Workplace English Podcasts

BEP 09 - Reporting on Progress

14 Sep 2015

In meetings and teleconferences a common task is to update participants on the progress of a project or your area of responsibility. In this podcast lesson we focus on the verb tenses and language used in reporting on progress.


BEP 75: Telephoning - Using Standard Phrases

16 Aug 2015



Making and receiving telephone calls is one of the hardest skills in English, especially for non-native speakers who often rely on non-verbal cues such as signs gestures and facial expressions to help their understanding.

In business situations, however, telephoning has a language of its own. We use standard phrases for every telephone function such as answering the phone, offering to help the caller, putting a caller on hold, taking a message, closing a call, etc.  Learning these phrases will help you not only better understand what the other person is saying, but also direct the telephone conversation so that you can communicate your message successfully and concisely. It’s a good idea for you to practice and becoming familiar with the most common standard telephone phrases.

In this podcast lesson, we’ll demonstrate the use of common standard telephone phrases through some short telephone conversations. Lynn is a receptionist at an international shipping company. You're going to listen to her take four routine calls.


BEP 11: Handling Questions on the Phone

19 Jul 2015


In this podcast lesson we are going to examine the different types of questions that are used to clarify details and handle enquiries on the phone.

Customers and colleagues call you with questions. To answer their questions or to address their needs, you need to ask questions, too. But, all questions are not created equal; to get the kind of response you want, you need to know how to choose the appropriate type of question to ask.

Using effective questioning techniques allows you to get information you need. It also helps you stay in control of the conversation.

Also, when you are confronted with difficult situations, the use of different types of questions will help diffuse the situation.

We're not going to look at the five main question types and the various situations where these questions can be used.


BEP 21: Taking Telephone Messages

05 Jul 2015

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.


BEP 44: Business Small Talk - Talking About Where You Live

21 Jun 2015

Having a conversation about where you live or come from is often an effective way of introducing yourself to another person, and also of getting to know more about them. In a business environment, we often get to meet people from other countries, or parts of our own country that we haven’t been to or don't know much about.

Keep in mind, though, that talking about your country or home town is just small talk. The topic of discussion does not matter as much as the flow of the conversation and getting on good terms with the person you are talking to. When talking about your country, try to avoid controversial topics such as religion and politics. You don’t want to antagonize or offend the person you are talking to in any way. The safest topics related to your country are about business, places of interest or current events. Keep your responses fairly brief and also open-ended, so that the listener has a chance to respond. Ask questions in turn about the listener’s country. You don’t want to dominate the conversation or bore your listener who may simply have used an opener like “Where are you from?” to start a conversation.

The two dialogues in this lesson present examples of how to talk about your country and your city. Listen for tips on how to respond to questions and also to give your listener signs showing you are interested in what he or she is talking about.


You are now going to listen to a dialogue between Jamal, a pharmacology consultant in New Delhi, and Debbie, an American who works for a company based in New York. Debbie has recently arrived in India. Jamal and Debbie have just finished a business meeting about Debbie’s plans to set up a branch office in India.


BEP 25: Communicating Action

29 May 2015

When a company moves to a new site it is known as ‘relocation’. This is a big decision, involving everyone connected with the company – staff, customers, suppliers and shareholders. It also affects the families, friends and communities of the people involved with the company.

Once the research into possible locations has been completed, an organisation must decide which relocation option is the most suitable, inform staff and plan the next stages of the operation.

After consulting staff about the options for relocation a final decision has to be taken and everyone informed. A number of things then have to be done to organise the relocation and for this an action plan has to be drawn up.


In this podcast lesson you will practise expressing action points, summarising information and informing colleagues of plans.

First listen to an extract from a business meeting about what has been decided about relocating the company to Bilton Oaks. Diana Riggs is chairing the meeting and the extract begins with her speaking. An action plan is also discussed, which involves assigning specific tasks to people.


BEP 08 - Discussing Options in Meetings

02 Mar 2015

In this episode we look at how to discuss options and choices in meetings. We've looked before at formal meetings but today's meeting is a more informal one, to discuss a specific issue within the same department. The discussion is more free-flowing, or uncontrolled.

Situation 1

You're going to listen to a short extract from a business meeting in which a number of colleagues are discussing various options concerning the Internet side of their business operations.

During the meeting, the colleagues put forward and discuss various options concerning the best course of action to take both in the short term and long term.


BEP 77: Strategy for Customer Service

30 Jan 2015



Rule 1: The customer is always right.
Rule 2: If the customer is wrong, rule 1 applies.

It is said that for every person who complains, there are 26 other people who suffer in silence, and each unhappy customer tells 10 to 16 other people. But if you address the problem in the right way, 90 per cent of the complainers will do business with you again. When people complain, they are usually angry or upset. This can be difficult to handle in a second language.

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to look at how the same customer complaint is dealt with in two completely different ways. One will be the right way and the other, the wrong way.

After you’ve finished listening to this lesson, make sure you review our study notes on a six-stage customer service strategy. You can apply this strategy to most customer service situations where you need to handle a face-to-face customer problem.

Situation 1

You're now going to listen to a conversation between a bank teller and a customer who has a complaint about the bank’s service.



BEP 72: Welcoming Business Visitors

03 Dec 2014



Knowing how to welcome business visitors is an important business speaking skill. This is often the first impression that a visitor will have of a company so you need to make a good impression. Treat visitors in a friendly and relaxed manner, and make sure they are comfortable if they have to wait around. Take an interest in who they are and what they've been doing.

Situation 1

Dan Roberts is an important client from England. He has an appointment to see Tina Chan, the sales manager, at 11:30. He arrives 20 minutes early so as to be in good time for the meeting. Tina Chan’s secretary greets him and makes him feel welcome. It is important for the secretary to make sure Dan is made to feel welcome and is comfortable while he is waiting for the meeting.


BEP 45: Business Meetings - Making Plans

21 May 2014

In planning a business event such as a conference, the type of language that we use commonly includes verbs which refer to the future. In this podcast, we will see how the future simple tense, ‘will,’ ‘going to’ and the present continuous tense can be used to refer to future actions. We will also look at examples of how modal verbs can be used in discussing business plans.

During the course of planning a business conference or workshop, we often need more than one meeting to plan the event. In this podcast lesson, we will listen to extracts from two meetings, one to plan a business conference and the other to discuss and assign specific tasks.


BEP 68: Telephoning - Checking Back and Confirming

30 Apr 2014


Talking on the telephone is a skill that you can develop by paying attention to the different things that you have to remember.

Many times, you need to take down details like names, addresses and telephone numbers. You should always repeat these details back to the caller and confirm with the caller that you have noted them correctly. This is especially important if you are speaking to someone for the first time.

You should take down their name and contact details very carefully and confirm all the details with the caller before ending the call.


Andy Wang has been asked by his boss, the Training Manager, to collect some information on language consultants offering in-company training courses. Andy then phones World Language Centre after seeing an advertisement in an English language learning magazine. Amy Nassar handles all phone enquiries for World Language Centre. It's very important that she notes down the details of each enquiry very carefully. She has developed several techniques to ensure that she notes down the correct information.


BEP 41: Placing, Changing and Canceling Orders

10 Feb 2014

A lot of people and businesses place their orders for products and services over the Internet these days, but many still prefer to do business over the phone. Speaking to someone personally gives a sense of security and peace of mind. And if you need to change or cancel an order, speaking directly to a representative of the company you’re ordering from gives confidence that they will carry out your instructions correctly.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to listen to three telephone conversations: placing an order, changing an order, and canceling an order. As you can imagine, when business is done over the phone, it’s important that details are recorded accurately. This process involves a lot of checking, repeating and confirming. We use specific phrases in English for these functions, which you’ll hear throughout these dialogues.


You’re now going to hear a telephone conversation between Sara, a customer service assistant at a retail firm, and Bob, a regular customer who has called to place a new order for clothing items.


BEP 16 - Business Meetings - Developing an Argument Part 2

09 Jan 2014

Following on from Part 1, Jack is giving an update on the Costa Rican project. Dan is against the idea, because as production manager, he doesn’t want to lose all his staff. Angie, as HR manager, also does not want to lay off US staff, and is worried about the problems of hiring foreign workers. Angie and Dan gang up on Jack with many good objections to his outsourcing plan. Jack tries to defend his plan, but comes up short.


BEP 24: Expressing Agreement and Disagreement

09 Jan 2014

Whenever people work together, there is always a possibility of disagreement. It’s usually fine to tell friends bluntly that you disagree with them. But in business, we have to be quite careful about how we disagree. It’s not that we can’t do it, but that we have to do it in ways that won’t cause offence. We have to disagree indirectly.

In this podcast lesson, we’ll be reviewing the language used to disagree politely with someone.


BEP 14 - Telephone Talk (Buying Time)

09 Dec 2013

When busy at work, we don’t always have time to return calls right away. Many times, too, a colleague or co-worker will ask us to do something and not leave us with enough time. So how can we politely “stall for time”? How can we say politely that we need more time to complete a job? Listen to this podcast lesson and we'll teach you!