Business Speaking

Job Interview Tips - Part 1

05 Apr 2020

You've written a great CV (resume) and covering letter, and the company has asked you to attend an interview. You need to make sure that you make the right impression to get the job! Here are five tips to help you succeed at the interview.

1. Use polite phrases.

Remember that if someone asks you "How do you do?" the correct response is "How do you do?"

When you meet someone for the first time, you can say "Pleased to meet you." If someone says this to you first, you can reply "Pleased to meet you, too" or "It's a pleasure to meet you, too."

If you didn't hear someone's name, you can say "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

Pleased to meet you.
Pleased to meet you, too.
It's a pleasure to meet you, too.
I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.

2. Ask questions which you have already prepared.

You should have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. You can prepare some before the interview. This will help you research the vocabulary you need and it will make you look interested in the company and the job.

There are different types of questions. "Direct" questions use words like "who", "when" or "what" or have an auxiliary at the beginning of the question.

Who is the manager of the department?
When would the job start?
Do you have a company pension?
Can I also work from home?

 
You can also ask "indirect" questions to make what you say sound less demanding. Indirect questions start with an introduction:
 

I'd like to know if you offer private health care.
Could you tell me if you offer options?

 

3. Try to predict the questions and plan the answers.

Can you tell us more about your experience with ...
Oh yes. When I ...
What qualities can you bring to this post?
Well, I'm an organised person and I ..

 

4. Show you are listening.

As well as maintaining eye contact, you can use phrase such as "Mmm", "I see" or "OK" to show the other person you are paying attention.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for explanations if you don't understand something.

I'm not sure I understand completely the relationship between these two departments. Could you explain a little further, please?
I'm afraid I don't really understand the difference between these two contracts. Could you go over it again, please?
I'm sorry, but I didn't understand what you just said. Could you repeat it please?

 

How to Give a Speech in English

22 Mar 2020

Every speech or presentation has two main aspects:

  • WHAT you say (content)

  • HOW you say it (delivery)

You obviously have a lot of control over the content, because you can plan out exactly what you want to say. But you can also do a lot to make sure your delivery is effective too. The advice that follows will help you deliver a powerful speech:
  • Remember that a listener usually only has one chance to understand what you are saying. So you must do everything you can to make it easy for him or her to follow your ideas.
  • The best way to do this is to "signpost" your speech. At the beginning, say how your speech will be divided up. During the speech, make it clear when one part has finished and the next part has started. (For example, "Now that I have explained some of the causes of air pollution, I want to tell you what we can do to reduce the problem.") At the end of your speech, make it clear that you are finished (e.g. by simply saying "Thank you!").
  • The most important parts of a speech are the beginning and the end. Think about a strong first sentence that will capture the attention of the listener. Be calm and confident; give the impression that you are well-prepared and have something interesting to say. End with a strong sentence: make people laugh or give them something provocative to think about.
  • Practise your speech before the big day. In particular it is useful to think about how and where you will stand/sit, and where you will put your materials before and after you have used them. Practise using your speech cards.
  • Speak loudly and clearly. Remember that your voice (your intonation) must do the job that punctuation does in your writing. Try not to speak too fast. Never just read full sentence notes - it is boring and makes your speech very difficult to follow.
  • Make sure you can be seen as well as heard. Don't hide behind your sheets or the overhead projector. It is important that every listener feels you are talking to him or her personally. Therefore look round the room and try to make eye contact with everyone in the audience at least once during your speech.
  • Be careful not to distract your listeners by swinging on a chair, tapping your feet etc.
  • It is useful to include visual material with your speech. For example, if you are talking about places, show a map. If you are using numbers, write them for all to see. (It's very difficult for listeners to keep large or many numbers in their head.)
  • If you are going to have audience participation be very clear exactly what you want from them. If you ask a question, be ready for strange answers, and expect to have to answer it yourself.
 

Telephone Answering Tips

08 Mar 2020

Telephone answering skills are very important for businesses. The telephone is still the main point of contact with customers for most companies. And the way you answer your company's phone will form your customer's first impression of your business. These telephone answering tips will ensure that callers know they're dealing with a professional business:

Answer all incoming phone calls before the third ring.

When you answer the phone, be warm and enthusiastic. Your voice at the end of the telephone line is sometimes the only impression of your company a caller will get.

When answering the phone, welcome callers politely and identify yourself and your organization. Say, for instance:

Good morning. Cypress Technologies. Susan speaking. How may I help you?

No one should ever have to ask if they've reached such and such a business.

Enunciate clearly, keep your voice volume moderate, and speak slowly and clearly when answering the phone, so your caller can understand you easily.

Control your language when answering the phone. Don't use slang or jargon. Instead of saying, "OK", or "No problem", for instance, say "Certainly", "Very well", or "All right". If you're a person who uses fillers when you speak, such as "uh huh", "um", or phrases such as "like" or "you know", train yourself carefully not to use these when you speak on the phone.

Train your voice and vocabulary to be positive when phone answering, even on a "down" day. For example, rather than saying, "I don't know", say:

Let me find out about that for you.

Take telephone messages completely and accurately. If there's something you don't understand or can't spell, such as a person's surname, ask the caller to repeat it or spell it for you. Then make sure the message gets to the intended recipient.

Answer all your messages within one business day.

Always ask the caller if it's all right to put him/her on hold before doing so, and don't leave the caller on hold for very long. Provide callers on hold with progress reports every 30 to 45 seconds. Offer them choices if possible, such as:

That line is still busy. Will you continue to hold or should I have xxx call you back?

 

Making Polite Requests

23 Feb 2020

When you are asking someone to do something for you or trying to influence their actions, you can often show that you want to be polite by saying things in an indirect way:

  1. Help me file these documents (please). (Very Direct - more demand than request)
  2. (Please) will you help me file these documents? (Less Direct)
  3. Could you help me file these documents (please)? (Neutral)
  4. Do you think you could possibly help me file these documents? (Indirect)
  5. I was wondering if you could possibly help me file these documents? (Very Indirect)
Generally speaking, the more indirect the expression you use, the more polite you will seem.  If you are too direct you may be considered impolite.  However, the more indirect expressions can sound "too polite".  When deciding which expressions are suitable for which situations it is useful to ask certain questions.
  • What is the relationship between the speaker and the listener? More direct expressions are often used between friends or when the speaker is in a position of authority.

  • How important is the action to the speaker? Usually, the more important the action, the more indirect the expression.

  • How much inconvenience will the action cause for the listener? If, for example, the listener is being asked to make a lot of effort or do something which they do not usually do, the speaker will probably use a more indirect expression.
 

Participating in Business Meetings

09 Feb 2020

In a business meeting, there are two situations in which people often run into difficulties. These are when you want to interrupt someone who is speaking, for whatever reason, and when you are asked to comment on something you don't want to comment on (either because you don't have enough information to give your opinion, or because you
don't wish to speak for your own reasons).

If you need to interrupt, here are some phrases you may find helpful (and remember to consider your timing when using them, too!):

 
Do you mind if I interrupt? I must just say that...
Just a minute...
May I add something here?
May I interrupt here?
May I just say something on that point?
Or use that wonderful word, "sorry":
 
Sorry, I must just point out that...
Sorry, could I interrupt a moment?
Sorry, but I must say that...
Sorry, could I just say something?
"Sorry" makes an interruption of a meeting a little more polite.

But to avoid making a comment on an issue, "I'm afraid" works better:

I'm afraid I can't comment at the moment... (then give a reason why: ...as I need to check on the latest information / ...as I'd like a little more clarification on this issue from Ms. Leung, etc.)
I'm afraid I'm not able to say. (+ reason)
I'm afraid I'd rather not go into detail here, if you don't mind.
Using "I'm afraid" is better here than "I'm sorry", as "I'm sorry" puts the blame on you and indicates that it is your fault, while "I'm afraid" just indicates that you may feel some regret, but it is not necessarily your fault.

Other options include:

 
Do you mind if we talk about that later?
Can we put it off until later?
I don't think there's any point in going into detail at this stage.
That information isn't available yet, but we could talk about it... (give date or time)
I'd rather not say. (simple and direct, but honest)
 

Tips for Effective Negotiations

26 Jan 2020

Rapport

Try to establish a good rapport with your opposite number from the moment your first meet, whether or not you already know each other. Some general 'social talk' is a good ice-breaker in this respect.

Simplicity

Keep your language simple and clear. Take your time and use short words and sentences that you are comfortable with - there's no point in complicating a difficult task with difficult language.

Clarity

Don't be afraid to ask questions if there is anything you don't understand. It is vital to avoid any misunderstandings that might jeopardise the success of your negotiation.

Listening and Response

Listening attentively at every stage of your negotiation will help avoid misunderstanding and create a spirit of cooperation. Also respond to what your opposite is saying with words or phrases such as "I see what you mean" or "You have a point".

Review

Summarise and review your progress at regular intervals during the negotiation. This will give both parties a chance to check understanding and if necessary clarify and rectify any misunderstandings.

 

Explaining Procedures – Sequence Words and Phrases

12 Jan 2020

To help you with explaining procedures, you can use certain words to show a sequence of events.

To explain the order in which certain things are done

First ...
First of all ...
Initially...
Next ...
The next thing you have to do is...
Then ...
After that...
After you (have done that / do that) ...
Finally ...
...And then finally...
Lastly...
Afterwards...

To add a further point

Make sure you (don't forget to)...
Oh, and by the way, don't forget to...
Oh, and be careful not to ...
Make sure you.../ Make sure you don't...

To check that the other person is following you, or has understood

OK, so is that clear?
Does that make sense?
So there we are / that's it. Do you have any questions?

 

Speaking English on the Telephone

29 Dec 2019

If you have to talk on the phone in English, don't be afraid! The fear of talking on the phone in a second language will disappear if you practice often. The most difficult part about using the phone in a language that is not your own is the fact that you cannot see the other person's eyes, mouth, and body language. Although you might not be aware of it, in face-to-face conversation you lip-read and watch for smiles, frowns, and moving hands, all of which can help in understanding meaning.

In addition, it is true that telephone interaction is perhaps not taught enough in ESL classrooms, nor is textbook treatment of telephone conversation adequate. These deficiencies pose a serious problem for ESL learners, given how much everyone relies on the telephone in everyday life. Telephone talk appears to be one area in which ESL learners are particularly sensitive, since they frequently state that it is difficult to talk on the telephone and they either avoid or limit such interactions.

Here are a few tips for speaking English on the telephone:

Speak Slowly and Clearly

Listening to someone speaking in a second language over the telephone can be very challenging because you cannot see the person you are trying to hear. However, it may be even more difficult for the person you are talking with to understand you. You may not realize that your pronunciation isn't clear because your teacher and fellow students know and understand you. Pay special attention to your weak areas (such as "r's" and "l's" or "b's" and "v's") when you are on the phone. If you are nervous about using the phone in English, you may notice yourself speaking very quickly. Practice or write down what you are going to say and take a few deep breaths before you make a phone call.

Make Sure you Understand the Other Speaker

Don't pretend to understand everything you hear over the telephone. Even native speakers ask each other to repeat and confirm information from time to time. This is especially important if you are taking a message for someone else. Learn the appropriate expressions that English speakers use when they don't hear something properly. Don't be afraid to remind the person to slow down more than once. Keep your telephone in an area that is away from other noise distractions such as a radio or television.

Ask another student to practice talking on the phone with you. You might choose one night a week and take turns phoning each other at a certain time. Try to talk for at least fifteen minutes. You can talk socially, or role play different scenarios in a business environment. If you don't have access to a telephone, you can practice by setting two chairs up back to back. The most important thing about practicing telephone English is that you aren't able to see each other's mouths. It is amazing how much people lip-read without realizing.

Use Businesses and Recordings

There are many ways to get free telephone English practice. After business hours, you can call and listen to recorded messages. Write down what you hear the first time, and then call back and check to see if your notes are accurate. Use the phone in your everyday life. Call for a pizza delivery instead of going out to eat. Call a salon to book a hair appointment. You can even phone the movie theatre to ask for the listings instead of using the newspaper. Some large cities have free recordings you can call for information such as your daily horoscope or the weather (make sure that you aren't going to get charged for these numbers first). Some products have free phone numbers on the packaging that you can call for information. Think of a question you might want to ask and call the free number! For example, call the number on the back of the cereal box and ask for coupons. You will have to give your name and address. Make sure you have a pen handy so that you can repeat the information and check your comprehension.

Learn Telephone Etiquette (manners)

The way that you speak to your best friend on the phone is very different to the way you should speak to someone in a business setting. Many ESL speakers make the mistake of being too direct on the telephone. It is possible that the person on the other line will think that you are being rude on purpose if you don't use formal language in certain situations. Sometimes just one word such as "could" or "may" is necessary in order to sound polite. You should use the same modal verbs you would use in a formal "face-to-face" situation. Take the time to learn how to answer the phone and say goodbye in a polite manner, as well as all the various ways one can start and end a conversation casually.

Practice Dates and Numbers

You should practice saying dates and numbers aloud. You and a friend can write out a list of dates and numbers and take turns reading them over the phone to each other. Record what you hear. Exchange notes the next day and check your answers.

 

Improving your Intonation in English

15 Dec 2019

In past tips we have looked at the pronunciation of individual sounds and at word and sentence stress. The most noticeable feature of a foreign language, however, is often intonation and rhythm. Some languages are described as sounding "like music", other languages as being "flat" and without "melody". If the pronunciation of individual sounds can be compared with the individual notes in a piece of music, the intonation can be compared with the melody or tune.

All languages have their own intonation patterns. Why is intonation important? Intonation conveys both meaning and attitude, so when a non-native speaker gets the intonation wrong, s/he can be misunderstood or sometimes misinterpreted as sounding rude or demanding when this is not intended.

If a non-native speaker is almost fluent in the English language, intonation is often the only way in which one can tell that s/he is foreign. Moreover, if a foreign speaker is advanced in terms of grammar, vocabulary, etc., native speakers will make fewer allowances for intonation problems than they would with speakers who are obviously at a more elementary level.

For example, if an advanced level speaker unintentionally sounds rude or demanding, the listeners will assume that s/he means it.

What can we do to improve intonation?

Listen to as much spoken English as possible (on CD if you are unable to listen to native speakers) and be aware of where the voice rises and falls. When you listen, try to consider the attitude and feelings being conveyed. One word, for example, can be said in several different ways, depending on the meaning you wish to convey.

Are there any rules?

Yes, there are some. For example, most open questions (those beginning with "when", "where", "who", "which", what", "why" and "how" end with a falling tone and most closed questions (those requiring a "yes" or "no" answer) end with a rising tone.

 

Telephone Courtesy

01 Dec 2019

When you answer the telephone in a business, you are interacting with a customer. Every telephone call you make at work gives you an opportunity to strengthen a customer relationship.

You also use the telephone in a business for other reasons too. After all, you may use the telephone to talk to customers at work, but you also talk to colleagues and co-workers on the phone, and they're not customers.

There are really two kinds of customers - external and internal. External ones are the people who call your company to buy products and services. The external customer's call demands your best telephone manners.

When you work with other people or you coordinate with other departments or divisions, you are interacting with internal customers. If a colleague calls needing data from you to prepare a report, that person is really your internal customer. Internal telephone calls deserve the same level of courtesy you'd normally use with real customers.

Telephone courtesy should become a habit. Whether you're interacting with external or internal customers, courtesy is always your best telephone strategy.

FOCUS ON TELEPHONE COURTESY

Draw on your telephone experiences - both as a customer and as a businessperson - to answer the questions below. Then consider each of the related telephone tips.

1. When you place a call, how many rings do you allow before you assume the party is not going to answer?

TIP
You should allow from 4 to 6 rings before you assume the person you are calling is not going to answer.

2. When the telephone rings, how quickly do you answer?

TIP
When you receive a call, answer on the first or second ring. In business, the ring of the telephone is not simply an interruption. Answering the telephone is an integral part of your job.

3. Have you ever been lost when someone tried to transfer your call?

TIP
Call transfers are very common. Be sure you know the proper process on your system. Customers who are lost in transfer may become lost business as well.

4. When making a business call, do you like being put on hold? When you're on hold, have you ever felt abandoned or left hanging?

TIP
Most people don't like being on hold. Be sure you ask the party if he/she wants to hold. Then check back every 30 seconds to confirm that hold or offer to take a message. Never leave a caller on hold.

5. Have you ever been on the telephone when the other party dropped the receiver or accidentally banged it on the desktop?

TIP
It is an unpleasant surprise. Be especially careful in handling the receiver. Your telephone partner will appreciate it.

6. How do you feel when talking on the telephone to someone who is eating or drinking during the conversation?

TIP
Don't eat, drink or chew gum during a conversation. Such sounds are not always pleasant.

7. What impression do you get when the other person fumbles around looking for a pad or pencil?

TIP
You probably imagined the person was not organized or was not very businesslike. Since you always want to make a positive telephone impression, be ready for action.

8. When someone says he/she will call back at a specific time - but doesn't, how do you feel?

TIP
Telephone tag means two parties try to get in touch by leaving phone messages and attempting callbacks. It's become an annoying fact of business life. If you promise to call back at a certain time, make that call. Likewise, if you've promised to be available at a certain time to receive a call, be there.

9. Suppose you receive a call and are disconnected. Who takes the initiative to resume the call?

TIP
The person who made the original call makes the second call to resume an interrupted conversation. The person who received the original call should hang up immediately when the call is disrupted to enable the other party to call back.
 

Leaving Telephone Messages

17 Nov 2019

Projecting a professional image over the phone is important for building a good working relationship with colleagues, clients or customers.

Here, we present you with a number of useful language structures for leaving a message over the telephone.

The language required for leaving messages can be categorized into the following sections:

Asking for someone

Can/Could/May I speak to...?
I'd like to speak to....
Could you put me through to...¦?
Could I have extension 211, please?
May I speak to someone in the Accounts Department, please?

 

Asking when someone is back

When do you expect him back?  
Do you know when he'll be back in the office?   
What time will she be back?

Asking to leave a message

May/Can/Could I leave a message?
Could you take a message, please?

Explaining the reason for calling

I'm calling about...
The reason I'm calling is to + infinitive
It's about + noun phrase/gerund

Leaving a message containing information only

Could you tell her that...?

 

Leaving a message requesting action

Could you ask him to...?

Other useful expressions

I would appreciate it if you could inform him as soon as possible. It is rather urgent.
I'll be out the rest of the day. Could you ask him to call me tomorrow?
Actually, is there anyone else I can speak to regarding this matter?

 

 

Business Presentations: Signposting Language

03 Nov 2019

A good way to make your presentations effective, interesting and easy to follow is to use signposting language. 'Signposting language' is the words and phrases that people use to tell the listener what has just happened, and what is going to happen next.

In other words, signposting language guides the listener through the presentation. A good presenter will usually use a lot of signposting language, so it is a good idea to learn a few of the common phrases, even if you spend more time listening to presentations than giving them! Signposting language is usually fairly informal, so it is quite easy to understand.

Here's some useful language:

Introducing the Subject

I'd like to start by...

Let's begin by...

First of all, I'll...

Starting with...

I'll begin by...

Finishing One Subject

Well, I've told you about...

That's all I have to say about...

We've looked at...

So much for...

Starting Another Subject

Now we'll move on to...

Let me turn now to...

Next...

Turning to...

I'd like now to discuss...

Let's look now at...

Analysing a Point and Giving Recommendations

Where does that lead us?

Let's consider this in more detail...

What does this mean for ABC?

Translated into real terms...

Giving an Example

For example,...

A good example of this is...

As an illustration,...

To give you an example,...

To illustrate this point...

Dealing with Questions

We'll be examining this point in more detail later...

I'd like to deal with this question later, if I may...

I'll come back to this question later in my talk...

Perhaps you'd like to raise this point at the end...

I won't comment on this now...

Summarising and Concluding

In conclusion,...

Right, let's sum up, shall we?

I'd like now to recap...

Let's summarise briefly what we've looked at...

Finally, let me remind you of some of the issues we've covered...

If I can just sum up the main points...

Ordering / Sequencing

Firstly...secondly...thirdly...lastly...

First of all...then...next...after that...finally...

To start with...later...to finish up...

 

Making Introductions in a Business Setting

27 Oct 2019

There are two kinds of introductions: self-introductions and three-party introductions.

When do you introduce yourself? When you recognize someone and he or she doesn't recognize you, whenever you're seated next to someone you don't know, when the introducer doesn't remember your name and when you're the friend of a friend. Extend your hand, offer your first and last names and share something about yourself or the event you're attending.

Tip: In a self-introduction, never give yourself a title such as Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.

In a three-person introduction, your role is to introduce two people to each other. In a business or business/social situation, one must consider the rank of the people involved in order to show respect. Simply say first the name of the person who should be shown the greatest respect. And remember, gender (whether someone is male or female) doesn't count in the business world; protocol is based upon rank. Senior employees outrank junior employees, and customers or clients outrank every employee (even the CEO).

Begin with the superior's name, add the introduction phrase, say the other person's name and add some information about the second person. Then reverse the introduction by saying the second's name, followed by the introduction phrase and the superior's name and information. When a three-party introduction is done correctly, the two people being introduced should be able to start some small talk based upon what you shared about each of them. Introductions should match, so if you know the first and last names of both people, say both. If you know only the first name of one person, say only the first names of both.

Examples:

"Mr. Brown, I'd like to introduce Ms. Ann Smith, who started yesterday in the Accounts Department. Ann, this is Douglas Brown, our CEO."

(Ann would be wise to call the CEO "Mr. Brown" right away and not assume she may call him by his first name. Always use the last names of superiors and clients until you are invited to do otherwise.)

"Pete, I'd like to introduce to you Doug Brown, our CEO. Doug, I'd like you to meet Pete Johnson, who's considering our firm for his ad campaign."

Tip: Don't say "I'd like to introduce you to..", but rather "I'd like to introduce to you"

Tip: Always stand for an introduction.

To succeed in business, you need good social skills. Knowing how to shake hands and handle introductions can give you an advantage over your competition!

 

Telephoning: General Advice

06 Oct 2019

You have few problems reading the language or understanding others. But telephoning in English? That's when you start to panic. This is understandable. You can't see the other person, and voices are often more difficult to understand on the phone. All is not lost, however. There are some simple steps you can take to improve your telephoning skills.

  • Don't Panic
This is easier said than done, but really is the key to success. You must lose your fear of the phone. Make at least one call a day in English to a friend just to practice.
  • Learn Key Words and Standard Phrases
Key words and standard phrases come up again and again on the phone. Learn them and use them! Don't try to be too clever on the phone; stick to the standard phrases.
  • Start and Finish Well
A confident opening is important. Say clearly, and not too quickly, who you are and why you are calling: "This is Helen Chan from IBF Ltd. I'm calling about your order for ..." Try to avoid saying "My name is ..."; this sounds less professional. At the end of the call, thank the other person: "Thanks for your help." If they thank you, answer with "You're welcome".
  • Learn to Control the Call
Native speakers of English often speak too quickly and not clearly enough. Make sure you know how to stop them or slow them down. Phrases such as: "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that" and "I'm sorry, could you speak a little more slowly" will help you to control the situation. Don't be embarrassed to stop the caller.
  • Listen Carefully
Listen to the vocabulary and phrases that the caller uses. Often you will be able to say the same things later in the same conversation. Your partner might not notice what you are doing, but you will feel good that you have activated your passive vocabulary.
  • Soften your Language
Chinese speakers often sound impolite in English because they are too direct. 'Would' and 'could' are the two key words. "I'd like to speak to Jane Brown, please" is much better than "I want to speak to...".
  • Create a Positive Atmosphere
Smile when you are on the phone. It really does make a difference to the way you sound. And the impression you create can make a big difference to your chances of business success. If you are unsure how you sound on the phone, record yourself during a conversation. You may be surprised by the result.
  • Learn to Spell
Do you know the telephone alphabet in English? If not, learn it. It is important not only to know how to say the individual letters, but also to be able to check them: "Was that I for India or E for Echo?" (Don't say "E like Echo".)
 

What you can do to improve your spoken English!

29 Sep 2019
  • Listen to the radio. You could get up five minutes earlier and listen to the news in English.
  • Watch television programmes in English to improve your listening skills. Try watching the news in English instead of your own language. If you watch a movie and it has subtitles, try taping a paper over them. Listening to others talk is a good preparation for talking yourself.
  • Invite your English colleague to lunch! Find a friend who also wants to improve his or her English and have lunch or dinner together - speaking English of course.

  • Check out books, CDs, and other materials in English from your local library. Look especially for books which have lots of dialogue in them. Read plays. When you go to see English films, try not to read the subtitles.
  • Learn the words to some popular songs.
  • Find books-on-CD in your local library. Listen while you are relaxing at home or while commuting if you have a walkman.

  • Exchange taped messages with a colleague. Record a few minutes and then ask your colleague to respond later on the same tape.

  • Choose a famous person whose accent you admire, and if you can get recordings of him or her, imitate the way he or she speaks.

  • Practice situations when you are alone, perhaps in front of a mirror. Imagine introducing yourself, disagreeing with someone's ideas, being interviewed or asking for information. If you can get someone to help, assign parts and do role - playing.

  • Find a friend or two and agree to speak English at certain regular times.

  • Practice reading aloud - get someone to check your pronunciation and intonation, or record yourself and analyse your own speech. Set goals of specific things you can work on improving - for example, differences between words that contain "l" and "n" or "w" and "v". (e.g. There is no light at night at Wheatley University".) Keep notes of words you often mispronounce and practice them.

  • If you have a chance to travel, take advantage of the opportunities to use English - airlines and immigration personnel, hotel and restaurant staff, fellow travellers and passengers.

  • Sign up to Skype internet telephony. It's free. You can search for people in "Skype Me" mode who want to chat!
 
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