Is it possible to easily take your use of English from beginner to intermediate? Would you like people to take more interest when you speak in English? Or would you like people to look more engaged when you tell them a story? The solution to this would usually mean taking several more years of study until your English is good enough to sound more sophisticated.
While this is a good tactic, there is also a very quick way to polish your English and make it both entertaining and refined. Within this article I'm going to offer you some tips that, with practice, will set you apart from other students of English.
Dressing up sentences
Please read the below paragraph of writing and decide if you find it interesting or boring:
I met her for lunch. She seemed very hungry. I did not think she was a nice
person and she also ate very noisily. I did not want to see her again.
To be honest, I find the above paragraph to be very boring. There is no humour, not much description and very little word play. When you use word play, you are using techniques to make your language more interesting and often funnier.
Let's rewrite the paragraph and make it a little more fun:
I met her for a painful romantic dinner. She seemed as hungry as a herd
of elephants. She is as sweet as a King Cobra snake which has just been
stepped on. When she ate the noise reminded me of a donkey being tortured.
I decided I would rather eat concrete alone that eat with her again.
The paragraph is now more like a humorous story than a boring shopping list. There were a few techniques known as 'figures of speech' which made the sentences more interesting by creating images the listener could visualise in their mind. This will often elicit laughter and more interest from your audience.
In the sentence:
I met her for a painful romantic dinner.
An oxymoron has been used to inject some humour. This is when you combine words which usually work against each other and even contradict one another: painful and romantic.
A romantic dinner should usually be a happy and exciting meeting which creates the feeling of love and pleasure.
By introducing the word 'painful' we have now altered the meaning of romantic to work in a small joke. This is a technique you can practice and have fun with:
Whisky and coke taste horrifically delicious when mixed together.
He was a boring entertainer.
His Mother cooked an unpleasant feast for dinner.
This is when you, purposefully, over exaggerate something such as a quality a person has. In the paragraph the following sentence was used:
She seemed as hungry as a herd of elephants.
Obviously, no human being can be as hungry, or eat as much, as a herd of elephants. The sentence is pure hyperbole designed to get a laugh.
Again, this is something you can practice. Try not to be personal or vindictive when using hyperbole or your audience will not be impressed. Focus on making a mental picture for them which will make them giggle:
When it comes to women, he is as lucky as a bankrupt gambler.
My car is as attractive as a rhino in hot pants.
I'm such good company that my goldfish wants to introduce me to his friends.
In the paragraph there was the sentence:
She is as sweet as a King Cobra Snake who had just been stepped on.
The sentence uses simile to compare a woman with a rather dangerous snake. In using this technique you can select the word 'like' or 'as' to compare two things:
He is as big as a house, but moves like an athlete.
She is as sweet as sugar, but speaks like a drill sergeant.
His Father is as generous as a saint, but is mean like a wasp.
There are several other techniques you can introduce into your English to make it more entertaining. Some of them may seem unusual but with practice and used sparingly they are very effective.
This involves creating a sentence using words which all begin with the same letter or have words which sound similar to one another:
I duly decided December didn't deliver daily defeat.
A pun is word play where the many different meanings of a word are used to create a comedic effect:
I didn't mean any offence when I weighed in on the obesity debate.
As he didn't pay his speeding tickets, the frog's car was toad away.
Everyone was worried about the kidnapping until the kid woke up.
This is when an offensive word is replaced with a milder and less offensive word. A doctor may refer to a patient as 'overweight' rather than the more offensive word 'fat'. In recent times this has become used for comedic effect when describing people, places or things:
The man was vertically challenged. (The man was short).
The rooms of the hotel were very quaint. (The rooms looked old fashioned).
His job was surplus to requirements. (He had been fired).
This is often confused with simile, but metaphor does not compare two items. A metaphor is similar in that it compares one thing to another, but it wholly substitutes one item:
He is a tiger.
She is a peacock.
He is a sheep.
We associate tigers as strong and fierce. When we call the man a tiger we make the point that he has a strong personality. The image of a peacock is of a bird who struts around and shows off its attractive feathers. I've often seen someone point to a man or woman in an office and describe the other person as a peacock, meaning they like to show off their good looks or sense of dress.
One step at a time
There are more and more techniques to learn that will make your English a little more interesting. The trick is to use one technique at a time and practice it until it becomes second nature to you.
Try to use one technique for a couple of weeks and then move on to the next. Always aim to inject some humour into your English to make it appealing and engaging for people you meet. It is a good way to break the ice with people and make more friends.
It can be difficult to think things up on the spot, but try inventing a few phrases using a pad and pen when you have some time alone. That way you can practice a phrase before using it in the real world.
Hero image by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash