Life is full of awkward situations, and handling them is not always easy.
However, managing them in a different language is much harder still. What should you do in this type of situation? When other people are involved, is it a good idea to say something? Is there a good time to do so? What if it is you who has caused the awkwardness? I guess we all ask ourselves these questions but when the people involved are from other countries, the discomfort can only rise.
There are many different kinds of awkward situations and fortunately there are great techniques to handle them. Let's take a look at some of these uncomfortable scenarios.
Deal with Awkward Situations Using a Foreign Language
Avoiding Personal Questions
Nosy people are everywhere. Some are simply unaware their questions are too personal or private. Others do it intentionally to get the dirt on others. Whether they are innocent or like to gossip, the technique you should teach your student is the same. Let them know they can answer questions without actually answering them. This is great because they can manage the situation comfortably without being too direct about how they really feel. Take a look at the example
Student 1: So, how much do you make?
Student 2: Not as much as I'd like but I guess can't complain.
Student 1: Why did you get divorced?
Student 2: Well, let's just say my ex husband and I didn't have a lot in common.
I Forgot Your Name
Remembering people’s names is extremely important if you want to build strong relationships in life. We all know strong relationships are one of the most important factors for success. But, who hasn't forgotten someone's name at some point. This is a very common situation and it is much more uncomfortable for those who forget than for those whose name was forgotten. In the business world, this can become even more complicated. In any of these cases, what we have to keep in mind as ESL teachers is that there are different techniques we can teach our students to help them get through this.
This first option is quite direct. It is simply a an extraordinarily polite way to ask someone to repeat their name. Take a look at an example.
- Excuse me, I know we've met , could you tell me your name again?
This second option is a bit different.
- Hello, you are Jill from the accounting department, right?
- Hi, actually I'm Jane from the accounting department.
- Did I say Jill? I meant to say Jane.
Changing the Subject
There are topics we all want to avoid. Either because the timing isn't right or because you think it is downright inappropriate. Sometimes it is simply a good idea to change the subject. As ESL teachers we need to provide our students with useful language functions to suit different situations. Let's take a look at a few.
I'd rather not talk about that.
I don't thinks this is a good time to discuss that.
If you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about that now.
Clarifying What You Meant
Sometimes what we what to express doesn't quite come out the way we intended it to. We say the wrong thing or express something in a way that is misleading and right after that comes the uncomfortable silence. The good news is that it is possible to make things right again, and that it is exactly what you are going to practice with your students. Let's take a look at some handy expressions to handle this.
What I meant was....
What I was trying to say was...
That wasn't what I wanted to say. Let me try that again.
You Didn't Understand
In different social encounters there is yet another difficult situation many people face, specially those who don't speak the language. For ESL students, not understanding what others are saying is truly very common. Again, by teaching your ESL students these useful expressions you can give them great tools to cope with comprehension issues.
I'm sorry would you mind saying that again?
Would you mind repeating that?
Excuse me, could you please say that again?
Excuse me, I didn't catch that.
Remember to tell your students that in any awkward situation the objective is to manage and control the situation as quickly as possible.
Practice different scenarios with them and make sure they are ready because social interactions tend to be very unpredictable.