In a new YouTube playlist, I plan to cover smaller language points, such as titles and forms of address. The format is meant to be brief, so in my first lesson not every aspect of addressing others can be mentioned, nor can every title under the sun be included. My main focus will be on recognizing and using the most common titles and their abbreviations. I chose this first topic with students of every level in mind. After all, I can’t count the times I’ve been asked about Ms. vs. Miss or how many times I’ve been called “professor,” although I don’t teach at a university or college.
Do you agree that this topic deserves a bit of a language learner’s time? I hope so. Should you decide to make use of my new video, I would suggest the following sequence:
1. Use this 12-item exercise to assess how familiar your students are with titles and forms of address: Language Notes_1_classroom slides.
2. The slides will raise questions. You can explain how mister and lady could be used to address strangers, but they’re not polite forms. An angry driver might yell at a female driver, “Watch where you’re goin’, lady!” Sometimes we hear young speakers use these as alternatives to sir and ma’am, as in, “Hey, mister. Whatcha doin’?” Another point to make is how a title before a last name is capitalized, but a title used alone (doctor, professor, etc.) starts with a lower case letter.
4. Another form of practice is to make use of TV show or film clips and/or transcripts, highlighting titles and forms of address in context. There are a number of sites with transcripts. Simply Scripts is just one example. You might choose to use, for instance, the scene from Family Ties (18: “Margin of Error”) where Alex Keaton pretends to be his father and purchases stock over the phone. Both “sir” and “Mr.” are used. In one scene from Frasier, students can observe how a person can indicate a preference for no titles. (Daphne vs. Miss Moon)