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Beginner Season 1, Lesson 12 - Could I Speak with You?
Chihiro: Chihiro here.
Daniel: Daniel here. Beginner series, season one, lesson twelve. “Could I Speak with You?” Chihiro
Daniel: With us, you’ll learn to speak English with fun and effective lessons.
Chihiro: Daniel
Daniel: And tips that you won’t find in a textbook. In this lesson, you will learn how to make polite requests using the past tense.
Chihiro: This conversation takes place at Professor Brooks’ office at Innovative University (IU).
Daniel: The conversation is between Vicky and Professor Brooks.
Chihiro: The speakers are teacher and student. Therefore, the
speakers will be speaking a little bit formally.
Daniel: Basic and premium members,
Chihiro: If you have a 3G phone,
Daniel: You can see the lesson notes in your favorite browser on your phone.
Chihiro: Stop by EnglishClass101.com to find out more.
Daniel: Alright, let’s listen to the conversation.
Vicky: Professor Brooks?
Professor: Hello there, um…
Vicky: Vicky. I'm in your English Literature 101 class.
Professor: Ah, right, call me Alan.
Vicky: Could I speak with you?
Professor: Sure, come in and have a seat. What can I help you with?
Vicky: Well, I was sick and missed classes for two weeks, which means I missed the midterm.
Professor: Oh right, I received your email about that. I will let you take it on Thursday since you were such a good student last term, unlike Mike who slept through almost every class.
Vicky: He did not!
Professor: I'm joking, of course. However, I did catch him once or twice. If he would rest more, he wouldn't be so sleepy.
Vicky: Yeah, he worked late every night.
Professor: Going back to the midterm, did you want to ask me any questions about it?
Vicky: No, I think I will be okay. Thank you so much, Alan. I'll see you on Thursday!
Professor: You're welcome Vicky. Come see me anytime.
Daniel: Chihiro, that's one thing I liked about the university. If you had a good reason, some professors were flexible with deadlines and test dates.
Chihiro: I had many understanding professors... but I also a handful of the not-so-flexible ones.
Daniel: Yes, they are around! But you can see in the dialogue that Professor Brooks is the understanding type. Notice how he prefers to be called by his first name as well.
Chihiro: Right, although this varies from professor to professor. They usually will tell you how they prefer to be called. If they don't, you probably should play it safe by referring to them as professor so-and-so.
Daniel: Right, that's a good idea.
Daniel: Let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
The first word we shall see is:
Chihiro: professor [natural native speed]
Daniel: teacher at a college or university
Chihiro: professor [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Chihiro: professor [natural native speed]
literature [natural native speed]
Daniel: writings in the form of poetry, novels, history, biographies, or essays
literature [slowly - broken down by syllable] literature [natural native speed]
Chihiro: sick [natural native speed]
Daniel: being of ill health
Chihiro: sick [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Chihiro: sick [natural native speed]
to miss [natural native speed]
Daniel: to fail to attend, perform, or reach something to miss [slowly - broken down by syllable] to miss [natural native speed]
Chihiro: midterm [natural native speed]
Daniel: an examination given in the middle of an academic term
Chihiro: midterm [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Chihiro: midterm [natural native speed]
term [natural native speed]
Daniel: duration of time assigned to something term [slowly - broken down by syllable] term [natural native speed]
Chihiro: once [natural native speed]
Daniel: one time
Chihiro: once [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Chihiro: once [natural native speed]
twice [natural native speed]
Daniel: two times
twice [slowly - broken down by syllable] twice [natural native speed]
Chihiro: seat [natural native speed]
Daniel: a place for sitting, a thing on which to sit
Chihiro: seat [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Chihiro: seat [natural native speed]
to receive [natural native speed]
Daniel: to get or be given something
to receive [slowly - broken down by syllable] to receive [natural native speed]
Daniel: Let’s look at some of the usages of the words and phrases from this lesson.
Chihiro: The first phrase is, "I'm joking". This is a popular phrase used to tell the listener that what has just been said is not to be taken seriously. Alan said that Mike slept through every class, which is not true, so he adds “I'm joking” to mean that he was exaggerating.
Daniel: Another way to use this phrase is with "you are" as in, "you're joking". It’s a way to express disbelief while asking for confirmation at the same time. For example, "I heard that the tiger escaped from its cage at the circus and scared the crowd."
Chihiro: "What? You're joking!?"
Daniel: I can tell that Chihiro is having a hard time believing what I have just told her.
Chihiro: That would be pretty scary if it were true!
Daniel: Mm-hmm.
Chihiro: The second phrase we'll look at is "I did catch him once or twice". The word “catch” in this phrase does not mean the physical grasping of an object.
Daniel: It doesn't. It means to suddenly notice or become aware of something. In this case, the professor says that he caught Mike sleeping in class, which means that he noticed Mike sleeping in his class.
Chihiro: It is commonly used when someone becomes aware of someone or something that is out of the ordinary or incorrect. Another example is, "My brother caught me taking his favorite DVD to my friend's house," meaning, that I didn't ask permission from my brother to take the DVD, and my brother noticed that.
Daniel: Good example, and now the grammar point.

Lesson focus

Daniel: The focus of this lesson is the simple past.
Chihiro: For example, in the the dialogue we heard the sentence, “I missed the midterm.”
Daniel: In Beginner Series, Season 1, Lesson 6 we learned about the simple aspect. In this lesson, we focus on
the combination of the simple aspect and the past tense.
Chihiro: This combination is usually called the simple past tense.
Daniel: In Lesson 6 we explained that the simple aspect’s core meaning is “unchanging”. That is, the event we are talking about is thought of as a complete whole and not as an event that we expect to change. We also taught that we use the past tense to talk about events that happened before now.
Chihiro: For example, when we talk about yesterday, we usually use the past tense. For example, I might say, “I ate a hamburger for dinner last night.” “Ate” is the past tense of “eat”.
Daniel: There are other uses for the past tense, so we will introduce them in this lesson. In Lesson 9 we taught the core meaning of the present tense as “immediate”, that is “closeness” along with “factuality”.
Chihiro: In other words, the present tense is used to talk about immediate facts.
Daniel: The core meaning of the past tense is “remoteness” or “distance”. It could be remoteness of time (that’s the usual understanding of the past), or remoteness of reality, or social remoteness. When we combine the core meaning of the simple aspect with the core meaning of the past tense, we come up with “remote, unchanging facts.”
Chihiro: But, before we look at how the simple past is used, we will just mention about the formation of the past tense. Generally speaking, we add the D sound to the end of verbs in the past tense.
Daniel: However, there are many verbs though that do not follow the easy pattern. We call these irregular verbs. For example, the past of “swim”, which is not “swimmed,” but “swam”.
Chihiro: These verbs simply have to be remembered. For more about this and also for an explanation about the spelling of these verbs, see the lesson notes.
Daniel: Let’s now look at how the simple past was used in
this lesson. Chihiro, do you have an example from the dialogue?
Chihiro: Yes. In the dialogue, Vicky said, “I missed the midterm.”
Daniel: That's right. This is the most common use of the simple past. The sentence refers to a single, completed event that happened before now. Let’s look how it fits the aspect and tense. The simple aspect’s core meaning is “unchanging”, and Vicky’s missing the midterm is an event that will not change. We said that the core meaning of the past tense is remoteness. In this case, the remoteness, or distance, refers to time. So, we see that unchanging events that are remote in time, that is, that they happened before now, can use the simple past.
Chihiro: Listeners, can you find other similar uses in the dialogue? We noticed three other cases of this use. Please write what you find in the comments section on the website.
Daniel: Yes, please do. Okay. Let's look at the next use of the simple past. What is our example?
Chihiro: Vicky said about Mike, “Yeah, he worked late every night.”
Daniel: In Lesson 9 we saw that the simple present is used to talk about current habits. This is because the simple aspect has the idea of “unchanging”, and habits are no longer habits if they change. In our example, Vicky is talking about Mike’s habit, so she uses the simple aspect. But, since this is a habit that is remote from the present, she also uses the past tense.
Chihiro: So, habits that have ended can be described using the simple past.
Daniel: Exactly. Alright, next we will look at how the simple past is used to talk about an event that took time that is no longer happening. What is our example?
Chihiro: Well, in the dialogue, Vicky said she missed classes for 2 weeks.
Daniel: Right. Unlike our first use when Vicky missed the midterm, which is only a single event, in this case,
Vicky missed classes several times. But the same rules of aspect and tense apply. That is, because the event is unchanging and remote in time, we use the simple past to describe it. This use is often used for even longer events.
Chihiro: For example, Professor Brooks might tell Vicky, “I taught at another university for 10 years.” Again, the event was over time, but since it is no longer true, and it is unchanging and remote in time, the simple past is used.
Daniel: Good example. Another use of the simple past is to talk about past states. Do we have another example in the dialogue?
Chihiro: We sure do. In the dialogue, Professor Brooks tells Vicky he will let her make up the test because, as he said, “You were such a good student last term.”
Daniel: Last term shows that the event is remote in time, and Vicky’s state of being a good student then cannot change. Therefore, the simple past is used.
Chihiro: What's our next use?
Daniel: The next use for the simple past we will look at is with an imagined situation with a reference to the present. Please notice this use, because we are NOT talking about a past event. So Chihiro, what's our example?
Chihiro: In the dialogue, Professor Brooks is talking about Mike and he says, “If he rested more, he wouldn’t be so sleepy.”
Daniel: He is talking about Mike’s current state of being sleepy, but he uses the past tense of the verb rest. Why? Because we are talking about an imagined situation; it is remote from reality. Also, because it is imaginary, it is also unchanging.
Chihiro: So, please remember this use for the simple past form to talk about an event that is not in the past.
Daniel: Lastly, we will look at another use for the simple past that does not refer to a past event. The simple past can be used for social distancing. What's our example?
Chihiro: We see an example of this in the dialogue when Vicky asks the professor, “Could I speak with you?”
Daniel: Even though Vicky’s request is for the present situation, she uses the past form of “can”, that is, “could”, to ask a favor of the professor. This use of the simple past shows respect to the professor, a kind of social distancing.
Chihiro: However, this form can also be used with peers or even those below our social status when asking a favor.
Daniel: That's right. Again, even though the request is in the present situation, there is a kind of remoteness because the student should show respect to the professor.
Chihiro: There is another example of social distancing in the dialogue. Listeners, can you find it? Please post your findings in the comments.
Daniel: Well, through these examples, we can see that the simple past has several uses. But, by focusing on the core meaning of both the simple aspect and the past tense, we can recognize the differences in meaning and use.


Chihiro: Before we finish, let me remind you of a language tip. Be sure to review lesson notes for this and the earlier lessons. If you can master the aspect and tense of verbs, you will be able to take your English to the next level!
Daniel: Good advice! That just about does it for today. OK, some of our listeners already know about the most powerful tool on EnglishClass101.com
Chihiro: Line by line audio.
Daniel: It’s the perfect tool for rapidly improving listening comprehension.
Chihiro: by listening to lines of the conversation again and again..
Daniel: listen until every word and syllable becomes clear.
Basically, we break down the dialogue into comprehensible, bite-size sentences.
Chihiro: You can try the line by line audio in the premium
learning center at EnglishClass101.com
Daniel: That’s going to do it for today. Take care, everybody.
Chihiro: Bye, everyone.


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