English Registers - What Your Words Say About You

source: Oxford Online English    2015年4月28日
See the full lesson here: http://www.oxfordonlineenglish.com/vi...
When learning English, many learners want to focus on getting things right. They want to use the 'right' verb form, the 'right' sentence structure, the 'right' words, and so on. However, there's another important point you need to get right if you want to speak English well: register.

What is register? Short answer: it's how you say something. For example:


• I'm interested in applying for this job
• I would like to express my interest in this vacancy
• I want to do this job
• Oi, mate, give us a job, would you?

All of these sentences have the same meaning, but that doesn't mean they're the same. By using different words or different sentences, you can express the same message in very different ways. In many situations, using register correctly is much more important than using grammar or vocabulary accurately. If you're applying for a job, making a grammar or spelling mistake in your application won't necessarily hurt your chances, but sounding rude definitely will.

Register is a huge topic, so this lesson is just an introduction. You can learn what register is, and when you need to think about it.

1. About register: the message your words send

The most important point about register is that communication doesn't just depend on the idea you want to express. The words we choose and the phrases or structures we use are an important part of our message.

2. About register: identifying yourself as part of a group

We saw above that register can send signals about your attitude towards the person you're talking to, and about the relationship between you. However, there is more to register than this. Choosing different words or structures also sends signals about you: where you are from, what kind of person you are, and more.

3. Using register: sending the right message

By now it should be clear that register is a very powerful tool. However, like anything powerful, it can also be dangerous if you don't use it well. Many people, especially native speakers, will use register to learn about you. If you don't have control of register when you speak or write in English, you could easily send the wrong signals.

4. Using register: being consistent

The second part of using register well is consistency. If you use mix registers in a sentence, it will sound very strange. At worst, mixing registers can sound ridiculous, which is a problem if you need to be taken seriously.

5. Register and vocabulary

It's very useful to think about register when you study vocabulary. A good dictionary, or a quick Google search, can tell you about the associations which a word has.