When you come to an English class in Canada, be prepared to participate! You don’t need to speak if you’re not comfortable, but learners are expected to ask questions and offer answers. When you feel ready to speak in class, use this guide to be polite and effective when expressing your opinions.
You can disagree
In a Canadian classroom, you’re definitely encouraged to share your opinion. When you do share, give your opinion gently. Canadians value being polite, and for them this means being indirect. Here are some phrases for giving your opinion listed from weak (1) to strong (6).
- It sounds interesting.
- That’s a good point.
- I think so too.
- I absolutely agree with you.
- There is no doubt that…
- Well, you could be right.
- That is not necessarily so.
- It’s only partly true that…
- I’m afraid I have to disagree.
- It’s not justified to say that…
- I totally disagree.
You can ask a question rather than make a statement.
Another way to share your opinion politely is to change your statement into a question. This doesn’t mean you are less confident in your idea, or that you are actually asking a question. In Canada, people are more open to hearing your ideas if you give them a chance discuss them.
You can also add a “question tag” to the end or any statement to make it a question.
- The weather in Winnipeg is pretty bad, isn’t it?
- You aren’t saying that vaccinations are bad, are you?
When you use question tags, a positive statement gets a negative question tag and vice versa. If the statement doesn’t have an auxiliary verb, then use “do” in the question tag.
- You like Donald Trump, don’t you?
You can reduce the intensity of your ideas.
Another way to make your opinions less intense is to add words that soften them. Try using the words below to make people more open to your opinions.
Example: There is no reason why the Manitoba government should reduce the gas tax.
Softened: There are few reasons why…
Example: The City of Winnipeg is always ready to give speeding tickets.
Softened: The City of Winnipeg frequently gives speeding tickets.
Example: It’s impossible to live in Manitoba without an expensive, warm winter coat.
Softened: It’s unlikely that you’ll be happy living in Manitoba…
You can interrupt the teacher
When you’re in-person, feel free to raise your hand when you have a question or an answer to share. Online is a bit trickier since the teacher can’t see you. In this case, find the “raise your hand” function in your online classroom. Both in-person and online, you should begin by saying “Excuse me.”, then share your idea. Asking questions and sharing opinions are accepted and encouraged in the Canadian classroom. This demonstrates that you’re interested, you’re paying attention, and you want to learn.
You should know the essentials
There are some questions that you can use in every classroom. Here are five essential classroom phrases:
May I ask a question?
What does (word) mean?
How do you say (word)?
Can you please repeat that?
When you feel ready, share your opinions in your English classroom. Participating is encouraged, and now you know how to ask politely.
By Nastashya Wall
Source: Qualifiers, The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Accessed on November 20, 2023.
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