English as a Second Language (ESL) Course for Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Graduate Students

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Week 10

Some years ago, I was working as an English teacher for an IT company that employed many Russian speakers. One major issue for the Russian speakers was phone communication with clients.The first thing that was brought to my attention was the way that many Russian speakers answered the phone: "Hello! I am listening to you!". This phrase is a literal translation of a common Russian way to answer a phone, but, of course, in English the phrase sounds funny or even rude as in "Hello I am listening to you [now, but maybe not later]".

What perhaps my students did not think about is that when when we speak on the phone, there are actually many formulaic phrases we say that we always say in a certain way. For example, when we answer the phone, we almost always say "hello" - "hi", "what's up", "how's is going", "how are you?", and "howdy" though they have similar meanings, do not work well as substitutes. These sort of "set in stone phrases" that we (almost) always say in certain situations are called set phrases. Learning some set phrases for the phone can make phone communication more clear and professional sounding.

With regards to pronunciation theory/accent reduction, we will be working on not "eating" the ends of words, or following through and pronouncing all consonant sounds clearly so that "car", "cars", "card", "cards", "Carl", and "Carl's" all sound distinct.

Monday, November 11, 2013- Homework 6- please bring a printed copy to submit. Please also be prepared to share your ideas with the class.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - no homework due before this class.