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Academic VS Colloquial. What Is the Right Choice?


Let us imagine a situation. You passed a difficult test in English to get a job in Britain. And you got this post! You go to a local pub where you want to celebrate this event, and then you have brain freeze. A barman speaks so fast that you are lost and cannot place an order. A local frequenter tells a story of life with such a strong accent that the meaning is understandable at best by half. How can it be? After all, you studied English from the kindergarten, worked with authentic textbooks with the best teachers, and also received a prestigious job in the homeland of the English language.

The point is difference between two brothers – academic English and its colloquial version. They are similar, but not twins. Classroom English (English, which is taught at school/university) is very different from Real Spoken English. We encounter the latter when we communicate with native speakers – people for whom English is native. Communication with foreigners from non-English-speaking countries is simpler: they, just like you, studied English at school.

Main Differences of Classroom English from Real Spoken English

Certainly, there are all kinds of schools. At some schools, teachers provide much more material than standard program requires. For comparison, let us imagine a usual high school in which Classroom English is taught, and a dining room of a typical American office where you will hear Real Spoken English.

Classroom English Real Spoken English
A teacher slowly utters all words and sentences, articulating sounds clearly A native speaker speaks with his or her usual speed, often "swallowing" some sounds
A teacher utters all words completely, connecting only sounds of nearby words for euphony: bread and butter – bread ’n’ butter A native speaker can pronounce a phrase out of six words while saying three. For example, the phrase What are you going to do? sounds like Whatcha gonna do? Thus, not only sounds merge, but also words
A teacher does not forgive you grammatical errors, correcting every detail (article, absence of the particle to, etc.) Native speakers sometimes make grammatical errors in the language
A teacher adheres to grammatical rules, not accepting conversational variants, for example, using double negation Native speakers may neglect grammar rules to sound more expressive. So, they can use double negation
As a rule, a teacher does not teach abnormal reduced spoken forms, especially grammatical ones A native speaker uses reduced grammatical forms. For example, the form ain’t is used instead of am not, are not, is not, have not, has not
Most likely, a teacher will not tell that adjectives can be used as adverbs A native speaker can use adjectives as adverbs in everyday speech
A teacher will very scrupulously explain the system of English tenses, each time correcting Past Simple (did) for Present Perfect (have done) in such sentences as:
I have already done my homework
Native speakers often facilitate sentences grammatically, using simpler tense forms. For example, instead of Past Perfect (had done), they can use Past Simple (did):
I saw her before I entered my house
Teachers strictly monitor the right order of words in questions.

A native speaker can construct a question without an auxiliary verb with the help of intonation alone
At a simple school, teachers most often give lists of words or expressions that you need to learn by heart, or different grammar rules In order to sound like a native speaker or to understand well, you need to know not individual words or grammar outside the context, but collocations, idioms, phrasal verbs
In lessons, the main emphasis is on listening to audio recordings and performing written works. So all students in the classroom have a job In order to speak freely with a native speaker, one needs to practice oral speech in the foreign language

Do not take offense at your professors. Everything they taught you was not in vain. To violate rules of the language in speaking, you must first learn them. Classroom English lays a solid knowledge base, which can and should be applied where appropriate. It is the language of public figures, BBC announcers, civil servants and managers of large private companies. However, after a hard work day, you will switch to Real Spoken English. Everything has its place and time.

20 Phrases of a Typical Native Speaker

We offer you 20 useful conversational phrases that will help you look like natives.


Imagine that you went on a visit, and after a pleasant evening you are told: "You are always welcome at our house". How to answer? Excellent students would say: "You are welcome, too"/"Thank you, you are also welcome at our house". A native speaker uses another word – likewise.


–We were glad to see you.

– Likewise.

Now, Now!/There, There!

How to console someone who cries? Do not cry? Stop crying? This is unlikely to help. Most likely, a person will sob even more. In this situation, we say now, now or there, there.


In British English, you can hear cheers, after which you want to say a toast, but in fact, it is simple thank you.


– Good luck, friend!

– Cheers!


Sometimes you need to support a person with the phrase do not worry. Or, as the song says, do not worry, be happy. In colloquial English, expressions take it easy, chill out, relax, keep your hair on, and also chillax (from words chill out and relax) are popular. All these expressions can be used in a friendly conversation.


– It will be very nervous day.

– Chillax, all will be fine.

You Nailed It!

Imagine that your friend has successfully passed an interview. To support him or her, you can just say you did it/you succeeded. A more informal option is the expression you nailed it.

I See!/I Get It!

In situations where you need to support someone, you say I understand you. Instead of a long I understand what you mean/I understand your feelings it is better to use I see/I get it.

It Beats Me!

But it happens that we do not understand or do not know something. Then you can use the phrase it beats me (how, why, when, who etc.). Literally, it is this is stronger than me.


–I do not understand why they did not tell us about this?

– It beats me.

Ditto!/Couldn't Agree More!

You can say one of these phrases if you absolutely share the opinion of your interlocutor.


–Look at how she behaves with the rest of the staff. It's disgusting.

– Couldn’t agree more.

Up to Much?

When you want to ask about affairs of your interlocutor, you can use the phrase Have you been up to much? In academic English, this would sound like What have you been doing recently? The answer can be the expression Not much, you?/What about you? If we want to ask what a person is doing today, then instead of What are you doing? you can ask What are you up to? or Up to much?


–Up to much?

– As always. I have a lot of work and a new order.

Wanna Hand with That?/Can I Help at All?

Having learned about the situation of your interlocutor, we will definitely want to offer our help.


– Wanna hand with your work? I can translate something, for example.

Sorry to Cut in, But...

If you want to interrupt someone during a conversation to say something important, then the phrase I'm sorry for interrupt you may sound too formal. In a conversation with friends, it is better to use the expression Sorry to cut in, but .../Can I just stop you there for a moment?


– And after that …

– Sorry to cut in, but I have to go.

Where Was I?/Where Were We?

You say this if you are interrupted and you do not remember what you have been talking about.


– So, she left, where were we?

– You were telling about John’s reaction.

I've Lost the Thread!

You use this phrase instead of long I do not understand what you are saying in order to indicate that you have ceased to understand the meaning of the conversation.


–Imagine the quality of this translation …

– Wait, I’ve lost the thread, he went to work as a translator?

I Suppose So!

If you are offered something or one asks something from you, and you see no reason for refusal, you can say I suppose so instead of I do not see why not.


– I propose to have a coffee, otherwise, I’ll fall asleep now.

– Suppose so.

I'm Easy!

If you are not against something, then you can say I do not mind, but another common conversational version is the phrase I'm easy.


– Can I rest? Today I slept only a couple of hours.

– I’m easy.

Don't Bother!

If you do not want to trouble anyone, say Do not bother! Keep in mind that this can also be answered in a skirmish when you do not want to listen to a person or do not expect that he or she will make concessions.


– I just want to explain.

– Do not bother.

You're Kidding Me!

This is one of the most popular phrases in spoken English. A person who has not met with this before would say a trivial You must be joking!


– He wrote a book.

– You’re kidding me!

(That's) Fair Enough!

Use this phrase if you think that your interlocutor's statement is fair, or want to end the dispute.


– We did everything we could.

– Fair enough.

No Way!/Yes Way!

If you are surprised by something, you can use the phrase No way! And a person who reported something amazing can answer Yes way!


– This company went bankrupt!

– No way!

– Yes way!

As you can see, everything is very simple. The only thing you need is a daily practice, and soon all these phrases will fit organically into your everyday speech.

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