How Are Your Pragmatic Language Skills?

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Civet
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11 Sep 2005, 5:54 am

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How many of you have similar problems? What has helped you?


Oooh oooh! Me me!

What has helped me? Well, I had a discussion with one of my teachers in art school, and she asked me why I hardly ever spoke in class. I told her that I had no idea when I should speak up. I only really said things when there was a big silence, and no one else was talking. She told me it's ok to talk pretty much anytime, just so long as I'm not talking over someone. And I guess it's ok to get into that situation of "you go ahead" etc, so long as you don't end up argueing with the person over who is going to speak first.

I also learned it's ok to repeat what someone's said if you agree with them. Well, rather than repeating what they said exactly, just say something like "Oh, I agree with Meagan," or "Meagan has a good point, because __________" or "I thought so, too." Just don't do it all the time, or it will seem like you are sucking up or that you aren't paying attention.

I still have problems in nonclassroom settings. It is one of the big reasons why I rarely speak in a group situation (also, my brain doesn't seem to work fast enough to keep up, anyway).



MST3Kakalina
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11 Sep 2005, 6:12 am

i do the same with saying "thank you" or "sorry" all of the time. i don't know how why i do it, but it happens before i even realize i'm doing it.

my other problem with pragmatic language is that i am always, always concerned with offending someone. maybe it's because i'm a Cancer (hah) but i can't stand to hurt someone's feelings, even if i can't stand them. as such, i'll often get roped into a "conversation" (which is just one person talking/kvetching at me) and i can't think of a way to leave that isn't completely tactless. i also don't quite know when to say goodbye to my friends, though they're usually good about giving cues. i avoid the "hi" thing entirely, unless the other person says it first.

and groups? i hardly ever talk in groups, unless there's someone i need/want to talk to and they're not saying anything.

tour guiding helped me as far as things like making small talk go, but i still have problems with everything else.



Sophist
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11 Sep 2005, 4:18 pm

I am not the best with Pragmatics, but I suck even worse with pragmatics and my German professors. Try doing all this AND in another language. ARGH! I can't even really rely on those automated reponses because I don't even know them well enough in German yet. (I, too, give an automated response without thinking about it and can thank someone for me doing something for them). But in German, or just a foreign language in general, I am often left speechless-- especially if I happen to meet one of my professors in the hallway and I am not in "German mode".

Gad, I end up saying "thank you" instead of "hi" or the reverse or something that isn't even German. I have at times responded in French! Or I don't even know what the hello they're asking/saying to me because I am in "English mode" and I am just left to nod as though I'm "with it".

Not fair. Not fair. :(


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eamonn
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11 Sep 2005, 4:30 pm

Most Germans speak English. Tell those lazy proffesors that.



PhoenixKitten
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12 Sep 2005, 5:16 am

Eh, apparently I say sorry too much... and I stress about when to say thankyou. Like, if someone if giving me a lift, I worry about thanking them, but you can't really thank someone for a lift until they have given it! I mean, you can thank them for the offer... eh, gets a bit confusing!


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thepeaguy
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12 Sep 2005, 11:19 am

PhoenixKitten wrote:
Eh, apparently I say sorry too much... and I stress about when to say thankyou. Like, if someone if giving me a lift, I worry about thanking them, but you can't really thank someone for a lift until they have given it! I mean, you can thank them for the offer... eh, gets a bit confusing!


Eh, I'm like that too. :(



Glasskitten
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12 Sep 2005, 7:26 pm

I have the same problems with apologizing and thanking too much, as well as not knowing when to thank someone for something they did/are doing/will do. Scripts are helpful, but they can very easily get mixed up--i.e. when someone holds the door for me, then I realize that there is not much room to get by, and then in the end I am up holding the door myself...how many "excuse me"s and "thank you"s does that require, and in what order? Also, as with other people here, I almost never initiate greetings myself, even in the rare circumstance that I took note of the familiar person's presence.

I seldom have trouble with speaking in a group because I seldom speak in a group. My family, who is quite used to my oddities, does not bring very many blatant errors to my attention when I speak with them. I do have a bit of an interrupting problem, but in my opinion it is no worse than when people start talking two seconds after I did without realizing it.



PhoenixKitten
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12 Sep 2005, 8:37 pm

Man... I used to get so stressed out about saying the wrong thing that I would second guess myself! For example, if someone asked me if I was thirsty, I would be terrified of lying, leading me to say 'yes, no, maybe, I don't know, sorry, thanks' and then just sort of simper off, muttering and mumbling more of the same. I think I was about 8 at the time... :?


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nirrti_rachelle
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12 Sep 2005, 9:12 pm

At work, everyone says "good morning' to each other. If you don't, it's considered very rude. I hate it because sometimes, I just don't feel like speaking to every single person I see as we have about 100 people at our business location. I also don't know what to do when I run into the same people in the hallway or at lunch. Do I have to speak again, even when I've already spoken that morning?


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Mark
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17 Sep 2005, 9:05 am

With 100 people, there are 4950 combinations (ie if you say hello to each person one at a time, then the phase "A: Hello there!, "B: Ohhh, Hellooo!" would be repeated 4950 times in total).

If we assume 10 seconds for an exchange of hellos, allowing for orientation of the head in an optimal direction so as to avoid the other person almost but not quite hearing and therefore precipitating an exchange of "eh, what?" before starting again, the total time taken is 49500 seconds, or 13.75 hours. Note that this also assumes that people wear name badges, otherwise multiply by a further factor of 50 or so to deal with the confusion.

At an average hourly wage (say) of $10, the total cost to the the company in lost productivity is $30000 every year, allowing allowing for weekends, some holiday and a little time off sick from dealing with all of the noise!

So, if we propose that people should bound in with a wide grin on their face and shout out "Greetings Earthlings" (or other appropriate facial expression/epithet, dependent on environment and/or inclination), the total time is reduced to a mere 1000 seconds per day - a cost of only $600 per year, while still achieving the same effect.

I suggest we make the proposal immediately and demand half the saving as a bonus :D



adversarial
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17 Sep 2005, 11:49 am

I don't think I have any language pragmatics deficits.

The only thing even partially related is when I try to speak and others cut me off mid-sentence or try to shout over me. This can happen over the phone quite a lot and may just be a lack of manners on their part though.

The so-called 'rules' of social engagement in conversation are all spurious and misleading anyway. There may be a few discrepencies and alleged shortcomings (getting to the point, rather than rambling on about trivia, not saying something simply because it is quiet and no-one else is speaking, etc), but apart from that, there are no problems.

Monopolising conversation and dominating the topic is a function of 'hidden persuasion', which is usually based on predictable qualifers, eg size, for example. Problems only seem to arise if it is not possible to discern the 'pecking order' that has arbitrarily been decided by others.

I have found that usually, the accusations of interruption are strictly one-sided, it comes from those who tried to interrupt me first, when I was halfway through a sentence.

Some of the headings, eg 'speech functions', 'speech pleasantries' or 'peer language skills' sound like market-speak for subordinating oneself either to a structured interview technique (in which the 'conversation' is designed to prevent you from truly expressing yourself), or as a social convenience so that one is pressured into conforming to an image that others wish to create.


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PhoenixKitten
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17 Sep 2005, 9:01 pm

Mark wrote:
So, if we propose that people should bound in with a wide grin on their face and shout out "Greetings Earthlings" (or other appropriate facial expression/epithet, dependent on environment and/or inclination), the total time is reduced to a mere 1000 seconds per day - a cost of only $600 per year, while still achieving the same effect.

I suggest we make the proposal immediately and demand half the saving as a bonus :D


ROFLMAOVVVH!

But... how on earth did you come up with 4950 combinations out of 100 people? *is very confused* Is it something like 2 hellos per exchange, 99 exchanges per person, timesed (never written that before, but I'm sure that's how you say it!) by 100 people, minus 200 (100 times 2) hellos to account for overlap?

*is bewaffled!*


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Mark
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18 Sep 2005, 2:13 am

Permutations and combinations. If I have 4 people, named A, B, C and D, the possible combinations of greetings are:

AB AC AD
BC BD
CD

Formally, the number of combinations of 'm' things from a total of 'n' is (n! / (m! * (n-m)!). From the picture above you can probably see that for a large enough number of people, the number of paired possible greetings is rougly half the area of a square, which means that the number of combinations rises very quickly as you add more people.

There's a good descrption here: http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.comb.perm.html



Mark
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18 Sep 2005, 2:23 am

BTW, getting back on to topic, I don't have any pragmatic language skills (other than perhaps not knowing when to speak and hence colliding with other people - but everyone I know seems to do this all the time anyway).

I was drilled from a very young age exactly when to say 'please' and 'thank you', and this seems to have stuck, and I automatically say thank you every time a waiter brings something in a restaurant, for example.

You can, of course, say 'thank you' at any time and be correct. For example:

"That was a wonderful dinner. Thank you." (sincere appreciation)
"You seem to have just driven in to the back of my car. Thank you." (sarcasm/irony/etc)

I have a friend with whom I used to satorise these automatic sayings, for example breaking in to many minutes of manic grinning and shaking hands while repeating "hello" in as many exaggerated ways as possible, much to the amusement of onlookers...



rain
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25 Sep 2005, 4:45 pm

I haven't heard the word pragmatic before (or at least if I have, I didn't know what it meant),
but I have many of the same problems.

When in shops I so often get confused, mixing up hello or goodbye, please or thankyou, and get thoroughly confused if the cashier throws in something like "would you like a bag?" or "how are you today?"

My brain seems to move too slowly in conversations (more often with people I don't know), and I need time to think about the simplest question. This obviously isn't generally possible, so I either say the wrong thing & kick myself later, or remain quiet and think of an appropriate reply afterwards.