Business English Tip of the Week

business-english-tipsEvery week we publish a business English tip concerning different aspects of business English. Topic areas include writing, speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, exams as well as general English. To receive 'Business English Tip of the Week' by email, just subscribe to our newsletter. You can choose whether to receive the newsletter weekly or monthly. Simply click on the link on the right to subscribe. It's free!

General Tips to Improve your English

20 Oct 2019

Techniques

1) Some people like to learn by studying English grammar and then using it in sentences. Other people like to learn by listening to spoken English and then repeating it the best way they can. Actually, the best way to learn is to use both of these techniques together.

New Words

2) When you learn a new word, write it down in your notebook. Write the definition in English, not in your own language. Below the meaning, write down the sentence or phrase where you found the word.

3) Many verbs, nouns and adjectives are used with certain prepositions. For example: afraid + of or apply + for. Make sure that you learn the words together with their prepositions.

4) Out of the four skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening, the best way to learn new words is through reading.

Reading

5) Read the day's newspaper in your own language and then read one in English. This way, you already know the context and main ideas of the main stories. It will be easier for you to guess the meaning of new words.

6) Read graded readers. These provide excellent reading practice for elementary to advanced level learners.

7) Read something that you are interested in. If you like sports, read about sports. If you like fashion, read about fashion.

Writing

8) Find a penpal, the traditional way, or an epal from the Internet.

9) Try reading and leaving messages on an online message board.

Speaking

10) Speak as much and as often as you can in English. Don't worry too much about your grammar when you speak. It's ok to make mistakes.
 

Reading Advice

13 Oct 2019

Right now you are reading English. That means that you are using your brain in a very active way. Reading is a very active process. It is true that the writer does a lot of work, but the reader also has to work hard. When you read a text, you have to do some or all of these:

  • imagine a scene in your head
  • understand clearly what the writer is trying to say
  • agree or disagree with the writer

When you learn a language, listening, speaking and writing are important, but reading can also be very helpful. There are many advantages associated with reading, including:

Learning Vocabulary In Context
  • You will usually encounter new words when you read. If there are too many new words for you, then the level is too high and you should read something simpler. But if there are, say, a maximum of five new words per page, you will learn this vocabulary easily. You may not even need to use a dictionary because you can guess the meaning from the rest of the text (from the context). Not only do you learn new words, but you see them being used naturally.
A Model For Writing
  • When you read, it gives you a good example for writing. Texts that you read show you structures and expressions that you can use when you write.
Seeing "Correctly Structured" English
  • When people write, they usually use "correct" English with a proper grammatical structure. This is not always true when people speak. So, by reading you see and learn grammatical English naturally.
Working At Your Own Speed
  • You can read as fast or as slowly as you like. You can read ten pages in 30 minutes, or take one hour to explore just one page. It doesn't matter. The choice is yours. You cannot easily do this when speaking or listening. This is one of the big advantages of reading because different people work at different speeds.
Personal Interest
  • If you choose something to read that you like, it can actually be interesting and enjoyable. For example, if you like to read about football in your own language, why not read about football in English? You will get information about football and improve your English at the same time.
READING TIPS
  • Try to read at the right level. Read something that you can (more or less) understand. If you need to stop every three words to look in a dictionary, it is not interesting for you and you will soon be discouraged.
  • Make a note of new vocabulary. If there are four or five new words on a page, write them in your vocabulary book. But you don't have to write them while you read. Instead, try to guess their meaning as you read; mark them with a pen; then come back when you have finished reading to check in a dictionary and add them to your vocabulary book.
  • Try to read regularly. For example, read for a short time once a day. Fifteen minutes every day is better than two hours every Sunday. Fix a time to read and keep to it. For example, you could read for fifteen minutes when you go to bed, or when you get up, or at lunchtime.
  • Be organised. Have everything ready:
    • something to read
    • a marker to highlight difficult words
    • a dictionary
    • your vocabulary book
    • a pen to write down the new words
  • Read what interests YOU. Choose a magazine or book about a subject that you like.
 

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".)
 
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