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 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 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 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 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!



BEP 07 - Business Telephoning - Key Phrases

24 Nov 2013

In this podcast lesson we look at making business calls in English and go over some of the key phrases for speaking on the phone.
First, listen to the two short phone calls. Then work through the debriefing and practice the phrases.

BEP 39: Entertaining: Practical English in a Bar and Restaurant

24 Jul 2013

Entertaining is considered an important aspect of business communication. Not all professional interactions take place in an office environment, and knowing how to entertain business associates in informal environments, such as in bars and restaurants, is an important part of the communication process.

While communication with clients in social settings is not as structured as that in professional settings, it does have its unwritten rules about etiquette and language usage. Since different social settings require different aspects of communication, it’s a good idea to know what to say and how to behave in such situations.

You are now going to listen to a dialogue between Sheila, a consultant in Mumbai, and Jeremy, a British client with Sheila’s company who is visiting the city.


BEP 58: Teleconferencing: Communication Problems

06 Feb 2013

In the modern business world, teleconferencing is an essential means through which business associates in different places communicate with each other. Teleconferencing may be done through audio or both audio and video channels, and is a cost-effective way of conducting business meetings with colleagues and associates who are in different parts of the same country or the world.

Because teleconferencing is dependent on long-distance communication and sometimes unreliable technology, problems in communication can often arise. For example, participants may not be able to hear each other because of audio problems. Also, a frequent concern is that native speakers of English tend to speak very quickly, and non-native speakers may find it difficult to follow what they are saying over a conference call. In such cases, it is useful to know how to interrupt politely, ask for clarifications, and handle general problems in communication.


You will now listen to a teleconference with three speakers who are all from the same company, but work in different locations. Jack, a senior level associate at a global insurance agency, is facilitating the teleconference from his office in London. The participants are Jack’s colleagues Michelle from Hong Kong and Patrick from Edinburgh.


BEP 56: Interviewing in English

25 Aug 2012

In this podcast lesson, we will look at the many types of questions you can ask while interviewing someone. Some questions are open-ended and others are close-ended, and there are a number of categories of questions, such as past-performance questions, negative-balance questions, and judgement-call questions. 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.


You will now listen to an extract from an interview between Lila, an HR manager at an investment bank, and Edgar, who has applied for a position at the company.


BEP 23: Questioning Techniques

09 May 2012

In this podcast lesson we're going to focus on questioning techniques once again. Questioning is the most important way of exchanging information in business situations. Since there are many situations where questions are used in gaining information, there are, of course, many different ways of asking questions.

The most important thing to consider when asking questions concerns your relationship with the person you are speaking to. Obviously, the closer you are to someone, the more informal your questions can be. It’s advisable, though, to be more polite than is usually necessary if you are unsure how polite or formal to be. Informal, direct questions may be considered impolite in certain situations with certain people; formal, indirect questions can often be considered inappropriate in other situations.

Would you use the same type of questions with your subordinate as you would with a customer? Would you question your boss in the same way you'd question your colleague? It's doubtful.


BEP 73: Making Polite Requests

02 Aug 2011



In business, we often have to ask someone to do something for us. There are many different ways of making requests in English; some requests are direct and others are indirect. In general though, the more indirect your request, the more polite it will sound. And unsurprisingly, indirect requests generally include more words than direct requests. In some cultures it may seem strange to use such polite language, but in western culture, it's very important to be as polite as possible, especially if you are asking someone to do something for you or requesting information from them.

In general, the language of a request becomes more polite if you are asking a big favour, and/or if you are speaking in a more formal situation to someone, perhaps to your superior at work or to a customer or client. When speaking to friends and colleagues in informal situations, however, requests tend to be shorter and more direct.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to listen to a number of short conversations in which the speakers make different types of requests. Pay attention to the language of each request. At the same time, consider the relationship between the two people speaking as well as the nature of each request.

Situation 1

In the first situation, Rachel asks her boss, Mr Green, if she can have a day off work. Since she has a fairly formal relationship with her boss, she must be extra polite when asking this favour.


BEP 55: Giving Progress Updates

14 Mar 2010


After you’ve been assigned a project or task to complete, at some point during the project or task your manager may ask you for a progress update. They will want to know what you have done so far, what you are currently working on, and when it will be completed.

To give an accurate update on your progress, you will need to be familiar with the main reporting tenses: the past simple (did) and the present perfect (have done). You’ll need to know the differences in usage between these two tenses. To talk about what you are doing now, you’ll need to be familiar with the present continuous tense (are doing). And, you’ll need to know how to use the future simple tense (will do) or the future perfect tense (will have done) to talk about what you will do in the future and when you will have completed the project or task.


You’re now going to listen to Jenny, a Technical Support Department Director, ask Lee, one of her supervisors, for a progress report on a task she had assigned him a couple of weeks ago. Lee’s task was to improve call response times in the Technical Support Department.


BEP 53: Making Comparisons

01 Sep 2008

A common task in business is to compare things such as costs, service, reliability, performance, etc. It's only through making comparisons that we can make decisions about which is the cheapest, the most reliable, and the best buy. The characteristics of a product or service are described by adjectives, such as 'cheap,' 'heavy,' 'wide', 'reliable,' etc. So it's important for you to know how to compare adjectives. In this podcast lesson, we’ll look at a number of ways commonly use to compare adjectives.

You’re going to hear the Human Resources Manager, Marion, and the Technical Support Manager, Alex, have a meeting to compare three English language training consultants – Empire English, Superior Speaking and Accent on English. They have to decide which company to use. They will talk about each company, how long the company has been in business and how successful the company has been. They will also talk about the price of the training, the training materials, and the experience of the trainers.