Teach English in Liangxinbao Zhen - Yueyang Shi

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In the context of a Japanese student learning English as a second language, the difference between formal and informal language and when they’re appropriate to use can be rather confusing. In Japanese, there is a more rigid structure to what is and isn’t formal language, with various codified levels of formality, for various social interactions. A big difference in the levels being how verbs are conjugated. In comparison, formal English is much less codified and beyond essays, it is not always clear when to use formal English and how much formal English to use. So, in the sense of timing, it can be harder to fully understand without immersion in the language. Furthermore, although there are less rules for formal language in English than in Japanese, it can be difficult to notice the nuance between informal and formal English. The first being the vocabulary used. For example, although it is ok to use slang in informal settings, it is inappropriate to use slang in formal ones. The second big difference is grammar, such as not being allowed to use contractions in formal English. When using formal English, it is important to be aware of the words being used. The most commonly known category of words which cannot be used in formal English is slang words. Although this may be obvious and easy to understand for a native speaker, for a second language speaker it is not always clear what words are considered to be slang words, and what words are not. It is because of this that is important to be very clear when teaching slang words that they are slang and although they are acceptable amongst friends, they must be avoided when using formal English. Another category to be aware of is pronouns. When using formal English, it is important to avoid the usage of first-person pronouns, such as I or we. Lastly is the usage of phrasal verbs. This is a distinction which is difficult for both native speakers, and second language learners alike. Generally, if a verb is followed by a preposition or an adverb, it is a phrasal verb and cannot be used in formal English. However, although it might be easier for a native speaker to find alternatives, it is difficult for second language learners to easily know what they can use in place of phrasal verbs. As such, it is important to be aware of what can be used in formal English and make sure students are aware of this too as they are taught new vocabulary. The second big difference between formal and informal English is grammar. In formal English, active verbs are more prevalent than passive verbs. However, in informal English, passive verbs are more utilised. This is because informal English is meant to be a more impersonal, less emotional English and active verbs are seen as being too strong and aggressive for formal English. Although not a specific rule, it is also important to remember that when using formal English, the rules are stricter. For example, in informal English, it is more acceptable to start a sentence with because, or end a sentence with a proposition. This is because informal English is a more spontaneous and casual style so room for errors are allowed. However informal English is a much more deliberate, thought out style of English and so it must be more adherent to the rules of English. When teaching a more natural style of English, it is then important to make sure students know and understand when it is, and isn’t ok to be more loose with the rules of English. Lastly, it is important to know when to use formal English. The most common usage of formal English is in written language, primarily for essays, or communications with people you are not familiar with. It can also be important to be aware of the rules of formal language in some spoken settings, such as in speeches, or interviews. Formal English may be a challenge for students to fully master, especially when they have to be much more conscious and deliberate in their choice of words, as well as their awareness of correct grammatical usage. This is also difficult to teach, as it is not a commonly used style of English outside of a business setting, so many students may in fact have low motivation to learn. It is however, still important to bring awareness to the differences between formal and informal English as the language is taught, whenever it is relevant.