Seminars in the UK are an opportunity for you to explore the ideas from your lectures in more detail with your classmates under the guidance of a tutor.

Seminars in the UK can be very different depending on the course you are studying. Some seminars are very informal, while others are not. However, there are some techniques you can use to make sure that you are speaking appropriately in seminar situations.

Task: Look at the example of two students talking in a seminar below. Why do you think student 1 gets angry?

Student 1: I think it was really interesting and the chapter about consumerism was really helpful for my dissertation…

Student 2: Are you crazy or something? This was the most boring thing I have every read! How can you like it?

Student 1: Oh well, I just thought that the research about how people spend money was….

Student 2: Oh my god, that research was, like, the worst research ever! You’re crazy!

Student 1: Ok, firstly, could you stop interrupting me, and secondly, if you cannot speak to me with more respect then I am going to have to request to change groups.

Student 2: Woah, chill out, I was only joking!

Student 1 gets angry because student 2 is using a communication style that is far too informal for a seminar and so seems very rude and disrespectful to student 1.

It is okay to be a bit less formal and sometimes even informal with your classmates in a seminar, but you still need to consider the style of your communication.

It might be okay to use informal phrases, jokes and direct criticisms when you are talking with good friends in social situations, however, when you are in a place of learning like a seminar you should always respect other people’s views.

If you do disagree with someone, you can use distancing phrases and maybe even a preceding apology to let the person know it is not personal.

In this lesson you will explore the example above in more detail and think about how these students could have communicated more appropriately.

Seminar formality

What we think of as funny or informal can be taken as offensive and rude by others, so we should always try to use neutral to formal language in seminars and use indirect questions, distancing and softening phrases to make sure we do not offend anyone.

Let’s look at the example of two students discussing the contents of a lecture in their seminar from before.

Task: Click through the slides and try to communicate in a more appropriate style for a seminar by using distancing/softening phrases and more formal/respectful language.

Seminar phrases

Now we have thought a bit more about seminar style, let’s look at some of the phrases you can use to make sure that you communicate appropriately with the other students on your course.

Task: Identify the useful seminar phrases below and try to match the correct function to each phrase.

Task: review what happens in typical seminars in the UK by listening to the audio below and choosing the correct options:

Well done, you’ve improved your seminar style.

Task: Record some of the useful phrases and tips from this lesson and try to use them in your next seminar