Enrich Your English through Ads

Advertisements are rich sources of idioms and they’re often fun to watch.  Take a look at this funny new Smirnoff advertisement starring actor Ted Danson and listen for these two idioms:

  • What’s that supposed to mean? – What are you saying?; I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying (note: sometimes said when you’re offended by what the person is saying)
  • regular Joe – an average person (note: also sometimes known as an ordinary Joe, Joe Sixpack or for women: an ordinary Jane, an average Jane)

Improve your Business English: Reading the Business News

Reading business newspapers is a fantastic way for you to improve your Business English. Here’s a lesson that will teach you new vocabulary words useful for business (and everyday life!). It also features some pronunciation practice and grammar. An answer key is included at the end. Teachers will find a Lesson Plan after the student lesson.

Business English Lesson 1: Procter & Gamble’s New Product Launch

Emoticons in Business English Communications :-) & Some Business English Idioms

Let’s look at extracts from this Wall Street Journal article on emoticons in the workplace
and then study five idioms in the story.

As emoticons pop up in workplace email, experts weigh in

In the span of a few years, emoji—the smiley faces, hearts, flags and other smemoticonall pictures installed in most smartphone, email and chat programs—have become ubiquitous in digital communication …

More than half of workers say they have used emoji to communicate at work, according to a recent survey … More managers than workers approved of emoji at work, a finding that reflects research showing that small, playful icons serve a surprisingly serious purpose in managing the emotional tone at work.

Jacqueline Whitmore, the author of a book on business etiquette, advises gauging the tone of office communications before sending an emoji to a colleague. Allowing higher-ups to send the first smiley and only using them with familiar colleagues are both good practices.

Ms. Whitmore says it is also important to consider the recipient. A small picture of a winking ghost may build fellow-feeling among colleagues, but may fall flat among clients.

To play it safe, the best emoji to send is a variation of the smiley face. To be avoided, in Ms Whitmore’s view: anything denoting anger or romance.  “Learn to communicate without them, and use them only as an enhancement,” said Ms. Whitmore. “When it doubt, leave it out.”

(The above is excerpted from a story from the Wall Street Journal with the headline Emoji at Work: Managing With a Wink and a 🙂, written by Dahlia Bazzaz)

The idioms

to pop up – to appear suddenly or unexpectedly

to weigh in – to give an opinion

higher-ups – those in senior positions in a company; the bosses

to fall flat – to fail; to not get the desired response

to play it safe – to be safe; to avoid risks

Business English Negotiations

Business English has a rich language of negotiations. We’ve captured this language in our Business English books, Speak Business English Like an American and Speak Better Business English and Make More Money. For those who prefer mobile learning, we’ve captured the language of negotiations in the iPhone & iPad app Business English Negotiations. Check it out!negotiations-idioms

Mastering Business English Helps Global Workers Succeed according to Harvard Business School

Language Wars can divide global companies. What happens when English becomes the conversemandated language at a global company? Troubles can follow, if the employees are not prepared. One tip is to: “Encourage practice of the new language. Provide nonthreatening environments where the new language can be studied and practiced.” Fortunately, there are books like Speak Business English Like an American and Speak Better Business English and Make More Money that can help non-native speakers become more fluent in business English!

For more on the challenges of implementing English as the language of business in a global company, read this Harvard Business School article:

Business English Tip: How to Market Yourself in English

LinkedIn recommends that you avoid using buzzwords when marketing yourself. Theirbuzzwords advice: “Demonstrate your skills and experience by providing examples of your talent rather than using buzzwords.” Drawing on the English-language profiles of LinkedIn users around the world, the company put together a list of the most frequently used buzzwords. And here they are:

  1. responsible
  2. strategic
  3. creative
  4. effective
  5. patient
  6. expert
  7. organizational
  8. driven
  9. innovative
  10. analytical

There were some differences in buzzword usage by country:

  • “Sustainable” was in the top ten only the Netherlands
  • “Enthusiastic’ was in the top ten only in Great Britain
  • “Passionate” was in the top ten only in Australia & New Zealand
  • “Patient” was in the top ten only in the USA*

* Interesting to note that Americans pride themselves on their patience! 

Business English from the Real World

One of the best ways to keep improving your business English is to read the business pages of the newspaper. I find the Wall Street Journal to be very well written and full of idioms and expressions. Let’s take a headline right from today’s Wall Street Journal. In this case, all we need is the headline for a productive mini-English lesson!

P&G’s Stumbles Put CEO On Hot Seat for Turnaround

Here we’ve got two very useful business expressions in one short headline. Plus we have one very good noun (stumble) and one acronym you should definitely know (CEO).

So let’s start with the useful expressions:

on the hot seat – in a difficult position. Note that you will sometimes hear this as “in the hot seat.” Why “hot seat” in this expression? you ask. Some say this expression comes from the days when police used bright lights when asking questions of suspects. Bright lights made the questioning very uncomfortable.

turnaround – an improvement in conditions (when things are bad and then they turn good). I believe this originally just meant “turning in the opposite direction.” These days, when used in business, this means turning in a POSITIVE direction. A second definition in business relates to a period of time one has to do something (“What’s the turnaround on this project?” – “We need to get it done by Friday”).

Now let’s look at another word in the headline: stumble. Can you guess what this means? Well, it must mean something bad if it put the CEO on the hot seat right? Yes, indeed! It means mistakes or missteps (what you would call a “screwup” in slang). In this case, stumble is being used as a noun. But it is also very often used as a verb. To stumble means to make a mistake. If you stumble when you walk, you hit your foot on something. There is the expression “stumble through” which means to get through something awkwardly (as in: “Joe stumbled through his talk and quickly left the room”). If you “stumble over” something, you trip over it (“Susan stumbled over the books lying on the floor”).

Finally, we have our acronym: CEO. Do you know what this stands for? It stands for Chief Executive Officer. That’s the person in charge of the company. There may be other “chiefs” at the company too – such as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Learning Officer (CLO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). All of these people make up what we call “C-level” executives and they are in a place at the company called the “C-suite.” All of those “C’s” standing for “Chief” and chief meaning the highest in rank or authority.

By the way, you may be wondering about “P&G.” That stands for Procter & Gamble. It is a large American consumer products goods company (CPG for short). The company makes products like laundry detergent, diapers, cosmetics, razors, shampoos and many other products you use every day. They were founded all the way back in 1837 by William Procter and James Gamble. Since the company is now nearly 200 years old, we can imagine it will survive. But perhaps today’s CEO will not survive the hot seat for too much longer.