American Culture and Pragmatics Spring 2012 Ms. Candice Quiñones
Overview Definitions How to Explain Finding the Right Level Ten Ways to Explain Things More Effectively
Definitionex·plain verb (used with object) 1. to make plain or clear; render understandable or intelligible: to explain an obscure point. 2. to make known in detail: to explain how to do something. 3. to assign a meaning to; interpret: How can you explain such a silly remark? 4. to make clear the cause or reason of; account for: I cannot explain his strange behavior. verb (used without object) 5. to give an explanation. Source: Dictionary.com
Definitionex·pla·na·tion noun 1. the act or process of explaining. 2. something that explains; a statement made to clarify something and make it understandable; exposition: a) an explanation of a poem. 3. a meaning or interpretation: a) to find an explanation for a mystery. 4. a mutual declaration of the meaning of words spoken, actions, motives, etc., with a view to adjusting a misunderstanding or reconciling differences: a) After a long and emotional explanation they were friends again. Source: Dictionary.com
How To Explain When we explain, our goal is to make things clear. In order to do this, we need several “tools” in our verbal “toolbox”. Clarity Details Reasons Honesty Foreshadowing Logical connectors Finding the right level
Clarity Being clear about what you are talking about. Give details: where, when, who, what, when, and how. Instead of saying: It is there. -say- The book is on the desk. (what) (where)
Clarity Avoid pronouns and use nouns instead. Answer the question “who?” or “what?” A noun is a name for a person, place, thing or idea. Ex. University, Grape Street, girlfriend, compassion, etc. A pronoun is a word used to substitute for a noun. Ex. He, she,Source: Dr. Deborah Mowshowitz, it, they, we, me, him, her, us, them, Department of Biological Sciences, etc. Columbia University
Clarity Use active, descriptive verbs instead of passive, boring ones. Answer the question “how?” Note: “be” is a passive verb Instead of saying: We went there. -say- My family and I drove to the Lehigh Valley Mall.
Clarity So remember, to be clear: Give details Use nouns, not pronouns Use descriptive verbs
Reasons When you explain, it is important to give the reasons behind your thoughts or actions. Answer the question “why?” Instead of saying: I’m leaving. -say- I’m leaving now so I can catch my bus on time.
Reasons When giving reasons it is important to be honest. If you don’t know how to explain something, it is okay to say “I don’t know.” It is usually better to be honest about your reasons for something than to lie. If you lie, the reasons you invent may not make sense. If you lie, you may forget the reasons you gave and the person will find out later (and may be hurt or angry).
Foreshadowing Before you attempt to explain anything, say, in advance: (a) what you are about to explain Listeners feel much more comfortable when they know what is coming and approximately how you are going to get there. (b) why you are bothering to explain it. Listeners will be much more willing to concentrate on details if they know why they matter. Source: Dr. Deborah Mowshowitz, Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University
Foreshadowing Example First you say “Let me explain how to get to Brooklyn – it will take 3 trains.” Then explain: Why do we want to go to Brooklyn in the first place? Why go now? Then you go into the details of which you take first, where you transfer, etc. Source: Dr. Deborah Mowshowitz
Logical Connectors Logical connectors are used to signal the relationship between what you are about to say and what you have already said. They are also known as transition words.
Logical Connectors Function: Show Function: To Add Similarity again moreover to as well as and together with also of course then likewise equally comparatively identically correspondingly like similarly as furthermore too additionally Source: http://www.smart- words.org/transition-words.html
Logical Connectors Function: Contrast Function: Contradiction although this may be true but whereas different from (and) still despite of course ..., but unlike conversely on the other hand or otherwise (and) yet however at the same time while rather in spite of albeit nevertheless even so / though Besides regardless then again although notwithstandin in reality instead g after all Source: http://www.smart- words.org/transition-words.html
Logical Connectors Function: Rephrasing Function: Support in other words in fact to put it differently in general for one thing in particular as an illustration for example in this case for instance for this reason to demonstrate to put it another way to emphasize that is to say to repeat to clarify with attention to to explain by all means such as Source: http://www.smart- words.org/transition-words.html
Logical Connectors Function: Function: Cause/Condition Effect/Consequence in the event that in view of as a result granted (that) if under those circumstances as / so long as …then in that case on (the) condition Unless for this reason (that) for When with this intention because the Whenever then in the hope that Since consequently to the end that While therefore for fear that Because accordingly seeing / being that of Source: http://www.smart- in view of as words.org/transition-words.html
Logical Connectors Function: Time at the present time hence at this instant further from time to time since during when first, second sooner or later once in time at the same time about prior to up to the present next instantly time now presently to begin with immediately Occasionally in due time quickly after finally later until now formerly last as soon as suddenly until in the meantime shortly since in a moment whenever then in the first place eventually before meanwhile all of a sudden Source: http://www.smart- words.org/transition-words.html
Logical Connectors Function: Space/Location/Place in the middle adjacent to above between to the left/right opposite to below before in front of here down alongside on this side there up amid in the distance next under among here and there where further beneath in the from beyond beside foreground over nearby behind in the Near wherever across background around in the center of Source: http://www.smart- words.org/transition-words.html
Logical Connectors: Emphasis important to realize notably markedly including especially another key point like specifically first thing to remember to be expressivel must be remembered sure y point often overlooked namely surprisingly to point out chiefly frequently on the positive / truly significantl negative side indeed y with this in mind certainly surely Source: http://www.smart- words.org/transition-words.html
Finding the Right Level Not everyone you explain something to is going to understand everything the first time. To help them understand: Try to think about it from their position or point of view. Try to find out where they got stuck. Explain in small “bites” (a little at a time). If someone asks you a question, don’t assume you have to explain a lot of background material. Don’t assume too much; sometimes you will need to provide background information. Source:. Deborah Mowshowitz, Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University
Ten Ways to Explain Things More Effectively 1. Keep in mind other’s point of view2. Listen and respond to questions3. Avoid talking over people’s heads (find the right level) Don’t use vocabulary that is too technical4. Avoid talking down to people Don’t insult people by assuming they don’t know things5. Ask questions to determine people’s understanding Source: Calvin Sun, CNET Networks Inc.
Ten Ways to Explain Things More Effectively 6. Focus on benefits, not features. Features are inherent properties of objects. Benefits are ways features help a person7. Use analogies to make concepts clearer Analogy is explaining an unfamiliar concept using a familiar one.8. Compare new concepts to familiar ones.9. Use the concepts of subsets and supersets. Ex. Brooklyn is a subset of NYC, because all of it is in NYC.10. Confirm that your explanation makes sense. Source: Calvin Sun, CNET Networks, Inc.
Time to Practice Please explain to me the relationship between humans and their pets. Please explain to me what “the early bird gets the worm” means. Please explain the difference between fear and respect to me. Please explain the process of buying a plane ticket to me. Please explain what each color on your flag represents. Please explain the main idea of a book you are
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