This blog, entitled “Notes from the Island”, explores some of the quirks within the English culture and includes specific language tips.
I am a strong believer in the importance of understanding the target culture when learning and practising its language because it reflects the choice of the appropriate language register. That’s why Ideal Courses immerses its students in English culture as well by integrating cultural and social visits in the afternoons and evenings (apart from the formal lessons in the mornings and early afternoons).
Having good social skills is important all over the world if you want to make a good impression on the people you meet. Here’s some advice on what is considered polite or impolite in English-speaking cultures.
The 3 most important words in English are: “Please, sorry and thank you”. Even buses in Britain are friendly and personalized. Why don’t you come and see some of the famous red double-decker buses driving around London which don’t carry any passengers but only the info-display: “Sorry, I am out of service”?
Our proud island is the only place in the world where buses can talk and apologize personally. Use “sorry and thank you” in Britain as often as you can. It normally takes the total of 2 “please, sorry and thank you” – remarks to buy one ticket from the bus driver!
Useful English Language Examples:
1) “Please, thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry”
When and how often do you use these polite questions in your language? We use them a lot in spoken English, and not using them can make you appear rude. As politeness is considered perhaps the most important quality in relationships, make sure you use them! Don’t worry if you think you use them too frequently: the worst that British people will think of you is that you are sweet and charming.
PLEASE= use whenever you want someone to do something for you, or if you want something from another person.
“Can you tell me where the post office is, please?”
“Can you pass me that newspaper, please?”
Never use imperative forms unless you are giving someone directions. So although you can say to someone “Take the 38 bus to Islington and get off at Waitrose supermarket”, you can’t say to someone “Pass me that newspaper”.
THANK YOU= use whenever someone does something for you, or gives you something.
EXCUSE ME= use when you want to introduce a request to someone, or if you want to get past someone.
“Excuse me, can you tell me where the post office is, please?”
“Excuse me, may I squeeze by, I am in a hurry?”
I’M SORRY= use any time that you inconvenience someone, tread on someone’s toes in a crowded train, or if someone asks you something that you can’t do.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Is the post office on the left or the right?”
“Is Mr. Smith in the office? I’m sorry, he’s out this morning”
2. Ask permission before doing something that may inconvenience others
“May I take this chair?”
“Do you mind if I open the window?”
3. Keep the conversation going
If someone asks you a question, respond to it. Avoid one-word answers, and try to say at least a few words. Then you can return the question.
For example, if someone says “Terrible weather, isn’t it?”, avoid just saying “yes”. Instead you can say “Yes, I wish it would stop raining” or
“Yes, it wasn’t like this last summer, was it?”
Some cultural tips
In Britain, queuing is considered polite. If you “jump the queue” (go to the front, rather than stand behind the last person in the queue) or push the people in front of you, you will definitely make yourself very unpopular in Britain!
Don’t stand too close to people. Stand at least an arm’s length away if you can. On crowded public transport this isn’t possible, but people rarely talk to each other in these situations – unlike in Mediterranean countries.
As you can see from above examples, we, at IDEAL COURSES in Brighton UK, always try to create and cultivate cultural and social awareness and show our IDEAL clients from around the world the need to implement them in real life situations. Find out more about our English Language Courses here.
We very much look forward to welcoming you too.