Tag Archives: business English

3V English Communication Assessment (ECA) Template

I have been invited to speak at both TESL Canada and TESL Ontario on the topic of Business English Fundamentals, and how to teach them in the classroom or at the office.  Assessments are a key player in communication coaching and corporate training success.  Simply speaking, the formula is “Assessment = Training Program = ROI measurement.”  When choosing or designing your assessment, please consider the needs of the person/organization that hired you.  Ensure the assessment is Client AND/OR company needs-based, as sometimes you need to cover both needs in one assessment tool.  What does “writing” mean to them? Or ‘speaking’ or ‘communication’? We need to be clear and specific in the assessment so it’s accurate and effective!

Here is a partial sample of a 3V ECA, previously used in our corporate training programs:

Part One: Grammar – identify the spelling, grammar and/or punctuation mistake(s) and correct them (ten sentences)
1. I have study English for 7 years now, so far.
2. You need to working on your accent man. Its thick!
3. Did you know that the cats can see in the dark? A animal like that is great!
4. I board a plane last night at 3 in the a.m. And so, now, I’m so tired.
5. What is your area of expertize? Can you help me with this calculations?

Part Two: Everyday Idioms – what do these expressions mean? Please write short definitions. (fifteen)
1. The real McCoy
2. The cat’s out of the bag
3. We’re up the creek
4. He works like a dog
5. Bookworm

Part Three: Humour – explain why these jokes are funny. Short answers please. (three)
1. A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks “why the long face?”

Part Four: Short story – Please write a short story explaining in detail what you do at work, and how communication plays a role. Minimum 3 paragraphs.

Part Five: Interview – short Q & A to evaluate comprehension, pronunciation, conciseness etc.

If you have any questions about designing or using assessments in your training, or if you are part of an organization that would benefit from communication skills assessments, do not hesitate to contact me!  🙂

Join Me at TESL Canada 2017 and Learn About Teaching Business English

Fellow Business English/ESL teachers, tutors and coaches, are you going to TESL Canada’s Conference in Niagara Falls this weekend?  If so, let’s connect!  I’ll be giving a short lecture titled “Business English Fundamentals: How to Teach It in the Classroom or Office!”  My lecture is scheduled for Saturday, June 10th 2017 at 2:15 in the afternoon.  I will be giving practical tips on how to understand the needs of students and immigrants when they want to improve their business communication skills, and tips on how to create your own assessment tool to use with them.  I will also share with you the path from ESL teacher, to business English instructor, to self-employed Communication Coach!  Hope to see you there!

Why the Change in Tone from Speaking to Writing?

Think before you type...

Think before you type…

Do you ever notice how many people in positions of leadership in the business world can be friendly and casual in person, yet when they email or post a memo to staff they adopt a very formal, cold tone? Isn’t that a bit odd and counter-productive to all the rapport building previously done to win your confidence and loyalty?

For staff it can be akin to dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute you feel comfortable chatting with your boss or manager, and then next, you feel you are being scolded or talked down to through his/her writing. Here are the common traits of this problem:

1 – the manager adopts on reflex a “boss’s tone” without realizing it, often because it’s the way it’s been done at the workplace before (particular office culture)

2 – the manager feels a serious, formal tone sounds ‘professional’

3 – the manager hopes the formal, professional tone encourages staff to take him/her (more) seriously

4 – the memo has long business English words and phrases that sound ‘intelligent’

5 – the memo is filled with instructions, demands and orders, not inquiries, questions or polls

6 – using CAPS unnecessarily

It doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage members of management and team leaders to consider having a consistent message with their staff, customers, tenants, vendors etc. Of course writing still must avoid street slang, but it can certainly get its message across while being positive in tone and engaging, and still maintain professionalism. The key communication tip I’m suggesting is to use a consistent, conversational tone that still deals with the key issue or topic, but does not create distance.

Here are some quick examples of suggested changes:

To all Staff:

Please be advised that you will NO LONGER be able to use the common area for eating lunch. Please eat your food in the designated lunchrooms only.

Management

Change to…

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to ask you to please eat your food in the lunchrooms only, and not in the common area. We want to keep that food-free as much as possible.

Thanks!

Mr. Smith / Team ABC Co.

 

Dear Valued Customer;

Our records indicate that you have not paid your last invoice. Please remit payment within the next 5 days to avoid late fees and potential legal action, as per the customer agreement.

Regards,

Mrs. Doe, ABC Bank Manager

Change to…

Dear Mrs. Smith,

We are reaching out to you as we have not received payment from the last issued invoice. If you have paid it already, please accept our thanks. If you have forgotten about it, please send us the payment as soon as you can. If there is a concern with your invoice please call us immediately so we can work with you to sort it out. We would like to help you avoid any late fees associated with this payment.

Best regards,

Mrs. Doe, ABC Bank Manager

 

NO food or drink beyond this point!

Change to…

Please do not bring food or drink beyond this point. Thank you!

It’s not the words that I/you choose as much as it’s the emotional vibe or feeling associated with the note. We can absolutely be a respected manager or boss and still use an approachable, casual and positive tone in our emails and memos. We want to be consistent in person and in writing, and we want to continue to build rapport with our staff and customers. Give it a try – you will be happy you did.  In all honesty, wouldn’t you rather work for or with a Dr. Jekyll instead of a Mr. Hyde?

Tips for Teaching Business English (For TESL Ontario Members)

BusinessEnglishAs an active member of TESL (Teacher of English as a Second Language) Ontario I recently contributed my years of knowledge and experience training ESL clients and hosted a Professional Development webinar called Tips for Teaching Business English Students & Immigrants.  It ran live on July 26 2015 but it is now archived and available to those current members of TESL Ontario who wish to increase their Professional Development hours.  You can find it by signing up/in to your www.Tutela.ca  account, going to (or joining) the TESL Ontario group, and then searching under Files until you find my PowerPoint presentation under ‘Webinar Gen 10’.  You will see the ‘live’ version slides and hear our voices as though you attended the webinar on July 26th!   This webinar will be of particular interest to those currently teaching business or workplace English, or to anyone looking to expand beyond mainstream ESL teaching.  You will also learn tips about teaching communication skills to foreign workers and working immigrants.

Here is the original ad:

Webinar Description:   Ric Phillips will present this webinar. Ric will share tips on how to effectively teach business English students and immigrants (for example at LINC, post-secondary or corporate training). He will note differences in learning expectations, recommend materials, and provide templates for creating your own assessments. This webinar is ideal for teachers who are transitioning to Business English, Workplace ESL, or corporate training.

Presenter’s Bio:   Starting in 1998, Ric Phillips successfully transitioned his career from ESL teacher to Business English teacher & Academic Coordinator. He founded his own company where he is currently a coach and trainer in business communication skills for working immigrants and foreign workers.

Follow Ric on Twitter: @CommCoach

Why Teaching Idioms (Slang, Expressions) is Important in Business English

Like many of you I have a profile on the networking site LinkedIn. (You can find me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/communicationcoach )  One of the benefits of LinkedIn is becoming a member of a group related to our fields or interests.  I subscribe to a number of groups, and sometimes feel compelled to add my two cents to the discussions.  A few days ago was one of those times that I thought I could contribute.

In the group Business English Instructors, someone opened a discussion about President Obama’s recent slip-up when he mixed a Star Wars and a Star Trek pop culture reference together during a speech.  (The exact expression he created was “a jedi mind-meld.”)

This posting in LinkedIn led to a discussion amongst the members of the Business English teaching community to debate the virtues of teaching or not teaching idioms, slang and pop culture references in their BE (Business English) classes.

I felt that due to my direct experience with teaching idioms I should reply, and so I did.  Below is a copy of my comment on the subject, which may interest some of you:

“The question a teacher or trainer needs to ask is “what is the operating language of this location?”  When I was teaching English in China a long long time ago there was very little need for idioms to be taught. The focus was on getting students to pass exams and communicate on a certain level with other Chinese or some foreign teachers, in China. The operating language was ‘functional and academic’ English, for the most part, and I adjusted my conversations and teaching style to match.

But when I was asked to do manager training many years later in Moscow, Russia, part of the requested curriculum was to teach business expressions and cultural notes to the North American style of office communications. They ‘operated’ in English with North Americans and some British, and wanted to better understand their counterparts’ words and culture.

As a Communication Coach working mostly in Toronto and the surrounding area, a number of my clients are immigrants and foreign workers. Typically they have excellent hard skills and education, but often lack the soft skills we would like them to have to fit in. I know that sounds harsh, but it is an unspoken reality – we want them to understand us and our way of business communications here. This is the location. This is where business is done. You need to understand us and our way of doing things.

I often teach everyday and business idioms and expressions to clients, even if it is for just 10 minutes at the beginning of the session, as a warm up. They want to be better equipped for the water cooler as well as the boardroom. Ignoring idioms and pop culture references limits their ability to build relationships, to fully understand those around them, to join in the discussion, to understand the nuances and contexts of conversations, etc. Remember – I am talking about working here in Toronto’s business world, not overseas.

As a last morsel of food for thought, I’ll share this with you too: When my company created an English Communication Skills Assessment for a prominent police service to be used in conjunction with the hiring process, idioms and expressions were tested for, in addition to the usual suspects of grammar, spelling, reading comprehension, writing and speaking/listening. Why would we do this? Because we were told by senior training officers that they found it frustrating when they spoke to new recruits in a casual, informal way (i.e. with idioms and slang) and some newbies didn’t understand them, and it slowed down communication. When you think about the seriousness of policing, you might imagine how miscommunication could impact the lives and the safety of officers and the public.

I know on one hand it sounds too strict or maybe too much focus is being given to idioms, but I think when you consider how prominent idioms, slang, lingo and pop culture references really are, especially in an English-speaking operating country/company, you will realize the benefits of teaching them to those that could use the knowledge to improve their personal and professional lives.”

A Great Post on Defining A Business English Program

Author Paul Emmerson reflects on in-work and pre-experience Business English.

What is Business English? A naïve question to be sure, but a good one to step back and ask from time to time.
Below, in blue, is a nine-point answer to that question that I wrote along with my colleague Nick Hamilton back in 2000. It was going to be the Introduction to Five Minute Activities for Business English (CUP) but never made it into the book.

  1. You start with a Needs Analysis.
  2. The Needs Analysis leads on to a negotiated syllabus. There is no ‘main’ coursebook, although a selection of coursebook and other material may be used. The classroom tasks and texts are personalized, based around the interests and needs of those particular students.
  3. The syllabus is designed around communication skills (telephoning, meetings, presentations etc.) and business topics (management, marketing, finance etc.), not the English verb tense system.
  4. Language work is more lexical, including collocation and functional language, and less grammatical than General English. Pronunciation is another important area, especially the ability to break up speech into appropriate phrases (phonological chunking) and to use stress to highlight key information.
  5. Teaching methodology includes much use of tasks, role-plays, discussions, presentations, case studies and simulated real-life business situations. Approaches and materials are mixed and matched, but there is unlikely to be a high proportion of conventional Present-Practice lessons where one grammar point provides the main thread of a lesson.
  6. Much language work is done diagnostically following speaking activities. Feedback slots are used for checking, correcting and developing language (Output->Reformulate rather than Input->Practice).
  7. There is use of a range of authentic and business material (magazine articles, off-air video, company documents).
  8. Delivery of the course is different: the students are ‘clients’ with high expectations, the teachers are professional ‘trainers’ (or perhaps even Language Consultants). Teachers and students sit together round a table like in a meeting rather than in the classic GE ‘U’ shape with the teacher at the front. Conversation across the table may develop its own dynamic far removed from the teacher’s lesson plan.
  9. While teachers are expected to be competent as Language Consultants, classroom managers etc. they are usually not expected to be business experts. This is a language course after all, not an MBA. However teachers are expected to have an interest in business, ask intelligent questions, and slowly develop their knowledge of the business world.                                       
  10.  – To continue reading this awesome article and discussion, please visit the original link here:  http://bebcblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/what-is-business-english-2/

Free Business English Classes for New Immigrants

Although I have no affiliation, I like to support and pass on great initiatives like this one.  Free occupation-specific language training courses offered by 13 Ontario colleges will teach you the language and workplace culture skills required to communicate effectively in your job, for some industries. Gain the communications skills you need to build a successful career in your field.  Must have at least intermediate level English.  For more information click here:

http://co-oslt.org/en/

Executive English Coaching is Valuable

If you a manager, leader or executive, and you have ESL (English as a Second Language), you may need my help.  If you have immigrated to the Toronto area, or you are working here for a while, you may have noticed that we ‘do things differently’ here than what you had read in books.

Culture affects communication in a big big way.  How we Torontonians/Canadians/North Americans use slang and cultural references even in our formal speeches can throw off a lot of people not born here.  How we use our rhythm and volume of our voice while speaking can be very different from your home country.  It might even seem ‘too excited’ or ‘rude’!

Body language is a huge deal here.  How you move your arms and hands while at a meeting or giving a presentation can dramatically affect how you are perceived.  Are you seen as trustworthy?  Sincere?  Confident?  Or are you viewed as weak, gentle, too humble, or aloof (uncaring)?

If you are concerned about how you sound and present yourself at your job and in your career please connect with me for a free consultation in Toronto.   It is not too late to get some very valuable coaching from someone who knows both your culture and ours.  🙂

Office Talk – Expressions

“The Office” can be used to mean any job or typical day.  You do not actually have to work in an office.
Example:
John comes home tired, looking stressed and burned out.  His wife asks:  “Hard day at the office?”
He replies:  “Oh yeah.  We’ve got a new manager/supervisor/accountant/secretary/etc. causing me grief because…”
Once again, John doesn’t necessarily have to work at an office.  It can be any job, white collar or blue collar, volunteer, etc. that he is coming home from.

I have also heard that there is a bar/pub called “The Office” so that when your wife or husband asks “where are you now?” you can honestly say “I’m (still) at the office!”

“Office Politics” refers to power positioning at your place of employment and the perceived route to career success and promotion.  You have to have a good relationship with those in a position over your career.  It also refers to the idea that you should get along with others at work, and not burn any bridges’ (damage any personal or professional relationships).  

Accept, except, access, excess, etc.

This is a common speaking mistake.  When English words have a double c (cc), we sometimes pronounce the first c as hard, like a K, and the second c soft, like an S.  For example:

“Accept” is pronounced AKSEPT, not ASSEPT.
“Access” is pronounced AKSESS, not ASSESS.  That’s a different word with a different meaning, right?

However English is not consistent.  We do sometimes pronounce cc like a double k.  Example:
“Accolades” is pronounced AKKOLAYDZ
“Accomplishment” is pronounced AKKOMPLISHMENT

So it can be confusing at times.  Use a good dictionary which also shows you how to pronounce words (phonetics) if you are not sure.

We also have xc which sounds just like our first example of cc, which is to say the first letter is pronounce hard, the second soft.  Example:
“Except” is pronounced EKSEPT
“Excess” is pronounced EKSESS

English can be fun but frustrating to learn, so try to have a sense of humour about it and use a variety of resources to enhance your learning.