Tagged: argument

(And) besides

Besides…
And besides…

These are often used inaccurately as they don’t translate well from other languages.

Besides

Let’s use besides to modify the following argument:

I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. First of all I don’t like the film. Secondly, there is an unusual amount of traffic in town. Finally, we don’t have any money.

Here there are three supports for not wanting to see the film:

  1. I don’t like the film.
  2. The traffic in town is heavy.
  3. We don’t have any money.

The same argument could be expressed using besides, as follows:

I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. Besides not liking the film and the unusual amount of traffic in town, we don’t have any money.

The second sentence (the supports) can be represented:

Besides + claim(s) [expressed as noun phrases] + , + final claim [expressed as a sentence].

In this case ‘besides’ simply means ‘as well as’.

And besides

Here the meaning is a little different:

I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. First of all I don’t like the film. Secondly, there is an unusual amount of traffic in town. And besides, we don’t have any money.

The claim introduced by and besides is much stronger than the preceding claims. In fact, it is so strong that it is really not necessary to consider the previous claims. If we have no money, then there’s no way we can go to the cinema!

Again, it’s useful to diagram the structure:

Weak claim(s) + And besides + very strong [and final!] claim

Here the meaning is more than just ‘as well as’. ‘And besides’ introduces a very powerful claim that makes all other preceding claims redundant.

@eapguru

I love you because I love you

😦 Yes, I like my job because it matches my education.

In IELTS you will often be required to express opinions about topics that you may not have thought about very deeply or discussed in daily conversation with friends. Not only do you have to give opinions, you also have to give reasoned support for these opinions.

The opening statement can be expressed:

Claim: I like my job.
Support: My job matches my education.

Fine. But let’s say you studied chemistry at university and you now work as a chemist. Then you could say:

I like working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university.

OR

I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to work as a chemist.

But then it is possible to say:

I enjoy working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to be a chemist because I was studying chemistry because I wanted to be a chemist.

This is known as a circular argument. You say you like your job, and since you chose to study chemistry, we assume that you like that, too. So we still don’t know why you like chemistry (your job)! You might as well say “I like it because I like it!”

circularArgument

There are much better reasons why a person might like their job:

  • the job pays a good salary
  • the job involves travelling (which you enjoy)
  • the job involves meeting interesting people
  • the job presents opportunities for career development
  • the workplace is situated conveniently close to your home
  • (other reasons here)

So, when you’re preparing for IELTS, think – more deeply than usual – about the things you like (or don’t like). And then think about why you like (or don’t like) them.

Let’s practice right now. Here is a list of things people either like or don’t like. Choose one item and add a comment below, saying why you either like or don’t like the item. Try to give two reasons, and avoid those circular arguments!

  • travelling
  • shopping
  • reading
  • listening to music
  • preparing for IELTS

@eapguru

Book or film?

Students, especially Indonesian students, often tell me that they would much rather watch a film than read a book. Reading is boring, they say.

I would like to invite you to think again about reading.

My teaching colleagues and I would all agree that reading novels is fun, and we all recommend this kind of ‘extensive’ reading to our students. Most of us would also agree that when a film is made based on a book, the book is always much more satisfying than the film of the book.

Let’s try an experiment. Let’s see which you prefer – the book or the film? First you’re going to read and listen to a short text. Then you’re going to watch a movie clip based on the same text. Finally you’ll reflect on the experience and think again about which you prefer – reading or just ‘watching’.

Reading

1. Read the text shown in the clip below and use your imagination to picture what’s going on in the ‘story’. Think carefully about the imagery and about characters in the story. What do the people in the story look like? Where are they?

Watching

2. Now watch the ‘movie’. Compare what you see in the film to what you saw in your mind as you were reading. Did you ‘see’ the same things? How are the images in the video different from the images you saw in your mind when you were reading?

Reflection

3. So what do you think? Do you still prefer watching somebody else’s thoughts. Who is the best ‘director’? You when you read? Or someone else when they read?

I’d be very interested to know your thoughts about reading vs. viewing. What are your preferences and why? Please comment below.

And why do you think I showed a picture of an iceberg as the featured image for this post?

@eapguru

Opinion in topic sentences

A student recently asked what is the difference between the topic sentence of a body paragraph and the main claim of the paragraph.

Many students have read about ‘topic sentences’ and believe that it’s essential to make a separate sentence to introduce the topic before making any kind of argumentative claim:

(sample body paragraph #1)

The first issue to discuss relates to the use of police time in the enforcement of marijuana laws. If marijuana is legalised then valuable police time will be saved. First of all, supporting idea one blah blah blah blah blah. In addition, supporting idea two blah blah blah blah blah. Furthermore, supporting idea three blah blah blah blah blah. Finally, supporting idea four blah blah blah blah blah.

  • sentence 1: topic only (saving police time), no opinion
  • sentence 2: topic (saving police time) plus opinion (valuable police time will be saved)

This is unnecessary repetition. The second sentence already contains the topic AND the main claim of the paragraph, and so it already behaves like a topic sentence:

(sample body paragraph #2)

If marijuana is legalised then valuable police time will be saved. First of all, supporting idea one blah blah blah blah blah. In addition, supporting idea two blah blah blah blah blah. Furthermore, supporting idea three blah blah blah blah blah. Finally, supporting idea four blah blah blah blah.

In academic writing it is generally a good idea to get to the point as quickly and concisely as possible. This kind of writing is much easier to read and is more likely to result in a good score in IELTS Task 2 for task response and coherence and cohesion.

@eapguru