Thursday, March 31, 2011

Politeness For ESL Speakers

One of the dangers of practicing a new language like English is the unfamiliarity with the nuances that can make you come across rude or impolite, even without meaning to. These tips should help you communicate more politely, without stifling your ability to express your ideas.

If you're using a good English language learning software, you might have previously trained in this manner of communication. Consider it a refresher - it's one of the most important English tricks you can learn.

1. Preface demands with "Please." and end with a "Thank you."

Making demands, especially when your tone and phrasing aren't the best, can sound rude. If you can't avoid it, preface it with "Please," as in "Please submit the paper tomorrow. Thank you."

2. Rephrase demands as questions.

Instead of saying, "Send me the fax immediately," you can say "Can you send me the fax immediately?" It comes across softer and less harsh, while requiring them to implicitly agree.

3. Use modal verbs.

Modal forms of verbs are those that incorporate words like would, could and might. Used in sentences, they immediately turn commands into diplomatic please. Instead of saying "Be here at 9AM so that we can start early," you can use modal verbs as in, "Perhaps, you could come at 9AM so we can start early." Modal verbs are a very simple tweak to your English speaking that can work wonders.

4. Use qualifiers.

Adding qualifiers (such as "slight," "somewhat," "a bit," etc.) can make problems and issues sound less serious, without trivializing them. As such, they're a great way of presenting rejection and similar bad news.

Instead of saying "Your report is incomplete," you can carefully mention that "Your report is slightly incomplete." One simple word does make a difference.