How to give explanations in English

Explaining is about making somebody understand something. When we explain, we often provide details of reasons about the thing, process, situation or theory we are discussing.

Explanations usually link cause with effect. For instance, we were you late home (the effect)? Because, I had to work late in the office (the cause).

In this podcast, we are going to look at some phrases used in English to give explanations.

I live in Spain and, when I’m not speaking English, I communicate in Spanish. My Spanish isn’t perfect – far from it – but I can generally express my ideas and opinions in most situations, although I make lots of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation mistakes. In fact, sometimes I even dream in Spanish.

But, the thing is, no matter how good my Spanish might become, I doubt whether I will ever feel 100% comfortable speaking Spanish. The truth is I feel like I have a different personality when I speak Spanish.

What about you? Do you feel like you have a different personality when you speak English? Do you feel like a different person when you speak English?

Why should that be the case? Why do we feel like we have a different personality when we speak a second or foreign language?

I’m going to explain why I think we feel this way. I’m going to discuss some of the possible causes for this effect.

The reason for this effect is that we have an emotional attachment to our first language, because it is the language we used as a child. Our deepest and oldest memories, the ones we have carried with us all our lives, are recorded in that first language. As we grew older, our bodies change but the core, the foundation of our personality, is expressed in our mother tongue.

One possible explanation is that we have the chance to create a new personality for ourselves when we learn a second language. We can be like actors performing a role. If we are shy in our first language, we can choose to be more confident and extroverted in our second language. This can be quite liberating for many people as we can create a second language alter-ego.

On the other hand, many people feel less comfortable and confident when speaking a second language. What’s responsible for that is that we do not have the language resources to express ourselves in a sophisticated way and this is really frustrating for adults. We feel like we are children again, communicating in an infantile way when we speak with adults. Let me explain, when we communicate in our first language, we have mastered the ability of complex communication. We are much more successful at finding appropriate ways and phrases to clearly express our ideas and opinions. We don’t have to worry about making grammar mistakes or mispronouncing words. And when we make mistakes, we are able to self-correct. We are able to communicate as equals with other adults. When we communicate in a foreign language with native speakers of that language, we notice the difference between their sophisticated use of language and our simple childish attempts at conversation.

There’s no doubt in my mind that successful learners of a foreign language realise that they are not the same person when they communicate in a second language. It could well be that trying to express the same personality in your second language causes people to feel frustrated and uncomfortable. So, I’d say that we feel like we have a different personality in our second language because our public persona is actually different.

So, let’s quickly review some of the phrases I used:

The reason for ……

One possible explanation is that….

What’s responsible for this effect is….

Let me explain,……

There’s no doubt in my mind……..

It could well be that…………

I’d say that ………..

Well, what do you think? Do you feel that you have a different personality when you speak English? If so, what are the possible causes of this effect?


5 thoughts on “How to give explanations in English

  1. To so me extent how we speak defines us. That is to say that our choice of words and phrases tell others about how we think, our knowledge of certain topics, our sense of reasoning etc. When I began to learn English as a second language I not only tried to learn the language itself but also the ways a native perceives life and its surroundings. That’s why learning a second language brings about some change in our personality. We grow beyond our own culture. That’s why I feel I am a little different when I speak English.


    • Thanks for your insightful comment Mohammed. I agree with you that speaking another language provides you with a different perspective and you begin to see your surroundings and the people around you in a new light.


  2. definitely yes. I am urttery changed when I start speaking English[not good at speaking though], I do not know the reason for it but I guess the reason why I’m diffirent is that I listen to people saying carefully in order to understand. However, when I listen to Korean which is my country’s language in order to respond immediately withouth thinking.


    • I think listening is almost automatic in our first language – except when we are listening carefully to something complex or really important – so we can focus on thinking about how to respond. When listening in our second language, we pay more more conscious attention to what the speaker is saying, which means we need more time to formulate a response. This might be why it takes lot of time and practice to reach fluency.
      Thanks for your comment.


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