Welcome to Free Lesson Friday #7: Business English listening practice.
‘What the heck did they just say!?’
Feel familiar? If you are struggling to understand what other English speakers are saying in your business meetings, conversations or telephone calls, you probably need some business English listening practice.
In this lesson we will be using a great Tedtalk, from Nilofer Merchant, to help you practice your listening skills and your ability to understand what people are saying. I’ll also be sharing my top listening practice tips with you, so you can improve your English listening skills at home.
Before we begin, I have some questions for you
- How much time do you spend sitting at your desk, on the couch, travelling or in cafes?
- Do you wish you could spend less time sitting at your desk?
Top tips to tickle your ear buds, how to improve your listening skills with effective listening practice
What you are going to listen to? What is the topic? What do you think the speaker will say? This helps your brain mentally prepare for what it’s going to hear. It’s like putting on snow tyres before (not after) you drive in the snow, you will have better grip.
2. Keep your expectations low and build
In the beginning you may not understand a lot of what you are listening to, that’s ok. You need to slowly build up your listening skills, so if you don’t understand the first time, don’t give up. If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again.
Listen to the talk at least 3 to 6 times. The first time you should understand 40% or the general idea. On the second listening you should try to understand 60%. On the last listening you should be able to understand 80%. On each listening the phrases should become easier to hear and understand.
3. Keep it short
Don’t practice with talks that are too long because your concentration and ear will become too tired (yes, you need ‘ear fitness’!). The more advanced your English becomes, the longer the talks you should try. Start off with 3 to 5 minute talks. You really want to focus on the quality of listening rather than the quantity of listening.
4. Listen for keywords and a general idea, don’t listen to every word
Try to listen for the keywords (these words are stressed) and phrases rather than trying to understand every word individually. This helps you understand the main message or meaning at first and slowly you can focus on the smaller details.
5. Use subtitles or a transcript
You can use subtitles (or a transcript) to help you in the beginning but try to get to a point where you don’t need the subtitles. The transcript is also a good way to check how much of the listening you could actually hear and understand.
6. The most important part: activate your passive learning
Your what? Read this article here where I show you, in detail, the difference between active and passive learning and why you need to learn actively: How to Get your Stuck English Unstuck and Get Talking.
Before we watch Nilofer’s Tedtalk, where she tells us to schedule ‘walking meetings’ to help us spend less time sitting at work, I have some important phrases for you to learn.
English Expressions ‘From Got a Meeting? Take a Walk!’ Clip
Tush is slang for your bottom, butt or ass (also slang words) and probably (hopefully?) not a useful word for your next business talk but definitely important in the context of this Tedtalk.
Some useful phrases: ‘Get off your ass/ stop sitting around on your ass’, which means take some action.
To have or do something at the cost of something else
Means when you choose option 1 over option 2, you will lose option 2.
For example, a fun night of drinking is at the cost of your health; or I got a high paying job at the cost of not taking time to have a family.
A similar phrase is ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’
For example, I really want to lose weight but I also love doughnuts so much. Well, I can’t have my cake and eat it, I need to choose between losing weight and eating doughnuts (they are mutually exclusive, you cannot have them both at the same time).
‘Opportunity cost’ is an economics term that means the price of choosing one option over another option.
For example, the opportunity cost of quitting your job to go back to college. The opportunity cost is the money you could have earned from having a job (you now don’t have because you went back to college).
To think outside the box
Means, to try to think creatively or to find a solution to a problem that is untraditional, unique or new.
For example, Apple founder, Steve Jobs, is famous for his out the box thinking when he created the iPod.
Something is sustainable, doable or viable
Sustainable means that it can be done over a longtime. For example, working 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) without any sleep is possible for a short time but it’s definitely not sustainable.
Doable means that you can actually do it. For example, finishing a marathon for your first race is not really doable, but running a 5km race is doable with a little bit of training.
Viable means something will work or is possible or achievable. For example, we want to do more radio advertising, but at this point it’s not really a viable option because we don’t have a big enough budget.
The bottom line
Means the essential or most important point.
For example, there is a lot to say about bitcoin, but the bottom line is that it’s future is uncertain.
We can also refer to the crux of the matter.
Other phrases that use the bottom line
In accounting the bottom line can also mean the profits of a company or the necessary income a company needs to make.
The bottom line in a negotiation is the lowest offer which you will accept.
To walk the talk
Means, to actually do something you have talked about doing.
For example, he says he can improve our sales by 40% , but lets see if he can walk the talk and actually bring us real results.
We can also say, he can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?
A similar phrase is, to put your money where your mouth is.
For example, he says that Bitcoin is the best investment yet in the 21st century, but I’ll only listen to him if he puts his money where his mouth is and actually buys some Bitcoins.
Ok now you have some new phrases to help you, lets watch the talk: Nilofer Merchant, Got a meeting? Take a walk. Try to hear the new phrases you’ve just learnt as they appear in the talk.
What do you think of these standing desks, would you like to try one?
(Try uses the phrases above to fill in the blanks).
Nilofer Merchant’s idea walk the talk shows how …………. (creative) thinking can really solve big problems. The ………… (most important point) is that we shouldn’t have to do our jobs at the cost of our health. I agree with her, sitting too much is unhealthy, so I’ve decided to actually…………… (do what I say) and I purchased a new standing desk.
If you haven’t tried out last weeks email challenge try it out here (Free Lesson Friday 6) and lets see how good your English email skills are.
Get your English active by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.
Well done you’re a champion for finishing this lesson!