I hope you’re well and had a good weekend.
At home today we received a leaflet from the National Health Service about swine flu, telling us how to recognise the symptoms and how to avoid spreading it, if we get it:
Swine Flu Information
There is a phrase in the leaflet that I have never heard before: flu friend. A flu friend, apparently, is someone who you call to tell them that you are ill and need medication, and who will pick up and deliver the medication to your house. New situation: new language!
The suggestion in the leaflet to set up a network of flu friends is in a section towards the end of the leaflet headed What else can I do? What else can I do? is an example of a sequence of words that can be re-cycled in a fixed, or semi-fixed, form.
These kinds of sequences (sometimes also called clusters) are very common in both written and (especially) spoken English. Clusters of words help us sound fluent and write quickly because we can easily glue them together, without having to think about word order, agreement (and so on). There are hundreds of clusters in the swine flu leaflet, including:
(it/they) can help (you/me/her etc.) to (recover/learn/walk)
this (type of flu) is (not) the same as (seasonal flu)
(it) can only be (developed/achieved/done) when (the specific strain) has been (identified)
and so on….
My grammar book says that the 10 most common five-word clusters (in the corpus used to provide examples) are:
(at/by) the end of the
for the first time in
at the (top/back) of the
on the other side of
in the centre of
the end of the day
for the rest of the
the middle of the night
Looking at the first two paragraphs in your last post Jihad, I can see that you are using clusters very effectively, for example:
Oh my God!
I can't believe that….
the (first) (week) has passed so quickly
the (proper/right) time to reply
… a very warm welcome
thanks a million!
on the other hand,
I have to tell you that
everyday life in (Egypt)
Noticing frequently occurring clusters in speech and writing might be a good way to improve your fluency and therefore your confidence. Particularly when you are at work in your pharmacy and need to talk to a tourist in English, you will probably notice frequently occurring patterns in your conversation. Do you have any audio recording equipment? Perhaps you could record some of the conversations you have in the pharmacy with tourists and then listen to them later, looking for frequently occurring clusters of words. If they don’t mind, that is!
OK, that’s it for now. Enjoy looking for clusters and have a good week!
Comments on the comments:
Jeronimo14 (from Valencia, Spain) – you’re right, I do like my job and I know that I’m lucky to have a job I like…
Soroush (from Toronto) – glad you like the videos!
Ernesto (from Chile) - I get really nice students from all over the world, and many lovely ones from China! This year they are a great bunch!
Hyoshil (from the UK) – I always cry at the graduation ceremony and always think that the new students cannot possibly be as nice as the old ones….
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