Do you know how to argue in English? Listen to this episode to find out how to build your argumentation skills and apply these in your personal life, work-life, and academic life!
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- To persuade (v): To convince someone to accept your viewpoint or take a particular action.
- The teacher tried to persuade the students to participate in the community clean-up event by explaining its importance.
- To convince (v): To make someone believe or agree with a certain idea or argument.
- After presenting all the evidence, she managed to convince her colleagues that the new project proposal was worth pursuing.
- Counterargument (n): Opposing viewpoints or arguments that challenge the main argument.
- In the debate, she carefully considered and refuted several counterarguments to strengthen her position on the environmental issue.
- Credibility (adj): The trustworthiness and believability of a source or speaker.
- The scientist’s long history of accurate research gave him credibility when discussing climate change.
- Antithesis (n): Presenting contrasting ideas to highlight the strengths of your argument.
- By comparing the benefits of recycling to the environmental costs of waste disposal, she used antithesis to underscore the importance of recycling.
- Active listening (n): Paying close attention to what others are saying.
- During the team meeting, he demonstrated active listening by nodding, asking clarifying questions, and summarizing his colleagues’ viewpoints.
- To resonate (v): Elicits a positive response or connection with the audience.
- The speaker’s passionate speech about equal rights resonated with the audience, prompting a standing ovation.
In today’s interconnected world, the ability to argue, win arguments, and persuade in English is not just a valuable skill; it’s a tool that can lead to personal and professional success. Whether you’re presenting a case at work, engaging in passionate conversations with friends, or expressing your ideas in writing, the ability to argue is always useful.
And that is what this episode of Thinking in English is going to explore. We are going to look into various aspects of argumentation, from the basic elements of grammar and vocabulary to the art of persuasion and the strategies for winning arguments.
Whether you are a student looking to get a high mark in your English essays, a professional aiming for career advancement, or simply someone passionate about improving their English language skills, hopefully this episode will help you achieve your goals.
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Why Learning to Argue Matters
Why does learning to argue in English matter?
Imagine being able to express your ideas persuasively, whether it’s convincing your colleagues at work, debating a topic with friends, or negotiating a business deal. This ability is an essential skill for upper-intermediate English learners to acquire.
Let’s consider some everyday scenarios where the ability to argue makes a real difference.
At Work: Picture yourself in a meeting where you need to propose a new project idea. To succeed, you must articulate your thoughts clearly and convincingly. When your colleagues, managers, or company executives disagree with you or question your ideas, you need to be able to argue and debate professionally.
With Friends: Think about a friendly discussion about your next vacation destination. Your ability to argue your case effectively could mean going to your dream location. Arguments with friends, family, or partners happen almost every day.
In Academics: For students, mastering argumentation is critical for writing persuasive essays or participating in classroom debates. Virtually every essay, paper, assignment and thesis I wrote throughout my time at university required a strong and convincing argument.
Learning how to argue also helps you avoid misunderstandings. English is a nuanced language, and if you can’t express your ideas effectively, others might misinterpret your intentions. This can result in frustration and miscommunication.
As you develop your argumentation skills, you’ll naturally become more confident in your English-speaking abilities. Confidence is a vital element of successful communication. When you believe in your ability to express yourself, you’ll engage more readily in conversations and discussions.
Beyond everyday life, argumentation is a skill that can significantly impact your career. Think about job interviews or negotiations for a promotion. If you can make a compelling case for yourself, you’re more likely to achieve your professional goals.
Knowing how to argue is not just about winning debates; it’s about effectively conveying your thoughts, opinions, and ideas. It allows you to navigate through complex discussions and ensure that your voice is heard.
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Developing Your Argumentation Skills
When thinking about your argument, there are a few different sections that can help you structure your debate.
You should begin with a hook.
This is often a strong statement or thought-provoking question that grabs attention. It can get your argument off to a great start.
Some useful phrases here are:
- Have you ever…?
- Many believe…
- What would…?
After your hook you can introduce some useful background information. I always spend time introducing the background information and context when I write arguments in Thinking in English episodes. It helps make everything clear and creates what is called a frame of reference.
After the background is the thesis.
This is your main argument. This is the key point you are trying to convince others with. This is why your company should give you a raise; why your friends should order pizza instead of pasta. This is the main argument.
Next, it is a good idea to present your evidence. Use reason and evidence to support your argument and show the power of your ideas. This could be statistics, facts, numbers, or research from experts.
It is also important to look at counterarguments (arguments opposite to what you are stating). This shows you have done your research, and also allows you to show why you disagree with it.
And finally, you have a conclusion. Where you summarise your main points and leave a lasting impression.
Vocabulary is also important when arguing. The richer your vocabulary, the more effectively you can build your case.
1. Agreement and Disagreement:
- Agree: Concur, support, endorse, advocate
- Disagree: Oppose, refute, contradict, challenge, dissent
2. Introducing Arguments:
- Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly: To structure your argument.
- Furthermore, Moreover, Additionally: To add more points or evidence.
- In addition to, Not only… but also: To emphasize the importance of multiple points.
3. Providing Evidence:
- For example, For instance, Such as: To introduce specific examples.
- In other words, That is to say: To rephrase or clarify a point.
- According to, Research indicates, Studies have shown: To reference credible sources.
4. Contrasting Ideas:
- However, Nevertheless, On the other hand: To present opposing viewpoints or contrasting ideas.
- While, Although, Even though: To acknowledge a counterargument before refuting it.
5. Concluding and Summarizing:
- In conclusion, To sum up, To summarize: To signal the end of your argument.
- Therefore, Hence, Thus: To indicate a logical result or conclusion.
- Overall, All in all, To conclude: To give a final assessment.
6. Strong Statements and Emphasis:
- Undoubtedly, Certainly, Clearly: To emphasize the strength of your argument.
- Crucially, Importantly, Significantly: To highlight the importance of a point.
7. Expressing Certainty and Uncertainty:
- Definitely, Absolutely, Without a doubt: To show certainty.
- Possibly, Perhaps, It’s conceivable: To express uncertainty or a degree of doubt.
- Some may argue, It could be argued that: To introduce potential counterarguments.
- On the contrary, Contrarily, Conversely: To transition into a counterargument.
9. Transition Words and Phrases:
- Furthermore, Additionally, Moreover: To add information.
- In contrast, On the contrary, However: To show contrast.
- Therefore, Consequently, As a result: To indicate cause and effect.
10. Persuasive Language:
- Compelling, Convincing, Persuasive: To describe strong arguments.
- Irrefutable, Unassailable, Incontrovertible: To describe evidence that cannot be disputed.
The Art of Persuasion
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
Learning how to argue in English require more than just a knowledge of vocabulary. You need to know how to use this language effectively.
Three key elements can help you become more persuasive in arguments:
The first is Ethos. Ethos appeals to your credibility and trustworthiness. To use ethos effectively, establish yourself as a knowledgeable and reliable source. Cite credible references and speak with authority on the topic.
Presenting yourself as an expert, or using expert evidence, is an excellent tool to make your arguments more convincing or strong.
When you go to visit a doctor for a surgery, you feel more confident when they use expert qualifications.
“As a renowned heart surgeon with over 20 years of experience, I can assure you that this procedure is safe and effective.”
In this statement, the speaker, a renowned heart surgeon, is using their professional expertise and experience to establish their credibility (ethos) in order to persuade the audience that the medical procedure they are discussing is trustworthy and reliable.
Next is pathos. This appeals to emotions. To tap into pathos, connect with your audience on an emotional level.
There are various ways to do this. You could share personal anecdotes. This is a tactic I use in Thinking in English episodes – using stories and more about my life to make my arguments and ideas more convincing and relatable.
Other ways to appeal to emotion is through the use of vivid language or by telling stories that evoke empathy or stir emotions.
Have you ever seen a TV commercial encouraging you to donate to charities? They use pathos all the time.
“Imagine the faces of these starving children, their eyes filled with tears and hopelessness. By donating just a small amount, you can make a significant difference in their lives.”
In this statement, vivid and emotional language evokes empathy and compassion in the audience. The image of starving children with tears in their eyes is meant to tug at the audience’s heartstrings and motivate them to take action (donating) out of a sense of empathy and care. This is an appeal to pathos.
Finally, we have logos. This appeals to logic and reason. Use sound logic, facts, statistics, and evidence to support your arguments. Make sure your ideas are clear, rational, and well-structured.
“Research shows that regular exercise, combined with a balanced diet, can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. By making these healthy lifestyle choices, you can increase your life expectancy and improve your overall well-being.”
In this statement, the speaker is using logical reasoning and evidence-based information (research) to support the argument that regular exercise and a balanced diet lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and improved health. This appeal to reason and evidence is an example of logos.
Techniques for Persuasive Language
How can we add persuasive language to our writing? Well, there are a number of different techniques to incorporate persuasive language into your arguments:
One tactic I often use is Rhetorical Questions. These are thought-provoking questions to engage your audience and guide them to your intended conclusion.
Actually, I just used one of these rhetorical questions introducing this part of the episode.
“How can we add persuasive language to our writing?”
Rhetorical questions are designed to keep the audience thinking and engaged.
As well rhetorical questions, I often use repetition when arguing. I like to reiterate key points or phrases to emphasize their importance.
This doesn’t mean saying the exact same thing again and again. Instead, you can try to rephrase certain parts of your argument or restate specific points.
Another tactic for effective arguments is antithesis. In other words, you can present contrasting ideas in close proximity to highlight the strengths of your argument.
Take the opposite perspective and use it show how your argument is better.
An example of antithesis comes from the great Martin Luther King, Jr:
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Moreover, analogies and metaphors are very popular persuasive techniques. We can use these to simplify complex concepts and make them more relatable.
An analogy is a comparison between two things to highlight their similarities, while a metaphor is a figure of speech that implies a direct similarity between two unrelated things for rhetorical effect.
For example, when arguing about the value of teamwork in a workplace, you might say,
“Teamwork is like a well-oiled machine; each part must work together smoothly for the whole system to function efficiently.”
Or in an argument about the importance of innovation, you could use the metaphor,
“Creativity is the fuel that propels us forward.”
One of the most potent tools in persuasion is storytelling. Humans are naturally drawn to narratives and tales shared by other people.
During an argument, negotiation or debate, you could share relevant stories, anecdotes, or case studies to illustrate your points. Stories not only make your arguments more engaging but also help your audience remember and connect with your message.
In persuasive arguments, it’s also vital to strike a balance between emotions and logic. While pathos can tug at heartstrings, it must be supported by strong logos to maintain credibility.
Avoid emotional manipulation and ensure your emotional appeals are authentic and relevant to the topic.
Remember that different audiences may respond to persuasion techniques differently. Adjust your approach to your specific audience’s needs, interests, and values. What resonates with one group might not work for another.
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Winning Arguments: Strategies and Tactics
We have covered a lot about arguments in English so far. Vocabulary, persuasive language, the importance of logic, and why argumentation is an important skill for English learners.
But… how can you actually win an argument?
First, one of the fundamental strategies for winning arguments is thorough preparation.
Research, research, research. Gather as much information as possible about your topic. The more you know, the better you can anticipate counterarguments and strengthen your own position.
Following on from this, you need to anticipate counterarguments. Think critically about potential objections to your argument. Think about what your opponent is going to say.
At university, this could be an alternative theory or perspective. At work, this could mean anticipating your manager’s objections to how much your new project is going to cost. In your personal life, this could be understanding how your friends are going to argue for the restaurant you don’t like.
By addressing these counterarguments in advance, you’ll appear well-prepared and more convincing. You can prepare what to say in these situations.
Second, winning arguments isn’t just about making your case; it’s also about understanding and respecting your opponent’s viewpoint. Active listening and empathy play crucial roles.
Active listening means paying close attention to what your opponent is saying. Avoid interrupting and ask clarifying questions if necessary. This not only shows respect but also helps you respond effectively.
And incorporating empathy into your argument involves trying to see the argument from your opponent’s perspective. Acknowledge their valid points and concerns. This can create common ground and make your position more reasonable.
Third, maintain a respectful tone.
Maintaining a respectful tone is essential for winning arguments, especially in English where politeness is highly valued. Avoid personal attacks, name-calling, or aggressive language.
Instead, focus on the issues and ideas at hand. A respectful tone not only wins arguments but also fosters positive relationships.
Evidence and Examples
Moreover, supporting your arguments with evidence and examples is a winning strategy. This adds credibility to your position. Use:
- Facts and Statistics: Present concrete data to back up your claims.
- Expert Testimony: Quote experts in the field who support your perspective.
- Real-Life Examples: Share real-world stories or examples that illustrate your point.
Know When to Give Up
Finally, you should know when to give up.
Winning an argument doesn’t always mean convincing the other party completely. Sometimes, it means knowing when to concede gracefully.
If you realize that your opponent has a stronger position, acknowledging their point can demonstrate intellectual honesty and open the door for future constructive discussions.
Or if you realise the other person is not going to change their mind, no matter what your argument is, then you may want to consider giving up!
Overall, winning arguments in English involves a combination of preparation, active listening, empathy, maintaining a respectful tone, using evidence, and staying calm under pressure.
Learning to argue effectively in English is a valuable skill for success in various aspects of life. Practice these techniques, stay confident, and remember that each argument is a chance to improve your communication skills and reach your goals.
Keep learning, and you’ll see how persuasive language can shape your world.
What do you think? When was your last argument in English?
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Vocabulary Games and Activities!
Learn and practice vocabulary from this Thinking in English episode. Practice using 5 different study games and activities – including writing, listening, and memorisation techniques!