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ESL Material

ESL Material

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Published by Neffrity Rose

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Published by: Neffrity Rose on May 04, 2011
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  • Conversation Topic: Work
  • Talking Cards
  • Finish the Sentence
  • Giving and Accepting Compliments
  • What Type of Student Are You?
  • Six Games for the EFL/ESL Classroom
  • About the United States
  • Accidents at Home
  • Adoption
  • Advertising
  • After a Vacation
  • Age: Youth & Old Age
  • Airplanes
  • Amusement Parks
  • Conversation Questions
  • Anger
  • Animals & Pets
  • Annoying Things
  • Are you good at...?
  • Arguing
  • Bags and Purses
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Beach
  • Beauty and Physical Attractiveness
  • Behavior
  • Birthdays
  • Books and Reading
  • Business
  • Cars and Driving
  • Celebrities
  • Childhood
  • Children
  • Cities
  • Clothes & Fashion
  • College
  • Colors
  • Comic Books

Gerard Counihan

profesorSs [at] blabla.es

Brief Introduction for the Teacher

Socio-linguists speaking on the subject of politeness point out that there are three
phenomena at play when a compliment is paid to someone: the recipient can choose to
accept it directly, indirectly, or refuse it (he or she can presumably produce a blend of all
three). All these strategies are not ill-intentioned, of course, they are employed by
human beings in tricky situations, because dealing with a compliment is a delicate affair.

If you accept it right away, we are told, your response may insinuate superiority:

y John, you are so intelligent.

y I knew it all the time.

If you refuse a compliment, you may upset the giver.

y John, you look great.


Not at all, I look terrible.

On the other hand, we have the problem of frequency; if someone is lavish with
compliments-and never stops giving them, we could ask ourselves if he or she really
means it. Americans, for example, are claimed to be particularly fond of complimenting,
whereas other nationalities would be perhaps more inclined to avoid what are seen as
potentially embarrassing situations. As a result, Americans have been accused of
hypocrisy, while, we can suppose, the latter can be accused of being cold-natured. And
then again, one can argue that an abundance of complimenting can reflect equality,
directness, honesty, spontaneity. It is a no-win situation, but it must be dealt with,
because compliments do occur and are paid. It is, I believe, not a vital area of learning a
target language, but, if nothing, else, teachers can sensitise their students to an
interesting area of interaction, and perhaps generate some fun in the process.

Activity A

Get the students to talk about how they or people in their countries deal with

Activity B

Get the students to give (and react to) the following unfinished compliments. They can
do it in pairs or in small groups. It might be a good idea to split up the students into
pairs, and to ask them to write down each other's replies. In this way, each pair can
report back to the rest of the class when the chosen compliments have been dealt with.
Listening to other students' efforts is good fun. Each pair could also "act out" their mini
dialogue. Encourage the students to inject some emotion into the exchanges, that is
make sure they use appropriate intonation.

Possible Compliments:

You look ..What a lovely ...You speak English ...I like your new ...Your perm is ...Where
did you get that (indirect ) ...You write very well, you should ...I admire your ...Well done,
your work ...Congratulations on your ...Keep up the good work, ...You take after your
mother/father, ...


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