Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

November 1, 2011

25th Edition of EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival – November 2011.

I am thrilled to be holding the 25th EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival here this month (November 2011).

The theme for this carnival is:

The Most Popular Posts on your Blog

 

I have received so many fantastic entries that it really is an amazing feast of  great, great posts!

 

I asked people to search through their archives, dust off the post that got  the most visitors, comments, retweets and show us what EFL/ESL/ELL blog readers are most looking for!

As teachers we don’t often get a chance to ‘show off’ or ‘brag’ about our achievements so here is your opportunity to take out your most celebrated piece of  writing and showcase it again for us all to admire!

 

This carnival is simply the best of the best!

Enjoy the feast!!

I’ll begin with my own top post:

 10 Top Tips for Improving IELTS Scores

It is not a particularly momentous post but it keeps getting visitors and comments!

Everybody can paint! 

Sabrina’s Weblog – by Sabrina  De Vita

I will start this post by thanking my students for having inspired me to write it, and I would like especially to thank Gisela for being so generous as to share pieces of her life with us every class.

10 Most Common Questions From English Language Learners

English and Culture | Notes on Life and Language in the United States – Lindsay McMahon

This article covers the 10 most common questions that I have received from English language learners including grammar points and strategies for learning English.

It’s not onlyabout errors

4C – Tyson Seburn

I admit it. I’m a slacker with regards to actively participating in Shelly Terrell’ #30goals.  It’s certainly not because I think they aren’t worth my time or not applicable to my teaching, but for one reason or another, they’ve been put on the sidelines this February, along with active blogging and commenting on others’ blogs. 

Tools for the 21st-Century Teacher

Sandy Millin – Sandy Millin

This is far and away the most popular post on my blog, largely thanks to Ann Foreman and the British Council Teaching English facebook group. thanks Ann!

Post-it notes 

(Almost) Infinite ELT Ideas – Sandy Millin

My second blog is designed to crowdsource ideas for how to use different ‘prompts’ in class. Post-it notes have proved the most popular. Can you add any other ideas?

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY: “Strange Animals” class project

The machine goes onDaniela Tomatis

We’ve just finished a class project which involved 12-year-old Middle School students.

VOCABULARY CHALLENGE: 5 WAYS TO STORE WORDS 

The machine goes on – Daniela Tomatis

I love words.

What about your concept questions? The famous CCQ’s

TEFL Matters – Marisa Constantinides

I thought my most popular post was going to be the one on Word Clouds, but, no, it looks like teachers have searched for and read different posts most.

According to google analytics, the most visited post in the past year has been is “What about your Concept Questions? The famous CCQ’s”

But according to Edublogs stats in my dashboard ,

The Power of Play for Education and Language Development  is the one.
The wandrous whiteboard challenge

English Raven – Jason Renshaw

Here’s a new challenge for teachers out there interested in trying things out and sharing the results!

Opening your classroom door to the world

My Integrating Technology journey – Jennifer Verschoor

If you would like to heighten your students’ cultural awareness, consider Opening your classroom door to the world.

Songs in EFL Classroom

A Journey in TEFL – Eva Buyuksimkesyan

I have written many times that I really enjoy using songs in the classroom. I know how effective these real songs can be.

The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

I thought it was time for another list of Websites Of The Year.  This series of “The Best of…” posts will be continuing off-and-on until I run out of useful topics.

For English Teachers – Angoltanároknak: ELT Rap

 For English Teachers – Angoltanároknak  – Erika Osváth

Although this is a post I’ve put up fairly recently, it has become very popular in a very short period. I’m guessing, because apart from it being fun, it gives teachers – and maybe teacher trainers too – ideas about exploiting rap songs in teaching EFL.

Building your own PLN with Twitter

Te@ch Me – Hakan Senturk

A practical guide to build your own personal learning network (PLN).

Teaching English through songs in the digital age (part 1 of 4): Background readings and resources

Educational Technology in ELT – Vicky Saumell

In case you didn´t know, I´m an avid tweeter, especially for Professional Development and networking with colleagues all over the world.

Visualising Ideas – Notes for teachers on “How To Steal Like An Artist” By Austin Kleon

Visualising Ideas – Naomi Epstein

A visual and humorous look at why and how teachers should collaborate

Prezi vs Powerpoint « Classroom201X

Classroom201X – Pil Bird

I do quite like this post… but I’ve never quite got why it gets so many more hits than the rest of my posts, but it does and there’s a good stream of comments there as well…

Very Funny Ads

TeflTecher : Tasks, Videos and Opinions for Tefl Teachers – Ian James

I love using adverts in my teaching. If you ignore the fact that they’re trying to flog you something and focus on their narrative structure, they can provide you with an endless supply of mini-stories for “retelling” activities.

A close up on translation | close up

close up – Ceri Jones

what a great choice for a blog carnival -so easy to choose – just let the stats do it for you 😉 and nice to look back at an old forgotten post and all its comments too.

Love Them Before You Know Them

About a Teacher  – Greta Sandler

I can still remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was my first day at a new school and my first year as an elementary teacher. My lifetime dream was coming true. So special was this day that everything around me was inspiring.

Teachers and Learners – Roles That Complement Each Other

Vicky Loras’s Blog – Vicky Loras

Teachers should share their enthusiasm with students. In the process of learning, there are numerous things that play a significant role towards making it a smooth, pleasurable and constructive process.

10 Tech Tools for Teacher Training Courses

Nik’s Learning Technology Blog – Nik Peachey

….this course took place in a computer room with 1 Internet connected computer per teacher.

What follows below is a brief outline of the tools I used to achieve this and how I used each tool.

Introduction for free #edtech20 project gateway to knowledge in #education20 in the New Age of #Curation #leadershipday11

#edtech20 #socialmedia #curation project gateway to knowledge central.ly/web20education/  – DUMA CORNEL LUCIAN

I present this project in #mmvc11 because 2011 is the beginning of New Age of Curation

Chiew Pang Interviews Shelly Terrell

iAskU  – Chiew Pang

Shelly Terrell’s interview just managed to edge Chia Suan Chong’s by a few visits.

Daily Routines Tagging Game

a cLiL to cLiMB – Chiew Pang

Not an article as such, but it’s proven to be rather popular.

C1 Lesson Plan – Reading: Facebook, more harm than good « A Muse Amuses

A Muse Amuses – Neil McMahon

I’m on a roll today – another tweet (can’t remember who from I’n afraid – if you know, let me know) tipped me off to this article on facebook so I’n gonna use it as a springboard

Restaurant | English Advantage

English Advantage – Walton

My most popular post is actually a lesson plan for a restaurant role play. I guess it’s so popular because I tried to include a lot of materials like specific role cards and even notes for the waiter to make the role play as realistic and also as adaptable as possible. I’m also fairly proud of my restaurant discussion questions which focus on problems at restaurants, something fairly common that isn’t always covered in textbooks.

Should teachers be encouraging the use of ?English? names in our classrooms?

Teaching the Teacher – Stephanie

Because using ‘English’ names as a replacement to a child’s name really, really bothers me.

Focusing Curriculum Around Skills « Core4All

 Core4All – Alan Matan

This is a blog focusing on the Common Core State Standards as a way to drive ELL curriculum.

12 Angry Men: A Dramatic Activity Plan

So Where Did It Go Wrong?  – Gordon Scruton

One of my more popular posts on my teachers’ blog, based on my love of old movies.

What is Cohesion & Coherence? (Cambridge Testing Explained)

Understanding How We Learn  – Gordon Scruton

Reverse reading comprehension – lesson activity

www.mikejharrison.comMike Harrison

This lesson idea proved a hit, with 1,300 views! Still amazed it struck a chord with so many!

10 contemporary motivation theories and how they explain why your students just aren’t ‘into it’ « one year

one year – Adam Simpson

My most successful post in terms of comments, hits, retweets, you name it!

Don’t Make These 7 Mistakes Teaching English Abroad

TripbaseKatie Sorene

7 most commonly made mistakes made by English teachers working overseas such as over-emphasizing pronunciation rather than communication, overdoing the grammar and missing home too much! Helpful tips to prevent English teachers who venture abroad from falling into these traps.

Blog challenge: compare and contrast photo

A journée in languageBrad Patterson

Anne Hodgson posted a quick pic post yesterday and its humor got the ball rolling on a fun idea.  We sent a few tweets back and forth and decided to challenge you to choose two photos to “compare and contrast” something similar but different.

Seven Teaching Strategies for Classroom Teachers of ELLs

everythingESL.net – Judie Haynes 

In Teaching English Language Learners Across the Content Areas (ASCD, 2010), Debbie Zacarian and I listed seven teaching strategies for mainstream teachers of ELLs.

The giant is no longer asleep

ELT Bakery –  Eduardo Santos

This post is about the current economic situation of Brazil, part of the BRIC, and a very interesting ad done by Johnnie Walker. This post let to great discussions about the current economic situation in some countries from my PLN.

Educators’ News – August 22-26, 2011

Educators’ News – Steve Wood

Let Sleeping “Cat” Lie

Janet’s Abruzzo EdublogJanet Bianchini

This post has been one of the most popular ones I have ever written and it is also one of my favourites. 

Looking forward to the next carnival?

The 26th edition of EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival will be held on January 1st 2012 and hosted by David Deubelbeiss  – use the submission form to submit your entries. 

The Carnival welcomes any blog posts, including examples of student work, that are related to teaching or learning English. You can contribute a post to it by using this easy submission form. If the form does not work for some reason, you can send the link to Larry Ferlazzo via his Contact Form. Let Larry Ferlazzo know if you might be interested in hosting future editions.

You can see all the previous editions of the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival here.

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September 9, 2011

Learning English needs a lot of stamina!

Taking your English language skills to great heights requires strength!

  • Strength of character
  • Strength of mind
  • Strength of body

Learning ANY language is not for the faint-hearted, it takes time and dedication. There are ups, downs and plateaux, there’s despair and frustration and seemingly endless lists to learn!  As soon as you reach one peak you see others looming in the distance and you just know that you have to pick up your grammar book and dictionary, put your best foot forward, grit your teeth and plod on.

So why bother?

Why put yourself through all that work? You can muddle through with the English level you have already or you can use an interpreter or a translator, people who are clearly experts in this area and can do a better job than you can.

Or can they?

Notice the word – interpret – this gives room for paraphrase, for interpretation would this still be YOUR message? Interpreters are certainly experts in what is a very difficult job requiring lots of training but if you are presenting YOUR product or service, or conducting YOUR  meeting with a potential client or looking to move higher in YOUR career,  it is YOUR message that is important. Remember, people buy from and relate to YOU, not someone else trying to deliver you!

So is it worth the effort? Yes, of course it is – just as you would spend time on other aspects of your work and career your English has to be part of that mix. If you have a dream for your work and your future and English is a part of that dream then you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the English you really want and this will take stamina and dedication!

How to get English that really shines!

1.  Decide on where you want to be with your English – imagine how it would be if you had really fantastic English skills, make this your ultimate goal.

2.  Decide how far you are away from that goal now and what you need to do to get there – you will probably need to do an assessment for this or find a teacher who can help you.

3.  Decide how much time you can dedicate to improving your skills daily, weekly etc.. and formulate a plan (see my post Setting SMART goals for your English).

4.  Be realistic, if you only have 1 hour a week then it might take some time – doing a bit each day may work better.

5.  Get as much exposure as possible, use the ‘dead’ time during your day to practice (travel time, waiting at the station, before a meeting, in the doctor’s surgery – my Gapfillers site is designed to do exactly that (Gapfillers Latest offers 10/15 minute exercises every day) or read the newspaper, listen to songs, the radio – whatever you are interested in.

6.  Find things that interest you – dedication and graft don’t have to be boring – there is so much English out there and available that you really should choose what is engaging for you.

Doing this alone will not be easy there will be times when you feel like giving up or when you just can’t be bothered or when you feel you can’t make any more progress. It is easier if you have some support from a group of learners with a similar goal or from a mentor or coach. This will spur you on and encourage you to keep moving forwards. A really good coach won’t let you give up even when you feel you want to.

Whether you use a language coach, join a study group or soldier on alone, remember that it is not going to be an easy ride but the rewards are great – keep focused on that mountain top – you can do it!

We have a range of Gapfillers programmes

Total immersion, short, residential courses are held at Fleetham Lodge in Yorkshire in the UK (from a weekend to a month)

Find out more about English language coaching with English Language Mastery

March 9, 2011

Setting SMART goals for your English language learning.

You have a language dream – how can you get there?

Start with your destination. Don’t worry where you are now, how much, or how little you know – where are you planning to go?

Without a destination in sight it is very hard to keep motivated and keep on track. You wouldn’t set off on a journey (at least most of us wouldn’t) not knowing where you were going. Your destination may need to be adjusted on the way and that’s absolutely fine but you really need to be able to plan this learning journey from wherever you are now to where you desire to be and it is this ‘map’ you have made that will help you to develop your skills, keep you focused and help you find the necessary support you need on the way.

One way of keeping yourself focused and motivated is to set targets for your language learning just as you would for any other process that you need to work through to get to your goal. We have all heard about SMART goals in other areas of business so why not set some for your language learning?

Here is a suggestion for how to set such goals to maintain your progress and keep your English language dream in focus.

Watch this overview on what SMART goals are and how to set them

Now let’s have a look at how that can be translated into your English language learning.

GOAL:  this is your overall aim it might be a dream (to use English as well as Pierce Brosnan) or it might be something more concrete (to make sure I get to do all the major marketing presentations next year). In either case it will not happen overnight and you’ll need to work out a strategy to get you there.

So let’s make these goals SMART!

(some of the words differ a bit here)

SPECIFIC

Make them specific and create steps. If you want to be chosen to do the presentations what changes do you need to make to your English in order for that to happen? Here are some things you might need to improve:

  • Get a wider and more varied vocabulary
  • Have better pronunciation
  • Perfect the ability to tell a joke

Whatever you think is stopping you from getting to your desired  level of English write it down. If you are not sure then ask your teacher. If you don’t have a teacher then check with someone else or consider whether you can do this by yourself – should you get professional help?

MEASURABLE

How are you going to monitor your progress?

If we take the specific goals above;

  • You will know if you’ve learned new words.
  • You may be able to find suitable jokes from presentations you’ve heard or by asking colleagues but will you know if you are telling them well?
  • With pronunciation can you really know how to improve it? There are some online tools and you can decide to use these, or use a voice recorder. You may decide that you need some help from a teacher.

The key here is to be honest and really look at the detail. Think carefully about how to measure progress and decide on the best strategy for this. You must be open and balance the reality against the dream. How important is the dream?

ATTAINABLE

Here again you have to be honest with yourself! Could you really ever be just like Pierce Brosnan – no, but you can use him as your model and get closer. Think about what is realistically attainable for you.

  • If you set a goal to learn 10 new words a week in context can you achieve that?
  • Maybe you’ll get a teacher to help with pronunciation and meet once a week face to face or on Skype
  • You can compile a list of jokes from the internet. You could search for ones that are suitable for presentations. You might look for videos so that you  have the audio too and you can copy the speaker.
  • Maybe you can record yourself and then compare with the original. 
  • Could you set aside two sessions per week ?

These are all the kind of questions you must explore.

By breaking the tasks down into smaller chunks you can set yourself an achievable study programme. Small steps that you can achieve well are better than large aims that are too time-consuming.

REALISTIC

In the video the term for ‘R’ is responsible – whose job is it. The answer here is ultimately – yours. However, it is realistic to ask for help if you need it. Then part of the responsibility can be shared with your teacher or the learning group you choose.

More things to consider:

  • How much time can I reasonably spend on studying to make the outcome effective?
  • It’s fine to push yourself but you have to know what you can manage
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help we all study and work better when we have someone to make us accountable

TIME-BOUND

Setting time limits helps us to plan. Maybe you’ve set an overall deadline for being the chosen presenter – say a year. Then you need to break down the tasks you’ve chosen and assign times to those too.

  • Two sessions on vocabulary, one on pronunciation and one on jokes gives you a reasonable study plan for the week – would that work with your schedule?
  • A study programme starts to emerge.
  • The final piece is to add in some assessment – this can be informal but make it regular say every 4 weeks and make sure you are honest about your progress to date.
  • Or better still find an accountability partner – you can keep each other focused and encouraged.

Setting goals that are SMART, being honest with yourself and then sticking to the plan will get you well on your way to reaching your dream.

Two more words – flexibility – if it’s not working re-visit, re-assess – re-plan and – reward– don’t forget to ‘pat yourself on the back’ when things go well – it drives your motivation.

You will get there in the end!

Other posts you might like:

How to be a good language student

When English skills just aren’t good enough

Business English – what is it you really need to learn?

If you would like find out about my English language Mastery programme see here

June 21, 2010

Carl-Henric Svanberg, Fabio Capello – your English skills just haven’t been good enough!

We can feel for both Carl-Henric  Svanberg, the chairman of BP, and England Manager, Fabio Capello, they have been much in the spotlight this past week and have, in their very different ways, been found wanting.  One of the reasons they did not come up to scratch was due to their knowledge of English. Although they can both use English well enough for their respective jobs,  I am not sure that when thrown into the limelight and expected both to speak on behalf of and defend their respective teams, they are quite up to the job.

We all know what it feels like to be ‘put on the spot’, to have to argue the case and discuss and debate issues – this is not an easy task even in your own language. When you get agitated, excited or annoyed, words desert you and sentences struggle to maintain meaning. Imagine having to do this in another language and imagine having to do it to the world’s media who are masters of manipulating language and tying people in linguistic knots.

So what happened?

Carl-Henric Svanberg

His English is good there is no denying this. He speaks in a fairly measured way, taking care over his delivery. It all boils down to two things; his pronunciation – which could be better – it is very deadpan almost to the extent of being dis-interested, then there is that one, disastrous phrase  ‘small people’  made all the worse by repeating it no less than three times! It’s amazing that one small word could cause such a furore – but in language ‘least said, soonest mended’ could just be a maxim to keep in mind!

What would we say – man in the street, ordinary citizens, the US public? Answers on a postcard please! Certainly not ‘small people’. Did anybody check? Did he rehearse? Was this off the cuff? One small phrase caused so much anger and hurt that there was absolutely no consideration of the fact that he wasn’t a native speaker of English!

If you go into the lion’s den – be very prepared!

Fabio Capello

Fabio is now in his third year as England Manager and there are many who worry about his commitment to improving his English skills.  England fans are very passionate about their team and they have, in the past, been very sceptical about having non-English managers. Will a non-English manager have the same passion for England’s football mission?With Capello they are doubtful as to whether he can truly command respect and really communicate his ideas when his language ability is still so poor.

To be fair in this footage he manages very well. He knows the vocabulary he needs, he gets his message across clearly and with some humour. He maintains the gravitas required for his role and, despite his lack of correct word order, his strong accent and his limited vocabulary, we are quite clear about his points.

Fast forward to more recent times.

There was the row with the photographers, then the criticism about his choice of goalkeeper and finally his defence of England’s first two games.

(recent footage wasn’t available to embed so here’s a link)

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/philmcnulty/2010/06/capello_still_well_under_contr.html)

The pressure and the constant barrage of questions puts a lot of strain on language delivery. As emotion takes over so coherent language retreats.

This is natural but if  your work demands that you put yourself in these situations then the need for competency becomes all the more important. You have to maintain decorum, you have to maintain self-respect, you have to avoid controversy and you need to preserve the good name of your company as well as that of yourself. This is important stuff!

When you lose your cool – make sure you can still look cool!

So, my top tips for avoiding situations like the Svanberg/Cappello ones above.

  1. Don’t be complacent – if you are going to be the face of your global/UK/US company make sure you have the language skills to do it – ‘good enough’ might just not be good enough when really tested!
  2. Use models – who are the great speakers in English? Find some whom you admire and study their form, note down some of the expressions they use, how do they deliver, what makes them stand out? Model yourself on them
  3. Practise! – I would never go into a presentation or meeting where I have to represent someone or put forward ideas or proposals without practising. Going in cold is a foolhardy thing to do and you are taking a big risk.
  4. Ask someone to check – don’t try to do too much off the cuff, if you have a presentation ask a native speaker to check it, a friend or teacher – if you can practise in front of them too then this is very valuable – don’t underestimate how useful your teacher can be to you, it’s not all about grammar and vocabulary!!
  5. Check current and cultural sensitivities – when tempers are high people are less likely to be tolerant or understanding. Make sure you are not going to offend anybody culturally or because of a current situation (for example when people are complaining about some work-related issue).
  6. Do not translate! – don’t assume that the way you would do it in your own language is going to translate to another culture or another language (small people). Check and find out!

Now I am going to get someone to check this before I post it – I don’t want to offend anybody either!!

March 2011 – I rest my case!!

Some other posts you might find useful:

Business English -what is it you really need to learn

English verbs that confuse

Advanced students – Case Study 1

May 13, 2010

Business English – what is it you really need to learn?

Many years ago when I first started my own language training business I used to telephone language agents to have them include our courses in their portfolios.

I contacted such an agent in Germany one day about short business English courses and he replied

“What is business English? How is it different from English? Surely English is English and the only difference here is the context in which it is used!”

Being fairly inexperienced at that point I was quite taken aback! I made a feeble attempt to disagree but decided that although he had a point he was largely missing the point that Business English was the latest ‘thing’ and being so, to ignore it seemed a foolish thing to do when operating in this business.

I extracted myself deftly from the conversation and thought no more about it.

Lately,  I’ve been thinking about business English and other types of specialist English and I realise that the words of that German agent have remained with me.

What is Business English?

A few words spring to mind; expensive, elusive, a holy grail almost. The subject often feared by teachers who imagine pages of numbers and statistics, embraced by students who ride on its kudos and certainly put to use by smart, corporate-facing language training companies who reap its rewards.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that this is not a valid way to approach the subject and I’m sure the schools are doing a good job and there are good results to report for ROI. I also offer Business English myself.

So, what is a  business English courses?

Typically (please correct me if I’m wrong and there are of course exceptions to this rule)

  1. It can be a course for novices delivered in English aimed at would-be business professionals. It explains how to do ‘businessy’  things like conduct an interview, make sales calls, or interpret data.
  2. It might be an introduction to the language of business – how to meet and greet, the language of marketing or sales, or business idioms in common parlance.
  3. It could be a real high-flying course in finance and banking, or an exam-based course for a qualification.

I wonder, though, if learning all those business idioms and six stock phrases for interrupting someone at a meeting is going to make anyone better at their job.

I have taught many relocated business professionals over the years and have observed two very significant things:

  • Firstly, almost without exception, their partners and children returned at the end of the posting with much better English skills.
  • Many seem stuck on a  plateau and don’t move very far away from this (it would be around FCE/CAE or B2/C1).

Why is this?

  • Most employees use English primarily at work, at home they speak their own language, they often watch tv and listen to music etc.. in their own langauge. They also socalise often (though not exclusively) with compatriots where they speak their own language. Their partners,on the other hand, have exposure to many different language experiences – school, shops, groups etc. They often get involved more in their neighbourhoods and communities. They study the language because their need is more pressing. The children – well it goes without saying, their need is greatest – fitting in with peers – so they generally thrive linguistically.
  • Business language (as is true of many other discreet lexical sets) is restricted to a number of utterances (comparing course books will show this). Work has become more solitary with computers. People email more and speak less. Speaking is restricted to formalised settings, meetings, presentations. Performance here does improve , it’s bound to but it’s a small pond. In my experience students often manage very well at work but don’t always develop skills beyond the work environment.

So, why is this a problem?

Maybe it isn’t if they are here to work and they are getting the work-related skills they need the rest is neither here nor there.

Although I am not an expert in ‘globish’ I suspect that this is, in fact, the language used by many business professionals.  It is a lingua franca and as such a powerful communication tool but is it English? It has a restricted vocabulary and some tolerance of sub or non-standard grammatical features. ‘Decaffeinated English’ was a term used in a recent article by Robert McCrum to describe ‘globish’. I have some sympathies with this description, though these may seem to be more chauvinistic than practical.

‘Globish’ or ‘International’ English works on a certain, albeit restricted level – but therein lies the rub, it is restricted and for my students who are living and working in the UK this can become all too apparent.

See Robert McCrum’s  article on Globish

Two executive students from France and Belgium respectively took short courses with me here in the UK. In both cases they were very fluent but also very inaccurate. We began to unpick some of the grammar and refine some of the rough edges to their language. They were both horrified and upset.

‘We all speak like this in Europe!’

‘I can’t believe that we all make so many mistakes’

From my past teaching experience I know that the benchmark was First Certificate many young twenty somethings came to London for a term took their FCE and then returned to get a job. This language level seems now to have gone viral across the EU and beyond.

It’s fine, everybody understands one another, the business terms are down pat and people sound fluent even if there are mistakes. But is it enough? Surely business is one field in which linguistic eloquence and the ability to manipulate language well can have great advantages – in presenting?  – in negotiating?

Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy and think that everyone should strive to reach the highest level they can. There is some truth in this (not the fuddy-duddy bit!). All teachers want their students to do as well and go as far as they can.

I realise that there are restrictions on time and language needs practice, but who said that business professionals had to stick to business language? After all native speakers have a range of language from which they pick out the business element when it’s appropriate.

I have to say that some of my very best performing business students simply didn’t want to do business English exercises in class. They were curious about other things and we covered a range of reading listening and vocabulary about diverse topics like films, music (one student from Argentina wanted to know all about opera) poetry and food. These topics are not at all out-of-place in the canteen, during coffee breaks or in other social situations. The confidence to propose and discuss such topics is worth as much, if not more than an in-depth knowledge of business collocations.

I sing in choirs and a good piece of advice for getting those very high notes was to imagine you are landing on them from above – I love this analogy for language competence too – the more you know and can use, the more comfortable you will be in any situation.

To sum up, I don’t think you necessarily need to learn only business English, just get a good exposure to a wide range of English then you too will have a bird’s-eye view!

Some exercises to try to broaden your skills:

Top 10 best films ever – this works well as a discussion topic at lunch or in the office you have to get a consensus

Jokes and humour – very important in a business environment (don’t forget to learn where and when it’s appropriate to use jokes). Try these:

Poetry – don’t dismiss this as a language exercise,  poems often short and easily accessible (and you never know, your next potential client might just be  poetry buff!). Here is an example:

Look at these posts on improving skills:

10 ways to improve your vocabulary

10 goofy ways to practise speaking skills

How to keep motivated in language learning

Do you need help getting to your English goal? Contact me.

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