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Useful Phrases

Skill:  Speaking

Purpose:  to give Beginners some phrases they can memorize and use to:  1. be polite (Social phrases) 2. meet some immediate and urgent communication needs (Survival phrases) and 3. learn more language (Tool phrases). The skill in focus is Speaking and the goal is to meet urgent communication needs.

What to Do:

Step 1: Decide what you want to be able to say. Remember that memorizing phrases takes a lot of time and brainpower when you are really a Beginner in the language, so use this technique only for what is most needed. You can’t memorize everything!

Step 2: Describe to your LH what you want to communicate. It  is best to describe a situation rather than asking for a direct translation. For example if you want to be able to thank someone appropriately, don’t ask “How do you say thank you?” Ask “If you wanted to thank someone for doing something nice for you, what would you say?” Likewise, don’t ask “How do you say Good Morning? “ Ask “How would you greet someone in the morning?” That way you are more likely to get a phrase that sounds more natural in the language you are learning. Ask your LH if that would sound natural in his/her language.

Step 3: When you and your LH have come up with a phrase, record it. Some people record the translation along with the phrase, but then you are switching back and forth in your mind between languages, which may slow your learning. If you don’t have the translation on the recording, then you need some visual reference, such as a written translation or a cartoon depicting the situation. The cartoon is preferable, because you aren’t switching languages. The Lexicarry is a good source for ideas on how to depict useful phrases.

Here are some possibilities of things to learn to do. You will have to find out how to do this in your new language.

  • Greeting people at different times of the day
  • Greeting people of different age, gender, or social status
  • Taking leave of people
  • Thanking people
  • Asking what something is called
  • Asking what someone is doing
  • Asking someone to repeat what he/she said, or to speak more slowly
  • Asking the price of something

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