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. Many tips include audio clips. To receive 'Business English Tip of the Week' by email, just subscribe to the newsletter from the link above. 

Interviewing in English

25 Oct 2020

Interviewing is an important task that shows your ability to ask relevant questions and identify key skills in prospective employees. Conducting an interview efficiently is a critical task, since hiring the wrong person can cost your company a lot of time and money. Often, there are standard interview styles and formats which can be used to conduct interviews, but you should also remember that conversation is spontaneous and can lead in different directions. It is always better to think ahead and to prepare questions for different scenarios.

Some key points to remember are:

  • Keep each interviewee's details in mind and ask questions that are relevant to their backgrounds and qualifications, and that are built around the job description.
  • Remain friendly and alert at all times.
  • Keep your tone pleasant and interested, but impersonal.
  • Use key words and phrases from the interviewee's responses to lead the conversation forward.
  • Remember that body language and visual cues are often as important as what is said.
  • Examine the interviewee's resume carefully to ensure that you ask relevant questions.
  • Take brief notes on the candidate's responses so that you don't forget anything important that they have said.
  • Don't ask leading questions that give away the answers.

A successful interview is one that combines different types of questions to get comprehensive information from the person being interviewed, and that assesses the job applicant's capabilities effectively.

 

Study Skills to Improve Your English

18 Oct 2020

Below we suggest some basic study skills to help you improve all aspects of your English.

Listening

  • listen for the general idea
  • listen for important details
  • listen for grammatical forms
  • listen to tapes or radio programs about your personal interests
  • check your progress with comprehension questions

Reading

  • read quickly for the general idea (skimming)
  • read silently without moving your mouth
  • read carefully for important details
  • notice word order and grammatical patterns while reading
  • find the most important words and highlight only these words
  • read about your personal interests in English
  • check your progress with comprehension questions

Vocabulary

  • repeat new words by speaking and writing
  • gesture while repeating a new action verb
  • list new words by topic
  • read dictionary entries thoughtfully
  • check dictionaries for all the meanings of a word
  • check other similar-sounding or similarly-spelled words
  • write hard-to-remember words on cards
  • sort vocabulary cards into topics
  • sort vocabulary cards alphabetically
  • sort vocabulary cards by how well you know the words
  • think about ways you can use a new word in your life
  • make an example sentence to use a new word
  • speak or write your new words in real communication
  • chart words by meanings – with similar and opposite meanings
  • cut apart long compound words and identify prefixes, roots and suffixes
  • study variant forms of prefixes, roots and suffixes

Pronunciation

  • test your hearing of similar but distinct English sounds
  • use a mirror to see if your tongue and lips are in the correct position
  • repeat difficult phrases to exercise your mouth muscles
  • copy English speech rhythm with a drum or nonsense syllables
  • check your progress by dictation to a native speaker

Grammar

  • compare the charts and explanations of one grammar point in different books
  • compare English word order and grammar forms with your language
  • use computer grammar practice for quick feedback
  • listen for grammar
  • practice grammar in speaking
  • check progress with grammar tests

Speaking

  • rehearse model recorded conversations
  • relax to develop fluency
  • meet people who use English for conversation
  • use English at certain times with friends or family members
  • arrange a conversation practice group
  • give a little speech about something of personal importance

Writing

  • study spelling rules
  • learn cursive writing or italic calligraphy
  • write your personal story in English
  • write letters to a pen pal
  • write a letter to a newspaper or politician
  • write stories and practice irregular past tense forms
  • write a report after reading something interesting
  • translate something from your language then compare your English with a native speaker's translation to study word order and communication style.
 

Taking Telephone Messages

11 Oct 2020

Taking telephone messages well is a skill that saves time for both the caller and the receiver.

If you need to take a message for someone, get as much information as possible. Always include:

  • The date and time of the call.
  • The full name of the person calling (ask for correct spelling).
  • The company the caller is from.
  • The phone number and time available for callback.
  • The purpose of the call.

Give enough information to the caller so they know what to expect, such as when the person they are trying to reach will return.

When taking a message, avoid saying, “I’ll have him call you back when he returns.” It would be better to say, “I’ll make sure he gets your message when he returns.”

Bear the following points in mind when leaving a telephone message

  • Don't speak too fast!
  • Pronounce and spell your name clearly.
  • Slow down when saying your telephone number and pause somewhere in the sequence of providing your number.
  • Give your company name, title and reason for calling.
  • Let them know when to call you back.

 

 

Using Modal Verbs to Express Possibility

04 Oct 2020

There are times when writers are uncertain about what will happen and need to refer to future events as possibilities or probabilities, not as future certainties.

Here, we'll briefly review the language used to show how 'probable' future events are, i.e. what is the chance that they will happen.

We can use certain modal verbs followed by the bare infinitive (i.e. the infinitive without 'to') to refer to the future. These modal verbs can be used in the active and passive voice.

May / Might + bare infinitive

May and might are used to express the uncertain possibility of an action in the future. May expresses stronger possibility than might.

Interest rates may increase in the next few months.
Interest rates might be increased in the next few months.

Could / Can + bare Infinitive

We use can and could to express future possibility when the possibility is related to suggestions, plans or projects.

The company's lawyers think it could take a long time to draw up the contract.
We are expanding overseas, so I could be sent to China or Taiwan in the next few months.

Can expresses stronger possibility than could. However as the can of possibility is easily confused with the can of ability, may/could are usually used to avoid confusion.

They can deliver tomorrow on time. (They are able to deliver on time)
They can deliver tomorrow on time. (It is possible for them to deliver on time)

Which meaning is intended? To avoid such confusion use may.

They may/could deliver tomorrow on time. (It is possible for them to deliver on time)
They may/could attend the meeting on Friday.

Could is also used to express a conditional possibility, i.e. the possibility of something happening or not depends on something else happening.

We could go to Macau next week, if you take Monday off work.
The company could expand if it had more capital.
 
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