How to Make the Transition between Informal and Formal Speech Fun, Clear, and Memorable

Every learner has his or her strengths and weaknesses. I’ve observed how some students are completely relaxed in conversation, but struggle to write for professional or academic purposes. I’ve also seen the opposite: students can write articulate, effective essays, but fail to recognize which words and structures sound out place in everyday exchanges.

Proficiency in English includes awareness of register and the ability to adjust one’s language according to the situation. I currently have one private student who is a brilliant writer and whose vocabulary skills would be the envy of any SAT or GRE test-taker. However, certain word choices and structures creep into casual conversation, making this student’s speech sound stilted at times.

I aim to offer more practice with the transition from formal to informal speech. I believe in teaching patterns to students. A few carefully created or selected models can provide enough content to discover tendencies of more or less formal language. If you’d like to consider offering this kind of opportunity to your own upper level students, please check out my Formal and Informal English_handout. You’ll see that I’ve tapped into a fun topic: UFO conspiracy theories. I’ve had fun with the alien theme before in an older pronunciation post of mine. Incidentally, my student and I are going to be discussing Unacknowledged, a 2017 documentary offered on Netflix.


Photo credit: UFO, Alien, Spaceship by SoundTrackUniverse. Retrieved from the Public Domain at

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