Did you know that there are three types of ‘conversation’?

  • transaction
  • interaction
  • argument

I have already dealt with transaction and interaction in previous articles. Now it’s the turn of argument .

When we’re engaged in a transaction, we are doing business with someone, perhaps changing money in a bank, or ordering a meal at a restaurant. When we’re engaged in interaction, we are exchanging information with other people, for example, about the problems of moving house. This is the most common kind of conversation. When we’re engaged in argument, we are exchanging ideas and opinions with others, so we are agreeing or disagreeing with them.

There are numerous phrases and expressions we need to learn in order to conduct an argument. If we suddenly interrupt someone with “Excuse me, a question!” – we can give them a bad opinion of ourselves and lose the argument. So we need to learn how and when to take our turn to speak, how to interrupt politely, how to present facts, how to persuade, how to give an example and so on. Argument requires us to speak for or against a proposition like “A rise in interest rates would be good for the economy”.

In DirectEnglish ,Book3,Unit25,Lesson1, you are introduced to a number of fixed phrases, which train you how to agree (I couldn’t agree more), how to agree up to a point (I’m not so sure), how to disagree (I’m not with you on that), how to ask for an opinion (What do you think about …?), how to express an opinion (In my opinion, …), how to give an example, (Take, for example, …).

From Book 4 onwards, ‘for and against’ topics become a regular feature of Direct English , so you are constantly trained how to argue. In Book 4, for example, you are invited to discuss the pros and cons of being famous, to argue which is the best sport, to discuss the pros and cons of answering machines, to argue for and against telling ‘white lies’, and so on.

The way this is done is as follows. Two characters in the story-line begin an argument, like this one about sport (4.31.3):

JOE: It’s the best sport in the world, sailing. RICHARD: I’m not sure I agree with you, Joe. All that water. All that weather. All that maintenance. And what do you do with the boat in winter? It costs a fortune. Now, there’s nothing to beat skiing. JOE: And you call that cheap? All those fancy clothes and all that fancy equipment? All that snow and all that effort to get to the top of a mountain? RICHARD: I mean downhill skiing, of course!

You listen to the dialog first, then you repeat it, then you take the part of each character in turn, then you practice the dialog, varying the information as much as you like.

After this, you answer taped questions about the topic. For example, What’s your favorite sport? Why do you like it? Do you like to play and if so how often?

You are then invited to think in English about two sports: the one you like best and the one you like least (e.g. sailing, swimming, climbing, etc.).You make some notes in English listing the things you like about your favorite sport and the things you don’t like about your least favorite sport. You then look at your notes and talk about the two sports you have chosen.

You are provided with a phrase to start you off, like this: My favorite sport is [sailing]. I like it because …

You can rely on Direct to develop your arguing skills to a very high level!

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