Task

Using Appropriate Language

Published: 27.11.2009, Updated: 11.02.2015
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Joan Parker is a teenager who has just moved to Chicago with her parents. She has applied to a private high school in her new city. Part of the admissions process is an interview with the school’s headmaster. Unfortunately, Joan needs to improve her formal conversation skills, as her language is highly inappropriate.

a) Read through the following interview (only the beginning and end are included) between Joan and the headmaster, and rewrite Joan’s lines so that they are suitable for this type of formal conversation.

Headmaster: Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Garrett Bradley.
Joan: Hi Gary, I’m Joan. What’s up?

Headmaster: I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to wait for five minutes while I make an urgent phone call. Something just came up and I need to deal with it immediately.
Joan: Whatever. No prob.

Headmaster: Well, then, let’s continue where we left off. We asked you to come to the school today so that we could get a better sense of who you are. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Joan: Yeah, sure thing. …

(…They talk for a while …)

Headmaster: Thank you for coming in today. It’s been nice meeting you.
Joan: No sweat.

Headmaster: You’ll be hearing from us soon, then. Good bye.
Joan: OK, see you around.

 

Suggested answers:

Headmaster: Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Garrett Bradley.
Joan: Hello, Mr. Bradley, very nice to meet you, too. I’m Joan Parker.


Headmaster: I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to wait for five minutes while I make an urgent phone call. Something just came up and I need to deal with it immediately.
Joan: Oh, I understand, Sir. It’s no problem, I’ll just wait here.


Headmaster: Well, then, let’s continue where we left off. We asked you to come to the school today so that we could get a better sense of who you are. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Joan: Certainly, I’d be glad to …

(…They talk for a while …)

Headmaster: Thank you for coming in today. It’s been nice meeting you.
Joan:, The pleasure is all mine, Sir, thank you for taking the time.

Headmaster: You’ll be hearing from us soon, then. Good bye.
Joan: I’m looking forward to that, thank you. Good bye. Hide

 

b) What is wrong with Joan’s answers ? Provide some examples and explain why they are inappropriate.

Suggested answer

First of all, she should not use the headmaster’s first name, and certainly not shorten it to a nickname! In addition, “what’s up” is a very informal expression only acceptable among peers. Her familiar tone and language are directly disrespectful.

Otherwise, expressions like “whatever, no prob(lem), sure thing, no sweat, see you around”, etc. are slang-like and have no place in a setting like this one. They, too, show a lack of respect. She should also thank the headmaster, as it was he who was doing her a favour, and not the other way around! Hide

 

c) What did Joan and the headmaster talk about in between their opening and closing exchanges? Write the dialogue, but be sure to make Joan’s language polite and respectful.

d) Re-write the dialogue to make it informal, between two peers. Replace the headmaster with Gary, a fellow student of Joan’s and write Gary’s lines so that they fit in with Joan’s less refined responses. We have done the first one for you:

Gary: Hi there! You must be new here. I’m Gary.
Joan: Hi Gary, I’m Joan. What’s up?

Now, continue the conversation (write the dialogue and act it out) using Joan’s expressions, or similar ones: Whatever, no prob., yeah, sure thing, no sweat, see you around…

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