“Nothing is as frustrating as arguing with someone who knows what he's talking about.”

--Sam Ewing


You feel that you have reached a plateau and don't know how to improve your English, but you know that there is more to learn. However, apart from learning random vocabulary, doing more listening-practice with TV or movies, and perhaps reading the occasional book, you don't know what to do.


The answer is simple: Get into an argument!


We all have arguments with our friends, neighbors, work colleagues and loved ones. Sometimes, they can be full of emotion, and sometimes full of anger. We can argue about all sorts of subjects for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they are little, silly arguments, and sometimes they are big life-changing events.


They do, however, always have one thing in common: passion.


When we argue our point, whether it is to a group or a single person, it is because we believe that what we are saying is correct and that the other person or people are wrong. Because of this, we are usually very passionate about the subjects of our arguments, whether we are actually right or wrong.


Another form of argument, otherwise known as a debate, is a great way for more advanced students to use and improve their language skills. In order to effectively debate (or argue) a subject, you will need to learn and practice the grammar and vocabulary used within that subject, and have a good understanding of the pros and cons. It also helps to debate about a subject that really interests you, something you can get passionate about.


So, what exactly is an argument?


An argument /ɑːɡjʊmənt/ can be described as a quarrel or an altercation between people, but it is equally used to describe a discussion where reasons for and against a proposition are discussed (a debate), or sometimes it can describe a written form of proposal presented to support or oppose a proposal.


So, when we use the term argument, we are not necessarily implying that a quarrel or altercation is under way. You can use the term to describe a conversation at work with your boss if you were trying to convince him/her to give you a promotion or a pay rise: “I argued that I was the best choice for promotion,” or “I argued that I deserved a pay rise (or raise)  after exceeding my target goals.” In a court of law, cases are argued for the prosecution and defence. In parliament, the government and opposition parties argue their cases over new legislation, and occasionally you may argue with your husband or wife.


Why should we argue?


English lessons are usually about niceness and are not a forum to challenge other's opinions. However, if you really want to test your English and learn something new, then starting an argument with your tutor or language partner is going to bring out the best in your abilities.


We do not want to literally start an argument; what we want to do is start an argument in the form of a debate. Holding a debate or conversation in English with someone who is willing to take the opposite position can be really useful. You can start to learn the really fine nuances or the art of persuasion in English. You will have to support your ideas with facts, you will need to address both the advantages and disadvantages, you will need to be able to discuss the pros and cons, as well as being able to explain your reasons in full in order to try to change the other person's point of view.


In other words, you are going to have to challenge your own level of English in order to win!


So, lets get arguing!



There are no set rules in how to do this, but follow these simple guidelines and we will have you arguing in no time.


  1. Find a language partner. Your teacher is a good choice here; he/she often loves a good argument!
  2. Choose a topic. It's best to avoid things like religion or politics, but smoking, pollution or healthcare are often good choices for opposing points of view.
  3. Make a statement. For example: “Smokers should be refused free healthcare.”
  4. Do a little research on your position. Decide beforehand who will be “for” and who will be “against” the statement.
  5. Get arguing!


No one has to win or lose, and be careful not to offend, but be clear and exercise your linguistic powers of persuasion!


Try it!


Paul O'Neill




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