Using Formal Language

We have all been caught short sometimes, using language that we shouldn’t have. In a foreign tongue the distinction between using formal language and informal language is always high level.

Having lived in Indonesia for nearly five years I can certainly relate to any difficulties English language learners may face when trying to construct formal sentences.

Formal Bahasa Indonesian is rarely used in the sort of scenarios I need to be able to speak the language: giving directions to a taxi driver, ordering some food in a restaurant or having a chat with someone on one of many long train plane or bus rides. This is often true of English language learners; many of who actively learn from films or television, which often flaunts informal slang and can be considered rude.

Like anything the best way to learn is to practice but certainly an understanding of grammar will help you. One of my tips here is to use the passive voice in situations that require it.

A good example of this is a situation where you may need to explain a problem to your team:

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In this sentence David may feel singled out because he has been addressed personally. Whereas:

‘A mistake has been made…’

In this sentence no one knows who made the mistake, which makes it more polite. But be careful, second language learners of English often get confused when putting two verbs together

‘I was fired…’

‘I fired…’”][/tagline_box] [separator top=”-20″]

In the first sentence I am the object, which means that my boss has decided to fire me. In the second sentence I am the subject, which means that I had to fire someone else. I hope this helps.