How do people use spoken English at university?
- Speaking is more personal. The person we’re talking to is often right in front of us, and even if we don’t know them that well, we need to make small talk. Because of this, we use personal pronouns (I, you, we, etc.) a lot more in speech than in writing. On the other hand, in academic writing, we’re often writing to a group of people we don’t know, so we use personal pronouns less. Indeed, in academic writing we often use what’s called the agentless passive, where the person doing the action is not given in the sentence. For example: ‘The data was analysed’ rather than ‘I analysed the data’.
- Speaking is more interactive. We adjust what we say depending on who we’re talking to. We leave out things that we think they already know. For example, we might say ‘I’m going to the café when I’ve finished’ – the listener knows which café we’re referring to, and what we need to finish, so there is no need to include these details. The person we’re talking to can also ask us to clarify things that are not clear.
- Speaking is more time bound. The reader can read at any time they want, but we usually speak to people at a particular time and place, and then we need to go off and do other things. Because of this, we like to be brief in speaking. That’s why we turn ‘going to’ into ‘gonna’. People who live in Toronto say the name of their city so often they pronounce it as “Tronno”.
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