Elements of Conversation I (by AL)
Today we begin a series of audiotexts in the grammar channel in which we will see some very useful elements for carrying on a conversation.
How to get the listener's attention?
We sometimes want to address someone whom we are not speaking to, in order to obtain some information. In a formal setting we normally use “Disculpe” or “Perdone,” addressing the person with “Usted.” For example, “Disculpe, ¿me puede decir la hora?” or “Perdone, ¿sabe a qué hora pasa el autobús?”. (“Excuse me, can you tell me what time it is?” or “Pardon me, do you know what time the bus arrives?”)
In a more informal setting, with friends, would we use “tú,” “perdona”, “disculpa”, even “oye” or “escucha.” “Oye, ¿has visto quién ha ganado el partido esta noche?” (“Hey, did you see who won the match tonight?”). “Escúchame, ¿has apagado la calefacción antes de acostarte?” (“Listen, did you turn off the heat before you went to bed?”).
If we are addressing a group of people, we would use the imperative: “[Vds.] Perdonen”, “[Vds.] Disculpen”, “[vosotros] Perdonad” or “[vosotros] Disculpad”.
We can also use “Por favor,” as in, “Por favor, ¿sabe Vd. dónde queda la Gran Vía?” (“Please, do you know where the Gran Via is?”). [Translator’s note: In this context “por favor” functions like the English “excuse me, please.”]
“Oiga” or “Escuche” also serve to get the listener's attention but can imply a certain degree of bother or annoyance: “Oiga, que me está pisando” (“Hey, you are stepping on me.”), “Escuche, no he venido hasta aquí para que ahora no me haga caso” (“Listen, I didn’t come here to have you ignore me.”).
It would not be considered very polite to ask directly for information (“¿Qué hora es?”, “What time is it"?), or to use the imperative (“Dígame la hora”, “Tell me the time”), even if we add “por favor” (“Dígame la hora, por favor”, “Tell me the time, please”). At the other end of the spectrum, the most polite manner would be to begin with one of the previously mentioned forms of courtesy (“Perdone”, “Disculpe”) and to use the conditional tense: “Disculpe, ¿podría Vd. decirme la hora, por favor?” (Excuse me, could you tell me the time, please?”).
How to show that we are paying attention?
If someone addresses us to get our attention, we can respond with: “Sí”, “¿Sí?”, “Sí, dígame”, “Sí, dime”, “Dígame”, or “Di”. For example,
- Disculpe (Excuse me)
- Sí, dígame. (Yes, what can I do for you?)
- ¿Sabe por dónde se va a la Calle Nueva? (Do you know how to get to Calle Nueva?)
- Por favor. (Excuse me, please)
- ¿Sí? (Yes)
- ¿Me puede decir la hora? (Can you tell me what time it is?)
How to interrupt another person who is speaking?
To interrupt someone who is speaking and introduce ourselves into a conversation, we use forms very similar to the previous ones, mainly, “Perdone” and “Disculpe.” We usually add an amount of time (usually brief):
We can also say, “Disculpe que le interrumpa pero …” (“Excuse me for interrupting but...”) or “Disculpe si le interrumpo pero …” (“Excuse me for interrupting but...”).
Dirigirse – to address, to speak to
Transmitir – to transmit, pass on, transfer
Entorno – environment, surroundings, setting
¡Oye! – hey, say, excuse me
Calefacción – heating, heat
Molestia – bother, nuisance, annoyance
Hacer caso – to pay attention to
Educado – polite, well mannered; educated
Diga – hello; what can I do for you?
Intervenir (en) – to take part in, get involved in
Soler – to do something usually