Presenting Arguments

Only English is to be spoken in internal meetings. What impact would this have on your meetings? What are the pros  and cons of this approach? Is it a sensible idea, justify your argument and conclude.

An excellent way to improve your written English skills is to… guess what?? Write!! Yep it isn’t a trick question and there aren’t any real quick wins to help you achieve this goal. As a much used saying goes, “practice makes perfect”, so don’t procrastinate, get on with it!

The majority of more complex work-related written documents tend to be reports and  recommendations which involve the outlining of a context or situation,  an evaluation of the most feasible methods or solutions and a summary or recommendation of the way forward.

It is with this in mind and based on the needs of my students that the following tips are given.

First of all,  think of any subject that interests you or you feel able to write about. Of course you could take a relevant subject from your professional environment. After a while this might become a little boring however and to stretch your overall vocabulary range by considering a wider range of topics is beneficial.  Write down the title/subject of your writing or the question that you intend to answer. This is key because it will help you to structure your thoughts and to keep you on track.

Secondly, make some notes concerning your main ideas. A great approach is to discuss the topic with your teacher if you have one and if not with a colleague or friend. Do this in English obviously! It really helps if you are warmed up in English before you start writing. This means you should have been speaking, listening, or at least thinking in the language before writing. This way your “English brain” is activated and you’ll find yourself doing much less translation from your own language into English.  

Here are a list of pros (advantages) and cons (disadvantages) that a student and I thought of in answer to the above-mentioned topic and before starting to write.

Pros

  • In Belgium we have multiple languages – if forced to speak English  everyone can join in
  • When we have to speak English for international meetings it will be a great asset => we’ll be used to it.
  • Another string to my bow.
  • It will be easier to order food and drinks when we travel and to get on with the locals
  • To be able to express  opinions more perfectly and be clearer, also to understand others better
  • Increasing vocabulary
  • Getting rid of Belgianisms, sounding more English

Cons

  • It requires personal discipline
  • It can cost money (if you have to take a course/you lose time due to less efficient communication in the beginning
  • It can be frustrating and difficult – (if you get stuck/can’t find the right words)
  • You could be misunderstood
  • You could be a victim of prejudice in terms of today’s business world/environment if your language skills are underdeveloped/below expectations.

To practise presenting balanced arguments and to develop a coherent style of writing, I asked the student to do the following:

INSTRUCTIONS!*

Write sentences or a paragraph comparing and contrasting the pros and cons. Please write sentences that use (start with) the words in bold – like in my examples below:

On one hand you might feel limited at first but on the other hand you will improve very quickly.

Although it requires personal discipline, it will be an important string to my bow.

Unlike those who are not used to using it on a daily basis, I will feel confident

In contrast to people who aren’t forced to speak English, I will be an expert.

Despite being frustrating sometimes, speaking English in a professional setting will progress my skills.

Despite the initial stress, I will soon get used to it.

Based on such a range balanced arguments as given above, it should be a natural and easy step to finalise your writing with your opinion or recommendation, thereby concluding elegantly. The student did it as follows:

“I only see positive points in learning this wonderful language, speaking English correctly will open many doors for my career and will define my future position. I have to be realistic, change takes perseverance and time, but if I want to surpass my “rivals”, it’s no longer a matter of choice.

In conclusion, this way of thinking makes perfect sense to me. Evolving and keeping up with the times are essential to move forward and achieve your goals.”

*It must be stressed that the words highlighted in bold in the example sentences are relatively complex “conjunctions of concession (although, despite) ” and “conjunctions of contrast (in contrast to, unlike)”. The student has a good upper-intermediate (B2) level of English and we have already done some work with the highlighted words. I will shortly be posting some exercises or links so that you can get used to using them.

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