Posted by: Jason | September 20, 2010

Talking about People

Hi there. Sorry this is a day late. It’s a long weekend, so, I got a bit behind. But, never fear, I am back, refreshed and ready to talk about English once again. Thanks for tuning in.

First off, let’s get last week’s lesson out of the way. Seven questions based on a listening about Coca Cola ((The answers are in the brackets)):

1. What percent of people recognize the Coca Cola name world wide? ((Over 90%))
2. What is Coca Cola’s image? ((Young, happy people having fun and a safe alternative to alcohol))
3. How many countries does Coca Cola sell in? (Over 300 countries))
4. When was the recipe invented? ((1885))
5. Where is the company headquarters? ((Atlanta, Georgia, USA))
6. How many people know the Coca Cola secret recipe? ((Only four people))
7. What kind of events does Coca Cola sponsor? ((Events like the Olympic Games.))

How did you do? Listen to the recording again and see if you can pick up all the answers now that you know them.

Ok, enough of the past, now on to the future. Today I want to talk about talking about people. Telling anecdotes about things you’ve done or friends have done in the past. What’s an anecdote? Well, an anecdote is a short story that describes a real event that occurred in the past. We do it all the time. “Yesterday, I went to the store and saw this really great car in the parking lot.” or “My friend and I were having coffee the other day when the waiter dropped a whole tray of cakes all over us!”

Telling stories is what people do. We all do it. It’s one of the few things that goes beyond culture or language. Get two people together, let them talk for a while and one of them will tell a story. But, telling a story in another language can be tricky. Languages and cultures stress different things. For example, in some cultures, when an event occurred is very important. For others, it’s more important who was involved.

In English, when we tell stories, things usually follow a standard form. We start with who, then follow with when and where and then end with what happened. It helps to organize your thoughts this way and then present them. Who are you talking about? How are they related to you? Are the people in your story your friends, family members, co-workers? When did it happen? The exact time is probably not important, but, the day helps the other person get a sense of how recent the story is. Where were you? Again, this sets the scene and helps the listener get an idea of the big picture. Finally, what happened? Talk about the events in order – what happened first, then what happened next and then what happened after that.

And, through all of it, remember your sentence order. Subject, verb, object. You need all three all the time. I know, Japanese drops the subject a lot of the time, but we don’t in English. You have to keep repeating the subject. “My friend and I were at a coffee shop yesterday having lunch. We were just finishing when the waiter dumped a whole tray of deserts all over my friend. She was so upset.”

That’s a very short anecdote and you can certainly add more to it, but, notice that in the whole story, every sentence still has a subject, a verb and an object.

So, let’s see what you can do. Below there is a picture of two women talking on cell phones while sitting on a bench. Answer the following questions:

1. Who are they?
2. Do they know each other?
3. What are they doing?
4. Who are they talking to?
5. What happened next?

After you answer these questions, try to string your answers together like a story. One paragraph (don’t start each sentence at the beginning of the line) and post your stories in the comments. We’ll talk about them next week.

lesson,people,telling stories

Have fun.

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