Often, contributing your ideas in seminar discussions can be difficult, especially when English is not your first language. By listening to some short extracts from a seminar discussion on the changing nature of the family in the U.K., you can notice some useful expressions for: agreeing, disagreeing, asking for clarification, interrupting politely and giving your opinions.
To notice some useful expressions for agreeing and politely disagreeing
To notice expressions which show you need more explanation (asking for clarification)
To notice some expressions used for returning to points made earlier in the discussion
To notice expressions used for giving opinions and for interrupting politely
Activity 1: Noticing useful expressions you can use for seminar discussions
The discussion is about the changing nature of the family in British society. Before you listen, you might like to think about some of the following questions. How do you think the family unit is different now in the U.K., compared to fifty years ago? Is the family changing in your country? If so, in which ways? Are more or fewer people getting divorced, remarrying, or cohabiting (living together without marrying)?
First, listen to the discussion and try to notice the expressions used to give opinions, agree, disagree, interrupt and to ask for more explanation.
Listen to the extracts from a discussion between Debra, Ciaran and William. After each extract, choose from the drop down box what the speaker’s purpose is and see if you can notice any useful expressions they use to achieve that purpose. You can also then read the tapescript to check. In some extracts, the key language is highlighted in italics.
Extract one of fifteen:
Tapescript William: So, I suppose I’d like to start with a general question… out of those trends… erm for:… increasing divorce, higher age when people are getting married… erm… an increase in remarriages, increase in couples cohabiting …erm… the effect of divorce on children… Which of these trends do people think are negative and which do they think are positive?… And is there anything we can do about the negative ones?
Extract two of fifteen:
Gives an opinion
Tapescript Debra: Ooh, that’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Because, I mean, marriage can be positive or negative, depending who is getting married. I mean, the one that you said obviously about children being affected by divorce possibly living with step families or living alone, that… that could possibly be a negative couldn’t it?
Extract three of fifteen:
Agreeing/giving an opinion
Tapescript Ciaran:Yeah that’s exactly what I was going to say erm…however… however I would add that keeping a marriage together for the sake of the children is possibly not necessarily a good thing either. If a marriage is a disaster then possibly the effect it’s going to have on children may be even more negative than, eh, the separation of the parents
Extract four of fifteen:
Agreeing/giving an opinion Tapescript William:I agree, because…erm, children growing up in a household where the parents are fighting and rowing all the time… It’s got to have a worse effect than just a clean break, hasn’t it? As far as I’m concerned mmm
Extract five of fifteen:
Giving an opinion
Tapescript Debra:OK then, erm… well, the other sort of positive thing really would be the remarriage. Don’t you think that… that people are, erm, they still believe in the institution of marriage because they do it again and again?
Extract six of fifteen:
Tapescript William: I’m sorry but I really must take issue with you there. If they really believed in the institution of marriage… marriage is supposed to be for life, isn’t it?
Extract seven of fifteen:
Asking for clarification
Tapescript Ciaran:When you say marriage should be forever you’re talking about single monogamous marriage…you’re not talking about…are you talking about Christian marriages? I don’t understand what you mean by it
Extract eight of fifteen:
Giving clarification/giving an opinion
Tapescript William:I suppose because of my cultural background I’m talking about erm marriages which were based around Christian ideals in western culture but whether you do it at a registry office or a church you’re still promising to be together forever and love each other forever now if very high numbers of these marriages are ending in divorce well the way I see it is erm people are breaking promises and so maybe they’re not taking them seriously enough in the first place
Extract nine of fifteen:
Disagreeing/returning to an earlier point
Tapescript Debra:Oh, I don’t think so …no I don’t think so… going back to what Ciaran said earlier it can be better to get a divorce you can’t stay together and keep your promise if you’re in an abusive or erm unhappy marriage
Extract ten of fifteen:
Questioning to extend the discussion
Tapescript William:But then shouldn’t those couple have just cohabited, rather than marrying, in the first place?
Extract eleven of fifteen:
Tapescript Ciaran:This is true but, I’m not sure you’ve considered the fact once somebody has made a decision however impetuous the decision was they shouldn’t necessarily have to live with that decision for life
Extract twelve of fifteen:
Tapescript William:Oh, I couldn’t agree more with you there… I agree with that… it’s the at the beginning I think people are not taking the commitment they’re making seriously enough it would seem to me
Extract thirteen of fifteen:
Interrupting politely/giving an opinion
Tapescript Ciaran:Just to interrupt you here, to build on what you were saying… the… I think perhaps… erm… I don’t… I mean… there aren’t the statistics to support this here, but also the process of getting married adds an awful lot of undue stress on the relationship and I’d be interested to find out how many people do get divorced shortly after getting married
Extract fourteen of fifteen:
Asking for clarification
Tapescript Debra:I’m not really with you…
Extract fifteen of fifteen:
Giving clarification/giving an opinion
Tapescript Ciaran:What I mean to say is that when you’re planning the marriage the the strain of the budget the organisation all of the pressures that you take on aside from your work and family commitments has a…. places an awful lot of stress and strain on your relationship and can possibly…. I think the whole process of organising the wedding can possibly irreversibly damage your relationship and I’d be interested to find out how many people divorce shortly after or how many people’s relationship disintegrate because of the effect of that…
Would you like to review the main points?
This is the key language used in the above discussion, together with its function in the seminar:
Which of these trends do people think are negative and which do they think are positive? Invites opinions/summarises
Ooh, that’s an interesting question, isn’t it?Expresses interest/gives an opinion
Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say/I would add that… Agreeing/giving an opinion
I agree because…As far as I’m concerned… Agreeing/giving an opinion
Don’t you think that…?Giving an opinion/asking for an opinion
I’m sorry, but I really must take issue with you thereDisagreeing strongly
I don’t understand what you mean by itAsking for clarification
Well the way I see it is…Giving clarification/giving an opinion
Oh, I don’t think so…no I don’t think so/going back to what Ciaran said earlier…Disagreeing/returning to an earlier point
This is true, but I’m not sure you’ve considered the fact…Partially agreeing
Oh, I couldn’t agree more with you there…I agree with that…Agreeing strongly
Just to interrupt you here, to build on what you were saying…Interrupting politely/giving an opinion
I’m not really with you…Asking for clarification
What I mean to say is… that…Giving clarification/giving an opinion
If you would like to read a tapescript of the discussion, perhaps as you listen again, follow this link: tapescript