Will Smith: a father’s influence

Will Smith's Father
                                                                                  Will Smith

Question: Who was a big influence in your life?

Will Smith: My father. When my father got out of the Air Force, he started his own refrigeration business. I might have been 12 and my brother 9 when one day he decided he wanted a new front wall at his shop. He tore the old one down -- it was probably 16 feet high and 40 feet long. And he told us that this was going to be our gig over the summer. We were standing there thinking, there will never, ever, be a wall here again. We went brick by brick for the entire summer and into winter and then back into spring. One day there was a wall there again. I know my dad had been planning this for a long time. He said, "Now, don't you all ever tell me there's something you can't do." And he walked into the shop. The thing I connect to is: I do not have to build a perfect wall today. I just have to lay a perfect brick. Just lay one brick, dude.

Conversational Speaking Styles-Talking about an influential person in our life
Often we talk about the past with friends.  As we get closer to people, we often tell them about who influenced us in life.  Of course it can be a father, mother, aunt, uncle, manager, teacher, event in your life.  However, people quite often tell you about one of their parents. 

Will Smith, was originally a singer/rapper that created humorous songs.  He is very good at talking to people.  People love to listen to him talk.  His style is casual and he sounds very ‘down-to-earth’ (= sensible, realistic, not vain, not snooty).  Even though he is being interviewed he comes up with very ‘rich’ (=a lot of) information about himself in a short period of time.

Now how can we use this in our own lives? How can we transfer Will’s style to our own?

Speaking Style- Over View
You probably noticed that Will Smith uses past simple and past continuous verb tenses throughout his story.  There is only one perfect verb tense usage  “might have been”!  On TOEIC and TOEFL tests the past perfect is important.  Also, in school, this grammar idea is emphasized a lot. But don’t worry if you have spent hours and hours on difficult grammatical points.  Your hours of study can easily be used with British Native Speakers.  British Native Speakers use the perfect tenses more often than American Native Speakers in English Conversation. 

So when you create a story about who influenced you in life, try to use past simple and past continuous.  If your listener is British then feel free to use more of the perfect verb tenses. 

Speaking Tip!
Most people are not as good at talking as Will Smith.  So, it is a good idea to write your ideas down first.  Just like in a diary.  All you have to do is write down some key words and phrases.  Don't make the story too long or it will bore your listener.  About 6-8 sentences is enough. Will's story is a bit longer but he is a pro! Then like an actor practice telling your story. You don't have to memorize it but be comfortable with the key words and phrases!

Have a good week! And Enjoy using English at your next party or friendship encounter!

Will Smith in an early Music Video
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Will Smith)


Celebrity English Language and Culture

Until next week! Take care!

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