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Usage Games - New Technique!
Politeness and American Conversational Usage
Functions: Requesting, Apologizing, Thanking

John Pereira

Because I wanted to teach my Japanese students how to communicate politely, I developed American Conversational Usage Games that cover dozens of relevant communication functions. Here I will focus on three: requesting, apologizing, and thanking. These conversational usage games are easy to understand, simple to play, and practical - in essence a preparation for real-life communication.

While working on these games , I was a bit surprised to discover how much Americans differed over the proper level of politeness and appropriateness of what could be said. The differences could be attributed to such variables as locale, age, gender, and ethnic background. They did, however, arrive at a consensus.

It is helpful to focus on two cultures (in this case, Japan and the U.S.A.) to facilitate learning or teaching conversational usage, but we should not overlook the limitation of translating expressions, or the fact that an American or a Japanese might not say anything in a particular situation when the other would.

Finally, I hope that you enjoy the games ....

(How to Play American Conversational Usage Games
For an explanation, please click on Pragmatics and Conversational Usage.)

Function: Requesting

Stimu-Con Usage Games: It's Not Only WHAT You Say But HOW You Say It!
Conversational Focus
Although this is a no-smoking car, the man next to Akiko is smoking a cigarette ...
Communication Function
CharacterA / CharacterB
Asking someone to stop smoking / Agreeing (to stop)

Suggestion Key
Character A / Character B

1. Please don't smoke here. / Oh, I'm sorry.
2. Could you (please) stop smoking (here)? / Sure, no problem.
3. Would you (please) stop smoking (here)? / Oh, excuse me.
4. Would you mind not smoking? /Oh, excuse me. I'll put it out.
5. Would you mind putting out your cigarette? / No, not at all.
6. (Excuse me, but) this is a no-smoking car. / Oh, I'm sorry.
7. Smoking isn't allowed here. / I'm sorry.

What would you say?

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