Checking and clarifying – test yourself

There are two aspects to successful communication. The first is making yourself understood. The second is understanding the other person. In order to be a good communicator in English, you need to develop both.

So, when you are speaking in English with somebody you should check and be clear that you understand correctly. This even more important when you can’t see the other person’s face, such as on the telephone.

in January we published a video demonstrating how to use checking and clarifying phrases on the telephone.

Here’s a simple interactive exercise you can use to test yourself or review the language from the video. It’s an easy game, click on the ? symbol to see the instructions.


If you have any questions about this exercise, leave a comment below.

Do you need to practise speaking English on the telephone? Send us a message.

 

Socialising and networking in English

Networking in English by Pete Sharma and Barney BarrettOne of the most common reasons people need to improve their English is so they can socialise and network with other people. In the business world, these other people are colleagues, customers and clients – both current and future.

Barney and his regular collaborator, Pete Sharma, wrote a book called Networking in English. It is full of language and advice about how to be a more effective networker.

In the introduction to the book, Pete and Barney list nine skills a language student needs to be a good socialiser and communicator in social situations.

  1. You are able to express yourself fairly fluently.
  2. You have the vocabulary to speak about a range of topics.
  3. You have reasonably accurate basic grammar.
  4. You have fairly good listening skills, and have strategies to deal with problems like listening to fast speech and catching the main message.
  5. You have a knowledge of the same kinds of communication strategies used by good native speaker communicators, such as an understanding of non-verbal communication.
  6. You know the typical forms of interaction in various social situations, such as in a restaurant, and can use a good range of appropriate and useful phrases.
  7. You speak with clear pronunciation.
  8. You are sensitive to cultural differences between you and people from other parts of the world.

(From Networking in English, Barrett and Sharma (Macmillan: 2010)

How would you rate yourself for each of these skills? Be honest. Many people speaking English for business can talk with confidence about their companies, products and services but do not have enough vocabulary to make small talk. Some people are able to talk and talk and talk but find it difficult to understand when other people are talking, especially at noisy social events. Other people find socialising with people from other countries and cultures stressful because they are unsure about differences in acceptable behaviour.

Here are a few videos and activities you can use to test or develop your knowledge and skills.

Making contact

Airport conversationListen to two conversations between people meeting each other in social situations. They use a lot of standard phrases. Notice the questions they ask and the answers they give. Think about the questions and answers you would give in the same situation.

 

The rules of small talk

The Rules of Making Small talk in English videoThe rules of small talk are simple and easy to remember but how do you apply them in English? Watch our video. Notice how the people in the video respond in the wrong way. Pause the video and think about how you would reply before seeing the answer we gave.

 

Stratford Teachers pub quiz

Everywhere you go in the world, the restaurants of France, the cafés of Italy, the diners of America, the hawker centres of Singapore and the pubs of Britain, there are rules and vocabulary unique to those places that are ‘natural’ to local people but confusing to visitors from other countries.

Try our short quiz about the vocabulary used in British pubs, what it means and how we use it. What vocabulary and advice would you give to a visitor to your country?

 

Of course, the best way to build up your socialising and networking in English skills is to practise with a teacher who can give you instant correction and advice.

Contact us to find out how we can help you become a better, more effective and more confident socialiser and communicator in social situations.

 

 

Making contact – social language

Airport conversation

Social conversation is important to help get to know people and to build relationships.

Part 1

Listen

Listen to this conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences? That sounds great, thanks.
Have you been before? I’m a technical manager for IWB.
What do you do? No, I haven’t.
Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch? No, I came last year when it was in Budapest.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi, I’m Julie. Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences?

B: No, I came last year when it was in Budapest. I’m Susan by the way. Have you been before?

A: No, I haven’t. I’ve just started working in medical technology.

B: What do you do?

A: I’m a technical manager for IWB. I’m responsible for technical support in Eastern Europe. What about you?

B: Oh, I’m with BTC. I was in technical support, but I’ve moved into project management.

A: Maybe you could suggest a couple of useful sessions for me?

B: Yeah, sure. Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch?

A: That sounds great, thanks.

Phrases

Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There are three parts:

  • I’m with BTC. = this says what the present situation is
  • I was in technical support, = this says what the past situation was
  • but I’ve moved into project management. = this says what has changed

Now, use this structure to write a sentence about you that says;

  • what your present situation is
  • what your past situation was
  • what has changed.

 

Part 2

Listen

Listen to this second conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Did you have a good flight? Paul hasn’t.
When was that? He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months.
Has everyone else arrived for the meeting? Not too bad.
How long has he lived there? It was last year.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi Brian. Did you have a good flight?

B: Not too bad, Peter. At least it was on time.

A: That’s good. I’ve had problems with RiteFlite in the past.

B: Oh? When was that?

A: It was last year, on a trip to Buenos Aires.

B: Really? I’ve always wanted to go there.

A: Well, we had a fantastic time apart from the flight.

B: Anyway, has everyone else arrived for the meeting?

A: Paul hasn’t. He called 20 minutes ago to say his train was delayed! It’s typical, isn’t it? The person who lives closest is the one who’s late!

B: Oh really? I thought he lived in Norwich.

A: Not any more. He’s moved to Richmond.

B: Ah. How long has he lived there

A: He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months. He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work!

Phrases

Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There’s a question about an unfinished time:

  • How long has he lived there?

The answer has two parts:

  • He’s only been there for 3 or 4 month. = an unfinished time = the time he’s lived in Richmond
  • He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work! = a finished time = the time he moved

Here are two questions with the same structure:

  • How long have you lived here?
  • How long have you worked there?

Write answers about you.


Answers

Part 1

Julie and Susan don’t know each other. They are meeting for the first time.

They are at a conference.

Part 2

Peter and Brian know each other. They are colleagues.

They are at an airport.

 

By Louise and Barney

Do you know the rules of making small talk? Watch our video.

 

If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you need practise social language in English? Send us a message.

 

The Sounds of English – Part 2

Here is the second part of our presentation on the sounds of English pronunciation.

The presentation covers:

  • Using mouth diagrams to help you put your mouth in the right position.
  • Two ideas for practising linking words together.

Make sure you use the full-screen button and turn up the sound on your computer so you can hear Louise and Barney say the example words and sentences.

Click on the picture to go to the presentation.

Sounds of English - Part 2

Watch The Sounds of English – Part 1 and our Introduction to English Pronunciation.

By Barney and Louise

 

If you have any questions about this or suggestions, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in improving your pronunciation with Stratford Teachers, send us a message.

You can also watch our other videos on pronunciation and look at the list of our Specialist Pronunciation lessons.

 

Agreeing and Disagreeing

Do you go to a lot of meetings and listen to people giving their opinions about different topics?

Do you agree or disagree with those opinions?

Watch our latest video for advice on the clearest and easiest way of agreeing or disagreeing in English.

By Barney, Eileen, Louise and Simon

 

Was this video useful? Watch our video on the difference between facts and opinions.

 

If you have any questions about this video, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in English for business meetings, send us a message.

 

Stratford Teachers Pub Quiz

The Old Thatch Tavern pub in Stratford upon Avon – drawing by Barney Barrett

Pubs are an important part of British culture.

How much do you know about the language of pubs?

Test yourself by watching our new video.

There are six questions. Use the comment box at the bottom of this page to tell us how many you got right.

Of course, the most important thing we do in the pub is make conversation. Watch our video on the rules of small talk for advice on how to start and keep a conversation going.

Video by Barney with  Joy, Louise, Simon, and Stephen. Cheers to Emily and Stephen for also adding their voices.

 

If you have any questions about this, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in learning more about British culture and the English language, send us a message.

 

Dealing with presentation questions

Dealing with presentation questions video

Do you need to give presentations in English?

Do people in the audience often want to ask questions?

Our latest video shows some ways of dealing with audience questions.

If this was interesting, why not look at Starting a presentation, and Describing upward and downward trends?

 

Video by Barney with the voices of Joy, Simon and Stephen.

 

If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you need help to prepare and give a presentation in English? Send us a message.