An excerpt from a new (revolutionary) coursebook

Unit 1  – Meeting people

At the café

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Hana Tichá, a non-native teacher of English, enters the room merrily: Hi, everybody! How are you?”

Mike Cattlin, a slightly older northern Brit (according to his own words), greets Hana enthusiastically, waving his hand: “Hi, Hana! I’m fine.” 

Michael Griffin, an American currently based in South Korea, looks up from his black coffee and smiles broadly: Hi, Hana. I’m good. Nice to see you again.”

Anthony Ash, a Brit from the north of England, turns to Michael, a little concerned: Oh, what’s the problem, Mike?”

Michael G.: Nothing. Why?” 

Anthony.: Well, I thought you meant life sucks cause you just said: ‘I’m good’.”

Hugh Dellar, also British, shakes his head: No, no. It’s a perfectly standard expression meaning ‘I’m fine’.” 

Joanna Tsiolakis, from sunny Greece, sips her café latte happily and nods in agreement: “Absolutely. A typical response.”

Bruno Leys, from the land of chocolate and lovely beer, adds confidently: Yeah! I can hear myself saying it a lot.” 

Katy Fagan, from the eastern US, reacts somewhat cautiously: Well, it actually sounds a tiny bit awkward to me when responding to a greeting, but …”

Michal Siegel, a former student of Hana, overhears the conversation on his way from the restroom. Being a keen linguist, he can’t help jumping in: “Excuse me, but as far as I know, ‘I’m good’ is being used when something, e. g. an accident, happens and the person is okay. Then he says ‘Don’t worry, I’m good!’ But to the question ‘How are you?’ he should say ‘I’m fine, thank you!'”

Hana: Wait, guys. It gets a little confusing now.  I’m an EFL teacher, you know. What am I supposed to tell my students? They want to know *the right* answers … 

Oh, look, that’s my former boss over there at the bar. I haven’t seen him for ages. Hi, Petr!” 

Petr: “Hi, Hana. How are you?” 

Hana: Erm….. I’m ……”

Marc Jones, a young Brit based in Japan, quickly whispers to Hana’s ear: It’s your *boss*. Not a *mate* of yours, right? So you should say: ‘I’m fine’.”  

Hana: I’m fine. And you, Petr?” 

Petr, slowly emptying his glass of vodka: I’m good. Kill me now!” 

 

Hana: Well, erm, I‘d better catch the waiter’s eye. I bet you’re all starving?”

…….. 60 minutes later

 

Hana: “Would you like anything else before I foot the bill?” 

Katy: I’m good. Thanks.” 

Mike C.: “No, thanks. I’m fine.” 

Peter Skillen, a fellow from Canada: No, thank you, I’m good.” 

Hana (to herself, somewhat desperately): Damn it! Do they really mean what they are saying? Or do they mean the opposite? How on earth should I know what these people are thinking?”  

 

Some of you probably know where this post came from. 🙂  I’d like to thank all my Facebook friends who kindly and patiently answered my questions regarding this linguistic issue. Their diverse responses inspired this article (which, of course, is not an excerpt from a new, revolutionary coursebook) and showed, once again, that English is evolving much faster than we realize. By the way, I hope I got all the nationalities right. If not, let me know.

An important note: My former boss, Petr, never drinks vodka and you can never come across him at a bar. 🙂

 

 

 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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12 Responses to An excerpt from a new (revolutionary) coursebook

  1. Tyson Seburn says:

    Interesting read. I concur with Peter on its usage in Canada, at least from my experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks, Tyson. I think you hit the nail on the head as our knowledge is to a great extent based on our experience. It’s always been like this but now that we have social media, we can share all the bits and pieces of our (linguistic) experience more easily and thus things sometimes get more complicated, especially or EFL teachers. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ChristinaC says:

    How did I miss that? (oh, right – keyword: Facebook).
    Somehow this made me think that you’re good at knitting too Hana, apart from your usual offering of excellent food for thought. You’ve wonderfully stiched this one. And my lovely fellow Greek is right, it is a typical response.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks, Christina. What a wonderful metaphor! Actually, I did do knitting when I was younger (and more patient). Now I only knit and stitch ideas, as you put it, which is an interesting pastime as well. 🙂 Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. tekhnologic says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I agree with the people that said ‘I’m good’ is an acceptable answer similar to ‘I’m fine.’ (If you are interested there is this: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/good-versus-well) However, because there are people that think it is incorrect, I tend to avoid its use in formal situations. Other than that, it’s all good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks! I really like what you say here: “…because there are people that think it is incorrect, I tend to avoid its use in formal situations”. Do you think this could be applied as a general rule in ELT? One of such formal situations are also tests, I believe. So, I think it’s good to tell students that something is widely used but at the same time, it’s necessary to inform them that they shouldn’t use it in a test (at least before it gets fully standardized).

      Liked by 1 person

      • tekhnologic says:

        I agree with you. I think it is definitely important to introduce registers, even if it is by an indirect approach. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules, but I think it is an important skill for higher level students to learn to take cues from whomever they are speaking to and that comes down to recognizing if something is formal, neutral or informal. And if you are unsure about the tone of the situation, you can always start of in neutral before changing gears.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandy Millin says:

    Love this 🙂 Wish I’d replied to the thread now!
    I think I find myself saying ‘Good, thanks! You?’ more and more, and feel like fine might be a bit more formal.
    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks for your take on this, Sandy. It seems that it all comes down to the degree of formality as well as location, i.e. where the person comes from/lives. Now, the question is: what do we do about this in the classroom? 🙂 To be honest, some of my students are much more knowledgeable than I am about various informalities of English. And they don’t even seem to think about it. Good or fine? Not a big deal for them really. They just know it exists, and they use it. Good for them. 🙂

      Happy New Year to you too!

      Like

      • Sandy Millin says:

        I think what you said in another comment about making it clear to them that more formal language is normally needed in exams is probably the only thing you can really do. Other than that, they’ll find the version that works for them when they come to need it in real life. Isn’t it amazing how easily we can attempt to ask and answer this kind of question now? 🙂 Happy New Year!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Teaching by principles | How I see it now

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