ENGLISCH/805: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (144) Introductions (SB)


144. Introducing yourself in a foreign language

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I find introducing myself or others in a foreign language rather frightening, if one doesn't know the "rules" of the culture. As I am going to the States next month for some time and a new job, I would like some advice concerning this matter. How do I introduce myself, how do I introduce others and how should I react to an introduction?

Thank you very much
Yours sincerely

Sven Lundgren (from Stockholm, Sweden)


Dear Mr Lundgren

In the English-speaking world, introductions are very simple once you have mastered a few set phrases. But creating a good impression also concerns body language, eye contact, intonation and what you say. In English, there are many ways of making a message more direct or more diplomatic. Native speakers choose these naturally and are very sensitive to how things are said.

To answer your questions, first, you often introduce yourself by repeating your first name to signal to someone that you would like to be on a first-name basis. When shaking hands, people may just say their names without an "I'm", e.g.:

"Hello, my name's Frank, Frank Bradley." (informal)
"Hi, Jane Miller. I'm the sister of the bride." (informal)
"Eileen George, public relation manager for the Grant Corporation." (formal)

For introducing others traditionally the person of lower rank is introduced to the person of higher rank, and men are introduced to women.

"Mr Burke-Smith, may I introduce my boss, Mr Brinsley." (very formal)
"Frank, I'd like you to meet Joe Tiegs, our sponsor. Joe, this is Frank Brown." (formal in business situations)
"Barbara, meet John, my cousin from New York. John, this is my friend Barbara." (informal)

The response naturally should have the same level of formality as the introduction. It's very formal to answer like this:

"How do you do, Mr Brinsley?" (meeting for the first time)
or "Hello, Mr Brinsley. I believe we've met before."

In a business situation, it would be adequate to say: "Pleased to meet you, Joe." (first meeting)
or "Joe and I have met before. Hello, Joe. It's good to see you again."

In an informal situation, you would say:

"Hi, John. How are you?" (first meeting)
or "John and I are old friends. Hi, John, how have you been?" or "Hi, John, long time no see!" and so on...

I hope this will help you on your way, don't be nervous
and good luck


Mrs Gobbledygook

11. September 2008