5. Functions

Language teachers use the term function for a task such as thanking someone or making a request. The words we use for these tasks can be called functional language.

a. To help us analyse functions, here’s an example text. It’s Samira’s reply to Graham’s email, as we read in part 3.

  • What is the main function of this email?
  • What additional functions are covered by the email?
Dear Graham,

Many thanks for your email. I really appreciate the fact that both you and Stacey took the time to apologise, and I fully understand that these mix-ups can happen.

Of course, I would very much like to proceed with the application, and I would be able to speak with you via Zoom any time after 3pm Monday. My Zoom account is ######. If you could let me know an approximate time for the interview, I will make sure I am by the computer.

I am looking forward to meeting you and finding out more about the role,
Kind regards,

b. Discuss

  • (i) Overall, how formal and how friendly is this email? How does it compare with Graham’s email to Samira?
  • (ii) What do you think of the way Samira responded to Graham’s apology? Would you have said anything different?
  • (iii) What type of sentence does she use to make a request? What other ways are there to phrase a request?

c. Supposing Samira decided she didn’t want the job, what would she have put in the email?

  • Make a list of functions that would be needed in this case.

d. What functions might need to be included in your emails in these two scenarios?

(i) You’ve just been sent an invoice which contains an extra charge, so you’re replying to question the supplier and find out why the amount is more than expected.

(ii) A salesperson has emailed you about a software product, and wants to call you soon to discuss it. Normally, you’d politely decline such offers, but in this case it sounds like the product is exactly what your team needs: it could cut out some of the most annoying parts of the job and save a lot of money for your employer. You would like to know how much the software costs and how easily it could be set up, but you haven’t time to listen on the phone to a lot of sales talk.

e. Use worksheet 5E to test out and expand your knowledge of functional language for emails

(Your teacher can send you this pdf worksheet)

f. Let’s discuss difficult email functions or situations.

  • Which are the trickiest functions to find suitable phrases for?
  • What makes these ones difficult? What can go wrong?
  • What are the best ‘rules of thumb’ when dealing with a tricky situation?

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