Archive for February, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

You Should Be Careful When Giving Advice in English

TamaraJonesBy Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, Howard Community College
Columbia, Maryland
jonestamara@hotmail.com

Giving advice in English is a dangerous business. “[I]n Anglo-American cultures, advice giving is often associated with criticism, especially when it is unsolicited.” (Houck & Fujimori, 2010, 91) Therefore, it’s a good idea to think carefully about who you are giving advice to because the very act of giving advice puts you in the position of being an expert on the subject. In fact, if I were to give advice, even to a close friend, I would be fairly indirect. As teachers, we might want to make sure our students are aware of all the nuances associated with advice giving in English in order for them to avoid making any pragmatic errors.

Do you see what I was doing there? I was giving advice! But, I was dancing all around it, and I never once used the word “should”. But, why? Why bother doing all that linguistic maneuvering when all grammar textbooks teach “should” as THE strategy for giving advice? Because, like a lot of speech acts, some of which I have written about in previous blogs (A Good Compliment, I am Sorry, but Apologizing in English is Really Complicated, Offers they CAN Refuse, The Art of “Yes, But …” and, Can I Please Borrow your Car?) advice giving is a dangerous business, and our students get it wrong a lot.

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