your time on Sunday helping out at the library. It probably took up so much of your time.
No worries. I didn’t mind helping at all. Besides, I came across a few interesting books.
saving face thank-you:
Thanks for helping me find this building.
Sure. Don’t mention. The campus is huge. I know how it feels to be lost.
Thanks for letting me use your cell phone. My battery just went dead.
Sure thing! I often forget to charge mine, too.
Sorry for being late and thanks for letting me in. It won’t happen again.
That’s alright. Happens sometimes. We all have busy schedules.
rejecting an offer thank-you:
Tea or coffee?
I’m good. Thank you.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 11:44 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Saturday, September 08, 2012

ESL Teacher Blog: Basic Phrasal Verbs Beginners Can’t Do Without

Phrasal verbs might be the last thing on your mind when you teach beginners. Yet, this week, along with teaching basic conversational phrases and grammar rules, I found myself explaining phrasal verbs my students and I couldn’t do without.
Classroom and textbook instructions as well as registration forms, require an early introduction of the phrasal verb concept in English. Our beginner students may not know the meaning of ‘fill’ but need to understand ‘fill out’ and ‘fill in’.
Some phrasal verbs are literal and their meanings are quite straightforward: sit down, stand up, write down, listen up, slow down, come in, give back, point to, take out.
There are, however, idiomatic phrasal verbs that pose a difficulty and need to be pointed out. Helping students to notice the phrasal verbs along with their collocates (words they go together with), can be a valuable tool in their future encounters with the phrasal verbs and other idiomatic expressions.
Here’s a possible list of phrasal verbs needed in the early stages of learning English:
fill in (as in ‘fill in the blanks’)

fill out (as in ‘fill out a form’)

pass out/around (=give to each member of a group; as in ‘pass around the worksheets’)

go on/go ahead (=continue; as in ‘Mary, go on reading’)

find out (=find an answer; as in ‘find out what his name is’)

cross out (draw a line through; as in ‘cross out the incorrect answer’)

hold on (wait; as in ‘hold on, Mary has a question’)
check off (make a mark next to; as in ‘check off the right answer’)

put away (return to the usual place, as in ‘put away your dictionary’)

look up (search; as in ‘look it up in the dictionary’)
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 9:54 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment


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