Natural English Part 2

Did you know that only English that is naturally spoken is taught in Direct English?

by Louis Alexander

We have seen in the previous article, Natural English part 1, how 'natural English' can be scripted or spontaneous and how there are abundant examples of such texts in Direct English.

Spontaneous English may be spoken or written. In spoken English, it is characterized by hesitations, pauses, incomplete sentences and even what are called 'performance errors', that is mistakes in grammar and vocabulary where a speaker makes a grammatical mistake or uses the wrong word in the heat of the moment. Written spontaneous English is mainly to be found in personal letters, emails and notes which are directly recorded by the writer and not subjected to very much editing. We can define these two uses of English as 'informal' and they reflect the principal ways in which we communicate both in our mother tongues and in foreign languages.

What we are concerned with in this article is natural spoken English which is formal. The main characteristic of formal spoken English is that the original draft version is subjected to editing, the purpose of which is to achieve the best expression possible or to provide copy which is subject to time and space constraints. Formal English is often read aloud either from a script or an autocue. It is used in news bulletins and other broadcast talks or televised presentations, in lectures and carefully-prepared speeches. The formal text goes through stages before the writer arrives at a final version. The writer usually begins with a few notes, then creates a first draft which is subjected to editing. There may be several drafts before the final version emerges. The English is no less 'natural' because so much effort has gone into it. In fact, a good presenter will strive to make the resulting text sound more like spoken English than written English. The final text is 'contrived' to be natural.

There are numerous examples of formal natural English in Direct English, presented as radio talks or TV presentations. These occur in Levels 7 and 8 and cover such subjects as: TV news bulletins, learning to swim, teenagers, forum discussions (Level 7); and home improvements, radio news bulletins, smoking, and jazz (Level 8). Here is an example of a TV news bulletin (Level 7, Unit 55, Lesson 3):

STEVE: Good afternoon, I'm Steve Ondura.
HEATHER: And I'm Heather Gray. Later on the Five O'Clock News, Health Report looks at high levels of salt in your food - where you least expect it.
STEVE: In our top story, a security guard and two hostages were wounded today during a robbery at the Institute for Savings in Charlestown. Witnesses say two armed robbers wearing masks burst into the bank at about twelve-thirty. They forced everyone in the bank to lie on the floor ...

Here is an example of home improvements (Level 8, Unit 64, Lesson 3):

JESSIE: Welcome to another hour of HomeStyle. I'm Jessie Goddette. Today we're going to tackle a very special project. Look at these beautiful decoupaged flower pots. Aren't they just great? And you're not going to believe how easy they are to make. First, let's look at the materials that you'll need. You'll need flower pots with matching saucers ...

You the student, watch and listen (TV) or just listen (radio) to see how much you can follow in scripted formal English presentations of this kind.


© LG & DE Limited 2006


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