Monday, 17 June 2013

English Conversation is separate from English grammar, as mistakes are allowed to be made (and often are in many dialects). The point is to communicate and share, and not merely to receive or give information. There are certain rules about where and when a conversation can be started, how much is to be said, how it should be said, and about which subjects. Having said that, the rules are often ignored, which leads to the possibility of an interesting conversation being conducted in the most unlikely of places, about the most unusual subjects.

The English language is very often taught as a series of sentences that have no connection with each other, which leads students into conversing with no logical connection to the phrases being learned: “I went to Spain last year. I wash my car once a week. Tomorrow I will buy a banana.”

Although these sentences are entirely correct, they make no sense at all when pushed together. What is missing is the basic emotional structure of the different meanings of the phrases being used, which is the fundamental reason a language becomes something more than commands with grunts of agreement. A simple breakdown of English conversation leads to a fact, reason, opinion, background story, agree/disagree, and a question = FROBSAD + Q: “Last November I drove to Spain, because my brother lives there, and I think the weather’s really nice at that time of year, although I made a mistake driving out of Valencia, so what should have taken two hours took six, which I thought of as an adventure, but my partner didn't agree, and said so quite often. Have you had that experience?”

As well as offering a variety of information supplied by the aforementioned FROBSAD + Q list, the speaker is also introducing various situational connections that another person can link to: driving, holidays, foreign countries, family members, being lost, adventures, partners/arguments, and a question that pulls the listener into the conversation by asking for a comment.

There is no strict rule as to which order FROBSAD + Q can be used, but over-using one faction can be repetitive and tedious to the listener: “I drove to Spain last November. My brother lives there. I took the wrong motorway out of Valencia, and it took six hours instead of two. My partner complained a lot. I'm sure you've had the same experience, no?” Using basic facts does not allow another person to react to the comments, as there is no room for inter-action.

Similarly, using opinions has the same effect: “I totally love driving abroad, and Spain is really, really nice in November. My brother has a very big house there, which is nice. The roads are totally horrible out of Valencia, and it took a lifetime to get to his place. I thought it was great, but my partner was being a total pain. It’s life as we know it, isn't it?” The listener is being accosted with opinions that are presented as facts, to which the listener is not encouraged to disagree with.

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