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Propaganda and persuasion - english course


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A.    Making phone calls

The first person to patent an electric telephone in the modern sense was the American inventor Alexander Graham Bell. In 1876, he conceived a device which was capable of transmitting sound vibrations in the form of human speech. The phone is a very useful tool for immediate communication, it can connect you to people who are far away, at the other end of the world, in an instant. But it can also be very frustrating, when you cannot get through to the person you want to talk to. Can you present the advantages and disadvantages of the telephone as a means of communication?

A1. To be effective on the phone, both the caller and the person called must have clear objectives, the relevant information and a clear strategy and structure for the call. Pay attention to the steps which must be followed during the conversations on the phone both by the sender and by the receiver and then try to exemplify:

phone communication – caller’s steps

say farewell


polite formulae


confirm follow-up




develop call divided into:

point 1

point 2



explain purpose of call


introduce self


greet person called


request  person called






phone communication – the steps taken by the person called

identify self




develop call divided into:

point 1

point 2



say farewell


polite formulae


confirm follow-up



[phone rings]

A2. The following sentences are taken from phone calls. Imagine the reply before or after each of them. Tell which type of conversational strategy they belong to. Establish in which part of the conversation on the phone it appears.

  1. Who’s calling, please?
  2. Thanks for calling.
  3. Just a moment, please. I’ll put you through.
  4. Which extension do you want?
  5. Oh, I’m sorry. I must have dialled the wrong number.
  6. Good morning, can I help you?
  7. Sorry? Can you repeat, please?
  8. Could we meet some time soon?
  9. Would morning or afternoon suit you best?
  10. Sorry, the line is busy.

A3. Translate the following texts and comment upon the reasons why lack of communication becomes humorous:

a.     A fellow dialled his home telephone number.

“Hello”, he said. “Is that Mrs. Brown?”


“This is Jack speaking. I say, dear, will it be all right if I bring home a couple of fellows to dinner?”

“Certainly, darling.”

“Did you hear what I was saying?”

“Yes – you asked if you could bring home a couple of fellows to dinner. Of course you can, dear.”

“Sorry, madam”, the fellow said as he was hanging up, “I’ve got the wrong Mrs. Brown”.

b.     “Hello, is that the lawyers’ office of Messrs. Smithson, Smithson and Smithson?”

“Yes”, a voice replied at the other end, “this is the lawyers’ office of Messrs. Smithson, Smithson and Smithson”.

“Can I speak to Mr. Smithson?”

“I’m afraid not. Mr. Smithson is away on a business trip”.

“Then, perhaps, I could speak to Mr. Smithson?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Smithson is being in court right now”.

“Oh, then give me Mr. Smithson”.

“This is Mr. Smithson speaking”.

A4. Write dialogues beginning from the following stories, using your past experiences or your imagination in shaping the situation:

a.     You are at home alone. Suddenly the telephone rings. You pick up the receiver and hear a strange voice at the other end of the line…

b.     You know that a friend of yours is very upset because he/she hasn’t passed an important exam for a scholarship in the United States of America. So you phone him/her to comfort the person. How do you start the conversation and how do you continue it?

c.      A slight acquaintance calls you on the phone to invite you at a party. You don’t really like the person, so you have to quickly find good excuses for not going there.

B. The Indicative Mood – simple and continuous tenses.

B1. In the English language the tenses have two aspects, simple and continuous, with different usage and meanings, while in Romanian we have only tenses, without aspect. This is the first difficulty in understanding the English system. The second one is the fact that the features of simple and continuous are different for present, on one hand, and for the other tenses, on the other hand.

This is the representation of the structure for the present tenses:

- present simple:                         Subject + Infinitive (+ -s/-es at 3rd person singular);

- present continuous:                 Subject + Be (present) + Verb in –ing form

Present Simple

Present Continuous

- habitual, repetitive, permanent action in the present (1st axis)

adverbs: always, ever, never

usually, generally

often, rarely, seldom, sometimes

every ………

example: I rarely go to concerts.

momentary actions in the present

adverbs: now, at the moment

today, tonight

this ……….

example: I’m going to a concert this evening.

- verbs of human perception (considered permanent) cannot be used in the continuous form and are only simple

a.     verbs of physical perception

see – a vedea – I see a bird.

hear – a auzi – I hear a noise.

smell, taste – a avea miros/gust – The soup smells wonderful.

feel – a simti – I feel the pain.

b.     verbs of will: want, wish, desire

c.      verbs of pleasure: love, hate, like, dislike

d.     verbs of cognition: understand, trust, believe, know, think

think – a crede – I think I’m right.

e.     verbs of possession: have, own , possess

I have a book. Have you a book? (auxiliary verb)

- the same verbs are used in the continuous form if they change their meaning

see – a se vedea cu – I’m seeing the doctor.

hear – a afla – I’m hearing the news.

smell, taste – a mirosi, a gusta – I’m smelling the soup.

feel - a se simti – I’m not feeling well.

think – a se gândi la – I’m thinking of you.

non-possessive have

I’m having a shower. Do you often have a shower? (normal verb)

types of action which are always at simple form, although they are momentary, so they should be in the continuous form:

a.     comments in the media (radio, TV, written press) – The Prime Minister arrives today.

b.     stage directions

- actions which are always at continuous form, although they seem to be in the simple form:

those actions which repeat so often in a negative form that they start annoying us

example: You are never listening to me!

present simple instead of future for official programme or schedule

example: The train leaves at 8.00 tomorrow.

present continuous instead of future for personal programme

example: I’m leaving for the mountains tomorrow.

For the past tense, the situation is the following:

- past simple:                 Subject + 2nd form of the verb (-ed for regular verbs and 2nd form in the table for irregular verbs)

- past continuous:         Subject + Be (past) + Verb –ing

Past tense simple represents an action in the past which is momentary or for which duration is not important. Past continuous expresses an action in the past which is durative, progressive, in development from moment 1 to moment 2 in the past.

Examples: I read yesterday. I was reading from three to five yesterday.

Present simple

Permanent action in the present

Present continuous

Momentary action in the present

Past simple

Momentary action in the past

Past continuous

Progressive action in the past

Comparing the types of actions in the table above, we notice that present continuous and past simple are momentary actions and correspond to each other on the two axes, while present simple and past continuous designate longer developments, but in different ways (present simple without expressing a progress and a certain beginning or a certain end of the action, past continuous with marked progression and certain moments on the trajectory).

All the other tenses, either on the axis of present or on the axis of past, function in the paradigm of past tense in what concerns the aspects:

Futuresimple – shall/will + infinitive – non-progressive action in the future

He will go on holiday next week.

- continuous – shall/will + be + verb –ing – progressive action from m1 to m2 in the future

He will be travelling at this time tomorrow.

Future in the pastsimple – should/would + Infinitive

- continuous – should/would + be + V-ing

(it functions the same as future simple/continuous, but on the past axis)

Present perfectsimple – have + 3rd form – past action related to the present

I have just arrived.

- continuous – have + been + V-ing – past action continuing in the present

I have been working for three hours.

Past perfect simple – had + 3rd form – past action before another past action

It had rained before you came.

- continuous –had +been + V-ing – past action continuing towards another past action

It had been raining when I came.

B2. Do the following exercises:

1. Put the verbs in brackets into the correct tense:

a. I (make) cakes. That is why my hands are covered with flour. b.I (not understand) what you (wait) for. c. I am sorry I (not come) to class lately. I (work) late in the evenings for this fortnight. d. I really (enjoy) myself at that moment. e. I (think) to buy a new house last year, during the elections, but I (change) my mind ever since. f. I don’t know what time we (eat), it (depend) when Helen (get) here. g. I supported you at the time because I (feel) you (be) right. h. I (live) here. i. Sorry I (not fix) the plug yet. I (mean) to get round to it, but I just (not find) the time. j. At the meeting Peter (not understand) what (be) decided because too many people (talk) at once.

2. The sentences below contain one mistake each. Correct it:

a. I have once studied the guitar for three years. b. I am here since three o’clock, but nobody has come yet. c. When she arrived, I was waiting for three hours and a half. d. I have seen him three days ago. e. Will you have been having dinner out tonight? f. I knew she will arrive before long. g. I think it’s raining tonight. h. You are hating this party. i. I am seeing a rabbit over there. j. He always forgets people’s names.

B3. Translate into English:

1. a). Crede ca se comporta foarte frumos. b). Mereu zice ca îmi cumpara o rochie noua. c). De-abia am început sa vorbesc ca m-a si întrerupt. d). Obisnuia sa cânte când facea dus, dar asta s-a întâmplat înainte de accident. e). A plouat de la 3 la 5.

2. Era odata un mosneag si o baba; si mosneagul avea o fata, si baba iar o fata. Fata babei era sluta, lenesa, tâfnoasa si rea la inima; dar pentru ca era fata mamei, se alinta cum s-alinta cioara-n lat, lasând tot greul pe fata mosneagului. Fata mosneagului însa era frumoasa, harnica, ascultatoare si buna la inima. Dumnezeu o împodobise cu toate darurile cele bune si frumoase. (…) Cât era ziulica de mare, nu-si mai strângea picioarele; dintr-o parte venea si în alta se ducea. (Ion Creanga – Fata babei si fata mosneagului).

B4. Describe the actions you were doing at this time yesterday and those you will be doing at this time tomorrow.

C. In a time of global communication, information travels from one place to another with an amazing speed and there is such a large quantity of data in each field that we could get mad if we wanted to know all of them. That is why we have to keep ourselves correctly informed, not through gathering all the pieces of the puzzle, but through knowing the most sincere and open sources. Do we live in a society of manipulation? Is any piece of information a form of propaganda? Can we escape being cheated? These are some of the questions each contemporary conscious man asks himself without being certain about the answer.

C1. Do the following exercises:

a)     Conceive a phone conversation with your parents, in which you try to convince them to send you some more money for your studies. Then write a letter to them on the same topic.

b)     How would you persuade your boss to give you a leave, although you have had one for this year and the others in the office haven’t?

c)     If you were a teacher, what do you think it would be the best way to convince students that the things you teach are important for them?

d)     Which do you think is the most propagandistic type of media? Why?

e)     Can you give examples of propaganda along the ages, before the contemporary period?

f)      Do you consider that commercials are good or bad? Are they persuasive or not? Give examples.

g)     Do you trust politicians? Do you find their discourses convincing? Give examples.

h)     What do you think about the informative news bulletins on radio, television, in the written press? Are they realistic?

C2. Read and translate the following text, try to give examples for each concept:

Communication has been defined as a convergence process in which sender and receiver, either through mediated or non-mediated means, create and share information. When the information is used to accomplish a purpose of sharing, explaining or instructing, it is considered informative communication. People seek information when they need to understand their world and once gained it tends to reduce uncertainty. The informative discourse is considered neutral, it is communication about a subject matter that has attained the privileged status of being beyond dispute. The informative communicator has the purpose of creating mutual understanding of data that are considered to be accurate, based on facts.

Persuasion is a subset of communication usually defined as a communicative process aimed to influence others. A persuasive message has a point of view or a desired behaviour for the receiver to adopt in a voluntary fashion. It is a complex, continuing, interactive process in which a sender and a receiver are linked by symbols, verbal and non-verbal, through which the persuader tries to influence the persuadee to adopt a change in a given attitude or behaviour. Persuasion is transactional, it promises to help people by satisfying their wants or needs. Both parties, persuader and persuadee, will perceive the change as mutually beneficial in the end. The best example is that of a teacher convincing his students about a certain theory.

Propaganda utilises informative communication in a similar fashion, with the difference that the purpose exceeds the notion of mutual understanding. The aim of propaganda is to promote a partisan or competitive cause in the best interest of the propagandist, but not necessarily in the best interest of the recipient.

The propagandist is a sender of messages who uses special talents and also scientific work to influence the attitudes of an audience. To be effective, propaganda should be adapted to the particular needs of the situation and the target audience. Defining propaganda, we can say that it is the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. It is deliberate because it is wilful, intentional and premeditated; the term systematic means precise and methodical, carrying out something with organised regularity; it attempts to direct communication towards an objective that has been established a priori. The shaping of perceptions usually focuses on language and images, that is why slogans, symbols, posters are used. Manipulating cognitions means changing and forming people’s trust, creating new positive attitudes. The direction of a specific behaviour is the final behaviour of a propaganda effort, this representing the achievement of a response or a reaction from the part of the audience.

Although propaganda takes many forms, it is almost always in some form of activated ideology. Sometimes propaganda is agitative, attempting to arouse an audience to certain ends with significant changes, some other times it is integrative, with the aim of rendering an audience in a passive, accepting and non-challenging way. Propaganda is also described as white, grey or black in relationship to an acknowledgement of its source and its accuracy of information. White propaganda comes from a source that is identified correctly, and the information in the message tends to be accurate, trying to build credibility with the audience. For example, some newspapers are for certain political parties openly and present the views of these formations. Black propaganda is credited to a false source and it spreads lies, fabrications and deceptions. For example, Radio Free Hungary attracted world attention and sympathy in Western countries for commenting the events of 1956 when the Russians sent their tanks to Budapest, but it was in fact a fake operated by the KGB with the intention to demonstrate that the United States could not be relied upon to help a country in revolt. Grey propaganda is somewhere between the two other forms, the source of the message is correctly identified but the information is inaccurate. It is used in advertising and electoral campaigns most of the time.

C3. Resume the following text, extracting the main ideas, in no more than five lines:

Out of the millions of things that happen every day, print and electronic journalists decide what few things are worth reporting. Deciding what is newsworthy is not an exact science, but there are common elements that characterise it. The most important feature of a newsworthy event is timeliness, because news is new and yesterday’s news is old news. A consumer who picks up the evening paper or turns on the afternoon news expects to be told what has happened earlier the same day. News is perishable and stale news is not interesting. Another quality of news is proximity, because readers and viewers want to learn about their neighbourhood, town, country. All other things being equal, things from close to home are more newsworthy than news from a foreign country. Psychological proximity is also important, for example subway riders from Bucharest will be more interested in a material about the New York subway than the people in the same town not travelling by this means of transport. Prominence is another feature, as the more important a person, the more valuable he or she is as a news source. Political leaders, sports and entertainment figures, but also dangerous criminals give media coverage. Another golden rule is that people are interested in events with consequences on their lives, with impact. A tax increase, drought, inflation, earthquakes, all these events have consequence and are widely mediatised. The last quality we mention is human interest, stories that arouse emotion in the audience by being ironic, bizarre, tragic. Typically, these items concern ordinary people who find themselves in circumstances with which the audience can identify. Thus, when the winner of the state lottery gives half of his winnings to the elderly man who sold him the ticket, it becomes newsworthy. Anyhow, it is not easy to establish what is news.

C4. Translate into English:

Comunicarea este un cuvânt la moda azi. Mai ales comunicarea în masa s-a dezvoltat extrem de rapid dupa cel de-al doilea razboi mondial, când eforturile s-au concentrat asupra eficientei propagandistice. Initial, s-a considerat logic sa se înceapa cu sursa, acest punct de vedere dovedindu-se o grava eroare care îsi are radacinile în renumita teorie a glontului. Potrivit acesteia, sursa (cel care comunica) foloseste o combinatie de mesaje si strategii de media pentru a influenta un public ce trebuie convins, asa cum un glonte urmareste o tinta precisa. Comunicarea scrisa sau vorbita se constituia atunci când cuvintele ce urmau sa constituie mesajul erau selectate si aranjate pentru a fi emise pe piata. Mai târziu specialistii au ajuns la concluzia ca impactul comunicarii este mai mare daca se începe cu publicul tinta, cel ce da sens mesajului, pe masura ce informatiile primite sunt procesate în contextul credintelor, atitudinilor, motivatiilor si necesitatilor oamenilor. Astazi teoria lui Schramm, potrivit careia comunicarea este o relatie tranzactionala între doua sau mai multe parti între care este schimbata informatia, este comun acceptata. Daca cel care comunica nu întelege publicul caruia i se adreseaza, transferul de semnificatii nu se produce. Capacitatea sursei de a se pune în locul receptorului a fost denumita empatie, aceasta începând sa functioneze în primii ani de viata, atunci când copilul învata sa preia rolul altuia.

D. Vocabulary practice

D1. Give the synonyms and the antonyms of the following words:

effective; careful; publicity; employee; stable; adequate; ability; manager; to persuade; to extend.

D2. What kind of personality do you have? Find out by solving this quiz. Tick the statement you agree with:

1.     I’d love to do a parachute jump.

2.     I don’t like telling other people what to do.

3.     I prefer spending time on my own rather than in a crowd.

4.     I find it easy to set myself objectives.

5.     I have difficulties in making decisions.

6.     I find it difficult getting to know new people.

7.     I’d love to travel abroad.

8.     Friends sometimes complain that I order them around.

9.     I like to have the advice and support of experienced people.

10.  I don’t like volunteering opinions in case they are unpopular.

11.  I like to try to find new solutions to old problems.

12.  I would prefer to be team captain than team member.

13.  I get embarrassed easily.

14.  I don’t mind where I go with my friends as long as they are happy.

15.  I like the latest fashions.

16.  I like to be fully responsible for anything I do.

Check your scores now. Three or four ticks in any category indicate personality characteristics you should take account of when choosing a job.

A.     Positive answer for 1, 7, 11, 15

The entrepreneur

You are adventurous. You enjoy challenges and taking risks. You could find success in creative work.

B.     Positive answer for 2, 5, 9, 14

The team worker

You work well with others but dislike to be given responsibility, so you prefer to put into practice other people’s plans. You would do well in the army.

C.     Positive answer for 3, 6, 10, 13

The backroom worker

You are a little shy and find it difficult to mix with new people. You would do well in any behind-the-scene job where you don’t have to come face to face with strangers. You could be a researcher.

D.    Positive answer for 4, 8, 12, 16

The leader

You are confident in your abilities and you want to be in charge not to take orders. You enjoy having lots of people around and organising them.

Scoring A 1 7 11 15

B 2 5 9 14

C 3 6 10 13

D 4 8 12 16

D3. Complete the passage with these words. There are two words in surplus in the table.

public reap market fame wealth ambition

respected jet set whizz-kid success best-seller rising achieve rocketed expanding                  potential


What is success? Achieving a long-held ………. ? Earning a million by the time you are twenty five? Joining the ……….? ……….to the top of your chosen profession? Writing a ……….? ……….means different things to different people, but one has managed to ………. all this in a very short space of time.

Jeff Johnson was still at university when he realised the ……….profits to be made from the sale of posters to an eager public. The poster stall he organised every Sunday was regularly surrounded by enthusiasts eager to find something new. So, after graduating, he took a loan, rented office space and acquired a stock of posters. Soon his business was ………. rapidly and he was able to purchase a warehouse, which he renovated and used as a centre for his operations. Other shops were opened in different parts of the country and sales ………..

Hard-headed businessmen crowded to buy shares in this ……….’s company when it went public and Jeff was able to ……….the rewards of his hard work by taking time off to buy a house and get married. He is still only in his mid-twenties, a father of two, and a ……….businessman with a product which is a ……….leader. To admirers of his accomplishments he points out that he has had to make sacrifices. “It’s difficult to maintain one’s privacy”, he says. “Once you are successful, you have to live in the ……….eye to a certain extent”.

D4. Using the verbs to affirm, to allege, to assert, to claim, to contend, to insist, to maintain and to pretend, translate the following sentences:

a.Sustine ca n-a vazut nimic.

b. Afirm cu toata raspunderea ca n-am vazut-o la ora respectiva acolo.

c.      Acuzatul îsi mentine declaratia.

d.     Ea sustine ca sotul ei ar fi batut-o.

e. Afirmati ca ati fost martora la accident cu toate ca ati fost vazuta în alta parte?

f. Sustine sa i se plateasca daune în urma accidentului.

g. Stiu ca minte, dar sustine acum ca n-a spus nimic.

h. Ea tot sustine într-una ca ei nu i s-a spus nimic.

i. Dupa toate acestea va mai sustineti punctul de vedere?

j. Cotidianul “The Times” sustine ca are informatii precise cu privire la scandal.

Remember the following phrases:

to affirm readily; to allege to be somebody or something (that you are not); to assert one’s authority/claims/point of view/rights; to assert without proof; to claim attention; to claim for damages; to claim to be the best/the right; to contend a statement; to insist on something; to maintain an attack/a process.

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