ENGLISH IN REAL LIFE SITUATIONENGLISH IN REAL LIFE SITUATION Approximately twenty years ago, I read English 900. Even today I can remember many of its sentences. However, in America what I expected to hear and what I actually heard is not the same thing. For example, when two Americans meet in the street, they seldom say, "How are you?" "Fine, thank you, and you?" Very often they say, "Hi, how are you doing?" "Pretty good." If you say "Thank you." what they reply mostly is not "That's all right." but "You are welcome." or" You bet." in this case. When someone gives you what you want, he or she will probably say, "Here you go." instead of "Here you are." If there is much noise in the classroom, an American high school teacher usually says, "May I have your attention ?" or whatever.I guess it is because I am a language teacher that I am very sensitive about the new phenomenon of the target language in communication. The following is something that I picked up in the American communities where I once lived.1. Some Polite Expressions:The expression like "Please." "Excuse me." :"Thank you." are often heard in stores, restaurants and other public places where there is an exchange of services or commodities for money. For example, if a waitress brings you a cup of coffee, you say, "Thank you." If someone praises you for your good English, you are supposed to say, "Thank you." If the children have done something for their parents or a wife has done something for her husband, they will say, "Thank you." In a store, you can buy some nice "Thank you cards" to someone for a special favor. Americans say "Excuse me." when they need to pass in front of you, to leave a party or find themselves late for an appointment or ask you to say something again. The most interesting thing is, while talking to someone, a person suddenly sneezes, saying "Excuse me."Whenever someone came to my host family and picked me up to join in their party or a picnic or other social activities, my hostess often said to me, "Have a good time, Xiang." On Friday afternoon before they went home, some school faculty members smiled at me, saying, "Have a good weekend." When they take leave of each other, they say, "See you." "Goodbye and take care." Once in a while you will hear, "See you later, alligator. After a while, crocodile."2.Given Names and the Like:As for ways in which names are used in America, Americans very frequently prefer to be addressed by their given names. Take my master teacher for example. Her name is Diame Holloway. I often called her Mrs Holloway. Hearing my addressing her this way one day, she said to me half seriously and half jokingly, "Why not call me Diame?" But it is not always the case. The students in the States still use titles "Mr., Mrs., or Miss.". Mind you, they never say "Teacher so and so". At home the word "honey" is frequently used between husband and wife or grandparents to their little grandchildren. In China, if we say someone is an old professor or an old doctor, it implies reverence. Well, in the USA, they avoid using
this word as it often implies "useless" or "not up to date".3.Some Useful Colloquial Expressions:3.1 "How come?" One day when I told the son of my host family what had happened in the school, he asked me," How come?" "What do you mean?" I was a little puzzled. he smiled and said, "Oh, I mean 'Why?' " Since then I use it in my spoken English from time to time.3.2 "No way. No problem." As we all know, English is totally different from Chinese. But occasionally the two are amazingly similar to each other in some way. Once in the school's library, I suddenly heard a girl student shouting, "No way!" A boy tried to take her new magazine away. "No way!" just sounds like "Ã?ÃÅ" in Chinese. Another time when I failed to receive a letter from my family for more than a month, my hostess read my mind and said to me kindly, "No problem, Xiang." You see, "No problem" in English and "Ã?ÎÊÌâ" in Chinese are almost the same.3.3 "Play it by ear." In America, sometimes I was so busy that I couldn't have enough time to prepare my speech in a club. My American friend said, "That's all right. You just play it by ear. "It means "You just decide what to do as you go along to fit the situation." 3.4 "Save the best for the last." Compared with my home town, my host community is a very small town with a population of only eighty thousand. I felt very much honored to be regarded as a very special person. At a meeting, they always arranged for me to speak after all the other speakers. They said, "We saved the best for the last."3.5 "The blind leading the blind." A teacher who taught international relation one day invited me to make "jiaozi' which was his favorite Chinese food. When he learnt that I didn't know how to make it, either, "Ohoh," he said with a smile." OK, today we are just like the blind leading the blind." 3.6 "Don't sell yourself short." It seems to me that one of the most characteristic traits of American people is their optimism. They believe that they can accomplish any task and meet any challenge. When the community college invited me to give them a serial lectures concerning China today,I doubted of my ability to meet their demand. My master teacher encouraged me, "Xiang, believe me, you can do it. Don't sell yourself short!"So far as Spoken English is concerned, the idiomatic ways of speaking vary in persons or places where English is used. As for a good English language teacher, my philosophy is that it is merely not enough for him or her to become familiar with those formal expressions in the textbooks. S/He should also learn some informal expressions in real life situation because it is very natural and common.