June 29, 2017

Small Talk for the 4th of July Holiday

The 4th of July is a much awaited summer holiday. For many students mid May to Mid June starts summer vacation. During the summer vacation, many look forward to celebrating Independence Day, which falls on July 4. While many working professionals do get July 4th off, as it is a national and bank holiday, some companies graciously may give July 3rd or July 5th off if July 4th is a Saturday or Sunday or to make it an extra long weekend or holiday. In addition, many parents may elect to take more days off to spend time with their kids who are at home during summer vacation. 

This year (2017), 4th of July falls on a Tuesday. During this holiday, many will go to the park for picnics, camp out, have bar-be-ques, go on road trips, or have fun at home with family and friends. Many will also go to see fireworks. While many towns have their fireworks display on July 4th, many other towns may start their fireworks displays a few days before or elect to conduct them up to a few days after the 4th of July. Therefore, fireworks can be seen in many city night skies for about a week during the 4th of July holiday.  

When speaking to your US counterparts on July 3 (or days preceding this holiday), here are a few small talk phrases or questions that can be used to stimulate conversations and build relationships:
Indian employees learn American holidays through interactive games
and role plays. Here, they learn about American symbols for the 4th of
July through a fun craft project. More about US culture training here.
  • So, tomorrow is the 4th of July. How do you celebrate?
  • What kind of fun stuff do you do on the 4th of July? 
  • I heard many Americans go on a vacation for the Independence Day holiday. Will you also be going away? 
  • I heard the fireworks for the 4th of July are spectacular! Will you be seeing fireworks? 
  • How do you celebrate the 4th of July? 
  • I know that many people have a bar-be-que on the 4th of July, will you also be attending a bar-be-que?
  • Do you do anything special to celebrate the 4th of July? 
These are just a few conversation starters. When the other person answers you, find something interesting in it and reply back. For instance, 

“How do you celebrate the 4th of July?” 
“My family and I have a family gathering at the lake, and in the evening watch fireworks. Maybe we will go camping.” 
(Find something interesting in their response and respond accordingly.)
“Wow, you go to the lake! I also love to go to the lake. Do you go boating?” 

Keep in mind that unless your US counterpart brings up ‘family and friends’ do not broach this topic first. Direct all questions to that individual himself.

Another exception is talking about gas prices. While Americans don't typically like to be asked about how much they spent on things, they are more open to talk about gas prices. Similar to Memorial Day (the last Monday of May), Americans will always talk and probably complain about the cost of gas as many take road trips during this time. The videos below are news clips from 2017 on the cost of gas during the 4th of July and summer holiday season.

Florida gas prices start summer at 12-year low - watch on YouTube

Fourth of July gas prices will be at their lowest in more than a decade - watch on YouTube

Note a few other interesting phrases/words:
Going away, going out of town, going on a vacation – all of these phrases means “out of station” in Indian English. Americans do not say “out of station.”
Days off or take off days – In Indian English the closest equivalent is “leave” or “take an off”. Americans do not use those two phrases.

Feel free to add additional conversation starters and small talk you have used in your interactions about the 4th of July with your US counterparts in the comments below.

Here’s a short video of a fireworks display held in Rochester, New York a few years ago. Enjoy! Happy 4th of July!

A fun word search to use to expose yourself to new American English words and idioms used to discuss America's Independence Day is below.

Author, Jennifer Kumar is a corporate communication coach and cross cultural trainer helping Indians create better relationships with their US counterparts. 

Related Posts: 
What to wear on America's Independence Day? 
American and Indian Holidays 2016 
Effortless Small Talk with Americans  
More easy tips on casual talk with US team members 
Why do Americans over plan vacations? Can't they just relax and go with the flow?  
India's Independence Day - August 15 

Networked blogs link: http://networkedblogs.com/MN4MH

June 28, 2017

What is the Fourth of July?

"My American client wished me a happy 4th of July. What does that mean? It's just a date, right?"

As an American, born and raised, this question totally took me off guard! When it was asked, I answered with a stunned silence, trying to get into the person's head who asked me this to think of their context. The person who asked me was an Indian (from India), who does celebrate Independence Day in India, but on August 15, not July 4th. Also, as far as I know, I have never heard Indians say "Happy August 15th" to each other!

June 26, 2017

What to Wear on Independence Day in the U.S.

As the most anticipated summertime holiday, celebrating the 4th of July in the U.S. is something to look forward to. Let's see what people wear to show their affection or patriotism for America on this special day. 

While many countries have an Independence Day, it may not be customary to wear anything special to show one's affinity to the country. As a foreigner, expat or international student in the U.S., there are a few things you can wear to show others you are commemorating or celebrating the holiday. 

May 25, 2017

British vs. American English: Word Lists, Grammar Tips, Accent and More

This post will provide an overview of some of the key differences of British (United Kingdom - UK) English and American English. This post will give you guidelines in how to use these two languages, especially in interacting with American clients.

These two Englishes vary in many ways:
  1. Spelling
  2. Grammar
  3. Accent 
  4. Word Use
  5. Slang

May 22, 2017

Do I Use Were or We're?

Some get confused between the words were and we're. Let's look at the difference and a simple way to self-correct. 

Jennifer Kumar, author, at the Taj Mahal
in the year 2000. Read more here.
Were - When to Use
While "were" is second person singular past, plural past, and past subjunctive of be, I promise not to get too much into the technical aspects of grammar here. Were is used to talk about somebody having been somewhere. For instance, we could say, "Where were you?" or "Were you at the Taj Mahal?" or even, "They were at the Taj Mahal." 

When we are talking about someone being somewhere "were" is spelled as one word without the apostrophe between the e and the r. For example, "We're you at the Taj Mahal?" is incorrect. 

*Note: While "we're" and "were" are pretty much pronounced the same, "where" and "were" do not sound the same. The video below will help you to get the difference easily and quickly.

We're - When to Use 
We're is a contraction. That means this word is actually made up of two words. We + are = we're. Hence, the words we're and were have two different meanings. 

We're does not expand to we were.

While it is perfectly fine to say, "Where were you?" it is not at all correct to write, "Where we're you?"  (Note: In spoken English "were" and "we're" are pronounced the same way.)
While saying, "Were you at the Taj Mahal?" is correct, "We're you at the Taj Mahal?" is incorrect. 

Can "We're" and "Were" Come in the Same Sentence?
As "we're" is present tense and "were" is in versions of past tense sentences, it's doubtful.

Learn to Self-Correct: We're vs. Were 
In my eyes, the easiest way to try to self-correct is to write the sentence with "we're" then again expanding this to "we are" and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it does, then "we're" is the correct word. However, if it doesn't make sense, then "were" is the correct word.

With "we're": Where we're you? 
Expanded: Where we are you?
Ask yourself: "Does this make sense?"
If yes, then keep it as "we're," if not, change it to "were."
In this case it is WRONG. So, we must write, "Where were you?"

With "we're": We're going to the Taj Mahal?
Expanded: We are going to the Taj Mahal?
Ask yourself: "Does this make sense?"
If yes, then keep it as "we're," if not, change it to "were."
In this case it is RIGHT, so no changes are needed.

With "we're": We're you at the Taj Mahal?
Expanded: We are you at the Taj Mahal?
Ask yourself: "Does this make sense?"
If yes, then keep it as "we're," if not, change it to "were."
In this case it is WRONG. So, we must write, "Were you at the Taj Mahal?"

With "we're": They we're at the Taj Mahal.
Expanded: They we are at the Taj Mahal.
Ask yourself: "Does this make sense?"
If yes, then keep it as "we're," if not, change it to "were."
In this case it is WRONG. So, we must write, "They were at the Taj Mahal."

I hope these tips help you to self-correct your English grammar when using the words "were" and "we're." Feel free to get in touch with us if you'd like to take grammar or email coaching with our grammar experts over Skype.

Related posts: 
How to use the full stop or period 
When to use the question mark 
When to use advice vs. advise