Business Labs- Student

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English for Business
Business Labs
Contents
1. Signposting language, intonation &
emphasis
2. Maximising Participation in Meetings
3. Formal & informal telephone language
4. Responding to emails- disagreening,
linking words and hedging
5. Clarifying and confirming
6. Asking the right questions
Unit 1
Signposting language, intonation & emphasis
Unit Objectives
By the end of the unit you will be able to
•
use common ‘hooks’ in your introduction to grab your audience’s attention
•
use signposting language to signal the structure of your presentation to your
audience
•
use common rhetorical devices to engage your audience
•
use voice control techniques to keep your audience listening
Unit Contents
1.1 Hooks and signposts
1.2 Rhetorical techniques
1.3 Giving a great speech or presentation
1.4 Voice control
If you plan your presentation carefully around a few key points, then you should be
able to say something relevant for your audience. But how can you really make
them sit up and listen? In this unit, we’ll be looking at some techniques you can use
to keep your audience’s focus right through your presentation.
1.1 Hooks and signposts
1. What are ‘hooks’? Why are they used in the introductions of
presentations?
2. Can you name three types of ‘hooks’? Name all three as a class.
Communications experts are all agreed that the first three minutes of a
presentation are the most important. They talk about “hooks” - simple techniques
for getting the immediate attention of the audience. A good start makes you feel
more confident.
Here’s three different ways that the experts suggest you can “hook” your audience
in your introduction:
1. Give them a problem to think about
2. Give them some amazing facts
3. Give them a story or personal anecdote
Look at the presentation openings below and categorize the type of
hook they use:
1.
Have you ever been in the situation where you’ve had to negotiate with the Japanese? I remember when I
was working in Nagoya and everybody had told me the Japanese don’t like saying no. So in meetings I just
kept saying yeah to everything. And they hated it. It turned out yeah sounds like no in Japanese!
2.
I read somewhere the other day that the world’s highest paid executive works for Disney and gets $230
million a year. Now that’s about $2000 a minute! That means he’s currently making more money than
Volkswagen.
3.
Statistics show that in the last ten years, more people have legally emigrated to the United States than to
the rest of the world put together - about half a million of them a year, in fact. Now, over ten years, that’s
roughly equivalent to the population of Greece.
4.
Did you know that Japanese companies spend four times more on entertaining clients in a year than the
entire GDP of Bulgaria? 40 billion dollars to be precise. You know, that’s twice Colombia’s total foreign debt.
You could buy General Motors for the same money.
5.
You know, R&D is 90% luck. When I think about creativity, I’m reminded of the man who invented the
microwave oven. He spent years messing around with radar transmitters, then noticed the chocolate in his
pocket was starting to melt!
6.
How many people here this morning hate going to meetings? Just about everybody, right? Well, imagine a
company where there were never any meetings and everything ran smoothly. Do you think that’s possible?
7.
Have you ever wondered why it is that Americans are easier to sell to than Europeans? And why nine out of
ten sales gurus are American? You have? Well, if I could show you what stops Europeans buying, would you
be interested?
8.
According to the latest study, by 2050, only one in every four people in Western Europe will be going to
work. And two will be old age pensioners.
9.
Suppose your advertising budget was cut by 99% tomorrow. How would you go about promoting your
product?
Give them a problem to think
Give them some amazing
Give them a story or personal
about
facts
anecdote
Now look at the following phrases. What type of hook would you most
likely use each phrase for?
1.
I remember when I was …
7.
Did you know that …?
2.
I’m reminded of the time when …
8.
It turned out that …
3.
I read somewhere the other day that …
9.
If I could show you … would you be interested?
4.
Have you ever wondered why it is that …?
10. How many people here today … Well, imagine …
5.
How would you go about …?
Do you think that’s possible?
11. According to the latest study …
6.
Statistics show that …
Give them a problem to think
Give them some amazing
Give them a story or personal
about
facts
anecdote
Signposting language
Your audience should know at all times exactly where they are. This will help them
follow your presentation more effectively and understand better the points you are
trying to make. In order to help them, it is necessary to give them indications or
verbal signs to indicate when we move from one phase of the presentation to the
next. We call these phrases “signposts.” One good method is to tell your audience
what you are going to say, say it to them and then tell them that you have said it.
Remember: A short, concise signpost is better than an elaborate explanation
about the content of your presentation. So... KISS (Keep It Short and Simple).
1. What is signposting language?
2. Why is it important to use signposting language in your presentation?
3. Work with a partner to think of one phrase you could use in the following
situations. You want to:
a. Introduce the topic
_________________________________________________
______
b. Move on to the next point
_________________________________________________
______
c. Finish speaking about a point
_________________________________________________
______
d. Ordering your presentation
_________________________________________________
______
e. Summarize
_________________________________________________
______
f.
Refer to something you will say later
_________________________________________________
______
g. Give examples
_________________________________________________
______
h. Give a conclusion or recommendation
_________________________________________________
______
Look at the following target language. What heading should each group of
phrases have? The first one is done for you.
a. Introducing the topic
Let me start by…
I’ll start by…
First of all, I’ll…
Starting with…
I’d like to begin by…
b.______________________________
Right, I’ve told you about ...
We’ve looked at ...
That’s all I have to say about ...
So much for ...
c.______________________________
Let me turn now to ...
Let’s move on to ...
Turning to ...
I’d like now to ...
Let’s look now at ...
d.______________________________
Where does that take us?
Translated into real terms, ...
What does that mean for us?
e.______________________________
For example ...
A good example of this is ...
To illustrate this point, ...
f.______________________________
I’ll deal with this later, if I may, but for now ...
I’ll come back to this question later in my talk
I won’t comment on this now, ...
We’ll be examining this question in more detail later on
g.______________________________
Let’s recap, shall we?
I’d like to sum up now ...
Let me summarize briefly what I’ve said.
Let me remind you, finally, of some of the points I’ve
made.
If I can just sum up the main points ...
Firstly ... secondly ... thirdly ... lastly ...
h.______________________________
First of all ... then ... next ... after that ... finally ...
To start with ... later ... to finish up ...
4. Return to your own presentation that you wrote the introduction for in the
previous section. What are the key points of your presentation? Divide your
presentation into sections covering one key point per section. Do not have
more than 3 or 4 key points.
5. Make sure that the key points of your presentation are clearly signposted in
your introduction. Re-write your introduction if necessary, using ‘ordering’
phrases.
6. Decide whether any of your sections will have examples.
7. For each section, note down which signposting phrases you will use. Make
sure not to repeat phrases. You do not have to write your presentation in full
yet. At this stage, you are noting down key vocabulary that you will use.
8. Note down which phrases will be useful to you in the conclusion of your
presentation.
1.2 Rhetorical techniques
The main body of your presentation is where most of the information is provided
and where you will illustrate and demonstrate your points with information and
data.
While presenting the main body of your presentation, there are many
different skills and techniques which may prove useful to you. Remember, the most
important thing is for the structure to be clear and concise. As one guru of
communication once said, “every word should have a purpose”.
We are now going to examine a few of the best techniques used by professional
presenters to make their points more effectively.
If you plan your presentation carefully around a few key points, then you should be
able to be relevant to your audience. However, how can you really make them sit
up and listen? In this session, we’ll be looking at some techniques you can use to
keep your audience’s focus right through your presentation.
1. Look at the names of each of the following techniques. Explain to your
partner what you think each technique means:
a. Repetition
b. Rhetorical questions
c. Dramatic contrasts
d. Tripling
e. Build-ups
f.
Knock-downs
2. Now match the example sentences to each technique:
1 Repetition _____
a. As far as this contract in the Emirates is
concerned, we’re pretty tied up with a lot of other
projects at the moment, so there’s no way we could
meet their deadlines. We have very little experience
of this kind of work, anyway.
And, to be honest,
they’re not prepared to pay us what we’d want...
BASICALLY, it’s out of the question.
2Rhetorical questions _____
b. Remember, it can take years to win new business,
but it only takes seconds to lose it.
3 Dramatic contrasts _____
c. Of course, the experts said that a palm-top
computer could never succeed. They did market
research which showed that people would just see it
as a gimmick. They said its memory capacity would
be too limited for serious business users. And they
did
feasibility
studies
which
showed
that
the
keyboard would be too small for even the fingers of
a five-year-old! So, how come it sold more than a
million units in its first year?
4 Tripling
_____
d. The overall response has been much, much
better than anyone ever expected.
5 Build-ups _____
e. Our service is swift, efficient and professional.
6 Knock-down _____
f. For the fifth year running we’ve managed to
increase sales volume. So, how did we do it?
Repetition
Simple repetition is one of the good presenter’s most powerful techniques. Look at
the kind of words which are most effective when repeated:
The overall response has been much, much better than anyone ever
expected.
It really is very, very difficult to predict what might happen in 10 years’
time.
It’s always far, far easier to identify a gap in the market than it is to fill it.
Rhetorical questions
It is often more interesting to present your ideas as questions rather than direct
statements. Questions involve the audience. They also make your presentation
sound more conversational and create anticipation in the minds of your audience.
Rhetorical questions do not require answers from those you address.
The opportunities in Eastern Europe are better now than they’ve ever been.
So, what are we waiting for?
Dramatic contrasts
Good presenters frequently make use of dramatic contrast to reinforce the point
they are making. People are very aware of simple opposites such as “good and
bad,” “past and present,” “us and them.” If you can make your point with two
strongly opposing ideas, you will immediately get the attention of your audience.
Ten years ago we had a reputation for excellence. Today we’re in danger of
losing that reputation.
While our competitors have been fighting over the European market, we’ve
been establishing ourselves as market leaders in the Middle East.
Tripling
Good presenters frequently chunk important points in threes.
Our service is swift, efficient and professional.
Build-ups
One very effective way of emphasizing a point is to present several connected
pieces of information which build up to a short and simple conclusion.
As far as this contract in the Emirates is concerned, we’re pretty tied up with
a lot of other projects at the moment, so there’s no way we could meet their
deadlines. We have very little experience of this kind of work, anyway.
And, to be honest, they’re not prepared to pay us what we’d want...
BASICALLY, it’s out of the question.
The last sentence is a simple summary of the situation in a word or phrase. The
main message is clearly delivered after a short pause.
Knock-Downs
A popular technique with presenters who want to sound provocative is to carefully
build up a series of points which seem to oppose their main argument and then
knock them all down in a single sentence.
Of course, the experts said that a palm-top computer could never succeed.
They did market research which showed that people would just see it as a
gimmick. They said its memory capacity would be too limited for serious
business users.
And they did feasibility studies which showed that the
keyboard would be too small for even the fingers of a five-year-old! So, how
come it sold more than a million units in its first year?
Notice how the presenter pauses before delivering the final knock-down.
Typical Knock-Downs
So, how come ...?
The problem is ...
The amazing / stupid thing is...
But it didn’t stop us / them...
But what I want to know is...
Repetition
Generally, one repetition per sentence works best.
1. Look at each of the following presentation extracts and highlight the word or
words which create a good effect if they are repeated.
a. It’s obviously very tempting to close down plants which aren’t
breaking even.
b. The short-term benefits are obvious, but it’s much more difficult to
say what the long-term benefits might be.
c. It’s way too soon to say just how successful this new initiative has
been.
d. There are many reasons why it’s very important to get the go-ahead
from Brussels.
e. Their demands are absolutely ridiculous and we’ll never agree to
them.
f.
One thing you can be totally sure of: There’ll always be a market for
quality.
Another common repetition technique is doubling words:
bigger and bigger
better and better
2. What kind of words are the examples above?
stronger and stronger
3. Highlight the word or words in each of the following presentation extracts
which could be doubled.
a. I’m happy to report that our presence in Singapore is getting
stronger.
b. As the competition gets tougher, we just get better.
c. As the smaller companies go to the wall, fewer players remain in the
market.
d. It’s getting harder to make money and easier to lose it.
e. These days more firms are turning to freelance consultants.
f.
Over the next ten years, management positions are going to become
less secure.
g. As new technology moves faster, data protection becomes more of a
problem.
h. More people are fighting over fewer jobs for less money.
4. Read each extract out loud several times. Experiment with doubling one,
two and three words.
5. Which do you like best? Get into the habit of using repetiton to emphasize
your most important points.
Rhetorical questions
1. The rhetorical questions below can be used in many different situations.
Complete each of them using the following pairs of words:
Where + did
How long + making
How + do
How much + is
How + working
What sort + looking
How soon + seeing
What + waiting
What+ attribute
Where + go
How come + feeling
What + take
A For the fifth year running we’ve managed to increase sales volume.
So,
_____________________________
did
we
_____________________________ it?
B The opportunities in Eastern Europe are better now than they’ve ever
been.
So,
_____________________________
are
we
_____________________________ for?
C We’ve lost ground to the Swedes both in Scandinavia and at home.
So,
_____________________________
do
we
_____________________________ from here?
D We’ve spent the best part of a year ploughing money back into R&D.
So,
_____________________________
_____________________________ results?
can
we
expect
to
start
E This is the third time we’ve launched a new product, only to have to
withdraw it within the first six months.
So,
_____________________________
do
we
have
to
go
on
_____________________________ the same mistakes?
F The $8 million they offered us is good, but not good enough.
So,
_____________________________
of
figure
are
we
_____________________________ for?
G We offered them a very attractive package, but they turned us down flat.
So, _____________________________ we go wrong?
H As you know, we launched a strict cost-cutting campaign last year.
So,
_____________________________
we’re
not
_____________________________ the benefits yet?
I Turnover topped $2 billion again this year.
So,
_____________________________
of
that
_____________________________ profit?
J In spite of the recession, the demand for luxury goods is increasing.
So,
_____________________________
do
we
_____________________________ this to?
K Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time our partners have been in breach of
contract.
So,
_____________________________
action
do
we
propose
to
_____________________________?
L Obviously, we won’t see the real results of the reorganization for some
time.
So,
_____________________________
_____________________________?
do
we
know
its
Dramatic contrast
Match up the two halves of the contrasts below:
1 If we don’t take care of the customer
a. it’s a question of money.
_
2 While our competitors are still doing
b. than correcting stupid mistakes later.
the feasibility studies, _
3 Instead of just sitting here saying
c. and an extraordinary one is that little
nothing can be done, _
extra.
4 Asking difficult questions now is a lot
d.
easier, _
developed the product.
5 In the 80s the shelf-life of a new PC
e. or we’ll be downsizing by 50% in
was three years; _
eighteen months time.
6 Remember, it can take years to win
f. but we went ahead and did it anyway.
we’ve
actually
gone
ahead
and
new business, _
7 The only difference between
an
g. why don’t we get out there and
ordinary manager, _
actually do something?
8 Everyone said we’d never do it, _
h. but it only takes seconds to lose it.
9 Either we downsize by 25% now _
i. these days it might be obsolete in three
months.
10 It’s not a question of time; _
j. someone else will.
1. Look for patterns in the dramatic contrasts above e.g. If we don’t...,
someone else will. Notice how many of the extracts above rely on a simple
opposition:
We - someone else
nothing - something
now – later
2. Notice also how the voice tends to rise on the first half of each contrast and
fall on the second.
Tripling
Good presenters frequently chunk important points in threes.
1. Read the following examples out loud:
1
2
3
Our service is
swift,
efficient
and professional.
What’s needed now is
time,
effort
and money.
This is how the project is to be
planned,
organized
and managed.
2. Why does this make more impact?
3. Say the following examples out loud. Stress the words in bold type,
especially the last word.
1. The new system is
fast.
2. The new system is efficient and
fast.
3. The new system is foolproof, efficient and
fast.
4.
The
new
system
fast.
is economical, foolproof, efficient and
Notice that examples 1 - 3 take about the same time to say. But example 4
is almost impossible to say at normal speed. Three points are usually the
most you can comfortably make. Usually it is best to arrange the points so
that the one you think is most important comes last.
Whenever you make important points, remember the “rule of threes”.
Build-ups
Complete the following frames using information relevant to one of the main
points in the presentation you have been writing in this session. First, present three
or four connected facts. Then sum up the basic message in a word or
phrase. Alternative topics you could present include:
a. The last five years in your industry
b. The next five years in your industry
c. Why your company is better than the rest
d. The state of the market you operate in
e. Your company’s current financial position
f.
Your place in the market
g. Your country’s current economic situation
h. A best-selling product
1
_________________________________________________________
And
_________________________________________________________
Basically
_________________________________________________________
2
_________________________________________________________
And
_________________________________________________________
To put it simply / briefly,
_________________________________________________________
3
_________________________________________________________
And
_________________________________________________________
In short / in a word / in a nutshell,
_________________________________________________________
Read your sentences out loud.
Knock-Downs
1. Complete
the
following
frames
using
information
relevant
to
the
presentation you are writing.
a. First, present three or four points which oppose your main argument.
b. Pause.
c. Then destroy points in a short knock-down spoken in a louder voice.
Note the target language above for presenting your knock-down.
Alternative topics you could present include:
a. A brilliant idea nobody thought would work
b. A stupid idea everybody thought would work
c. How doing all the right things led to a disaster
d. How a new product failed to live up to expectations
e. How a new product exceeded all expectations
1
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
Knock-down:
_________________________________________________________
2
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
Knock-down:
_________________________________________________________
3
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
Knock-down:
_________________________________________________________
1.3 Giving a great speech or presentation
If you’ve ever been to a boring presentation then you know how important it is to
make your topic and talk shine when it’s your turn to speak. Here, we look at some
presentations and the language used in them. In particular we'll look out for hooks,
signposting language, and other rhetorical techniques.
You will listen to the beginnings of two presentations. One is from now-deceased
Steve Jobs on lessons from his life. It is an excerpt from the complete speech,
which is quite long. The second is a presentation in a food company factory in
Newtown. Listen to the presentations and then answer the questions.
Presentation 1
1. Who is Steve Job's audience?
a. Business executives
b. University students
2. Was Steve Jobs adopted?
a. Yes
b. No
3. Was Steve Jobs’ mother very young?
a. Yes
b. No
Listen again and decide if the following statementsare true or false:
A Steve Jobs is speaking at an IT convention.
True / False
B Steve Jobs finished college.
True / False
C Steve Jobs will tell you three stories.
True / False
D Steve Jobs dropped out of high school.
True / False
E Steve Jobs went to Reed College.
True / False
F Steve Jobs’ parents did not finish their higher education.
True / False
Listen again to the introduction.
1. What kind of hook does Steve Jobs use?
a. Give them a problem to think about
b. Give them some amazing facts
c. Give them a story or personal anecdote
2. Listen for the phrase: “I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months,
but then stayed around as a drop-in for another eighteen months or so before I
really quit. So why did I drop out?” What is the sentence “So why did I drop out?”
an example of?
a. A dramatic contrast
b. A rhetorical question
c. A build-up
Presentation 2
Listen once and answer the questions.
1. Is it the evening time?
a. Yes
b. No
2. Is the speaker’s name Becca?
a. Yes
b. No
3. Is the problem with Newton Bars 1?
a. Yes
b. No
Listen again and decide if the following statementsare true or false:
A The factory is located in Newtown.
True / False
B The problem is that staff members are depressed.
True / False
C They are planning to close part of the plant.
True / False
D Becca wants everyone to try Newtown Bars 2.
True / False
E Becca's presentation has three parts.
True / False
F 5 out of 10 people polled liked Newtown Bar 2 better.
True / False
Listen again to the introduction.
1. Which of the following elements does the introduction contain?
a. an explanation of the key purpose of the presentation
b. an introduction to the speaker
c. an ‘amazing fact’ hook
d. a ‘personal anecdote’ hook
e. a hook in the form of a ‘problem’ that they are going to consider in the
presentation
Now fill in the gaps to complete the signposting language used in this
presentation:
Finally − looked at – Then – Firstly − question and answers – starting − turn to – divide
– outline – three
1.
I’m
going
to
therefore
B__________________parts.
A__________________this
C
__________________,
presentation
I’m
going
into
to
D
__________________ problems we’ve been having so you’re all up to speed on
what’s been going on. E __________________ I’m going to outline the ideas we’ve
had to improve working conditions. F __________________, I’ll open this up to a
G__________________ session so we can work through some of these ideas.
2.
So, H __________________ with a run down of the problems we’ve seen in recent
years…
3.
OK, so we’ve I __________________ what’s been going on in terms of product
problems. Now I’d like to J __________________ some of the solutions that we're
proposing to improve working conditions in the plant…
Transcripts
Presentation 1
[This is a prepared text of the commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs,
CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.]
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest
universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the
closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three
stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months, but then stayed around as
a drop-in for another eighteen months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop
out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college
graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly
that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set up for me
to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they
decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were
on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an
unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological
mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that
my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final
adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised
that I would someday go to college....
Presentation 2
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for coming. My name is Becca
Morris and I’m here today to introduce you to our plans to improve our product and
the working conditions in our production plant in Newtown. As you are all probably
aware, we’ve had some problems over the last few years with the quality of our
product and the retention of skilled staff. These two factors are probably not
unrelated! We’ve therefore decided to address issues raised by our workforce in an
attempt to hold onto key employees.
I’m going to therefore divide this presentation into three parts. Firstly, I’m going to
outline problems we’ve been having so you’re all up to speed on what’s been going
on. Then I’m going to outline the ideas we’ve had to improve working conditions.
Finally, I’ll open this up to a question and answers session so we can work through
some of these ideas.
So, starting with a run down of the problems we’ve seen in recent years. I’m sure
all of you have heard that our latest product, Newtown Bars, have not been a
success. We’ve decided to go back to the drawing board and create Newtown Bars
two-point-oh, a much better version of the original. As you can see in image
number four, seven out of ten of the people we polled liked Newtown Bar two over
Newtown Bar one. All of you will be getting a box of Newtown Bar two today, so
please let us know what you think of it.
OK, so we’ve looked at what’s been going on in terms of product problems. Now I’d
like to turn to some of the solutions that we're proposing to improve working
conditions in the plant
1.4 Voice control
Proper use of your voice is absolutely essential to a good delivery. You can have the
best material in the world, but if you don’t use your voice correctly, your
presentation will come across dull and boring. There are several key points to
remember:
1. Volume
Although most large venues now provide a microphone, on some occasions
you may still have to rely on your voice. Always make sure you speak loudly
enough for the person in the last row to hear you. If possible, do a test with
a colleague before the presentation begins.
2. Pitch
You need to raise and lower the pitch of your voice in order to make your
speech sound natural and interesting. A speech delivered in a flat monotone
is enough to send even the most avid listener to sleep. So remember raise
your voice to emphasize a point and lower your voice to stimulate attentive
listening.
3. Speed
When people get nervous, their automatic tendency is to speak faster. Try to
make a conscious effort to speak slowly and clearly - more slowly than in an
ordinary conversation. This will give your audience more time to take on
board what you are saying.
4. Pauses
Pauses are one of the orator’s most powerful tools. If you speak slowly and
pause when necessary, you will sound better and feel more confident. Don’t
feel you need to fill every sound gap with a phrase word or comment.
Remember: “Silence is Golden”.
5. Word stress
After knowing where to pause, knowing which words to stress is the most
important skill you need for presenting to an audience. Stressing key words
will also help you to vary the pitch of your voice.
Sounds scripting
1. Look at the following presentation script. Decide where you would pause for
best effect. Remember, longer chunks sound more fluent, whereas shorter
chunks sound more emphatic. Mark the places you would pause in the text.
“The world’s most popular drink is water. You probably knew that already.
After all, it’s a basic requirement of life on earth. But did you know that the
world’s second most popular drink is Coke? And that the human race drinks
six hundred million Cokes a day? Now, let’s just put that into some kind of
perspective. It means that every week of every year people drink enough
Coke to fill the Empire State Building. In fact, if all the Coca-Cola ever
consumed were poured over Niagara Falls instead of water, it would take
nearly two days to run dry. There’s almost nowhere on the planet, from
Miami to Malawi, where the word “Coke” isn’t instantly recognized.
The
brand name alone is worth thirty billion dollars. And that’s what makes
Coca-Cola a global marketing phenomenon.”
2. Now compare your version with how your trainer reads out the transcript.
3. Complete the sound script from the previous question by:
a. Underlining the stressed words.
b. Boxing the heavily stressed words (especially at the end of each
chunk and for contrast).
Then compare your version with the one below (stressed words in bold,
heavily stressed in CAPITALS
The world’s most popular DRINK
is WATER.
You probably knew that ALREADY.
After all,
it’s a basic requirement of life on EARTH.
But did you KNOW
that the world’s SECOND most popular drink
is COKE?
And that the human race drinks
six hundred million Cokes a DAY?
Now, let’s just put that into some kind of PERSPECTIVE.
It MEANS
that EVERY WEEK
of EVERY YEAR
people drink enough COKE
to fill the Empire State Building.
In FACT,
if all the Coca-Cola ever CONSUMED
was poured over Niagara Falls
instead of WATER
it would take nearly TWO DAYS to run DRY.
There’s almost nowhere on the PLANET,
from MIAMI
to MALAWI,
where the word COKE
isn’t instantly RECOGNIZED.
The brand name ALONE
is worth THIRTY BILLION DOLLARS.
And that’s what makes COCA-COLA
a GLOBAL MARKETING
PHENOMENON
4. Look at the introduction that you wrote for your presentation. Decide where
you should pause, and mark the key words that should be stressed in each
sentence.
Write it down
During this session you will have written or edited an introduction to your
presentation, noted down the main points, and thought about some rhetorical
techniques you could use.
1. It’s now time to write out your presentation in full. Make sure that you
include the following:
Introduction: Remember to include signposting language and a ‘hook’. You
should also make sure you introduce yourself and the main topic of your
presentation clearly, and indicate how and when you expect your audience
to answer questions.
The main body: Make sure that this is carefully structured into 3 or 4
sections that each cover one main point. Use signposting language and
rhetorical techniques within the sections.
Conclusion: Use signposting language to summarize the main points of
your presentation.
2. Now practice reading your presentation out loud. Think carefully about
where you want to pause, and which words you should stress in each
sentence. Remember too to consider pitch, volume and speed of delivery.
Unit 2 Maximizing Participations in Meetings
Unit objectives
By the end of this unit you will be able:
•
To participate in a meeting and use key phrasal verbs
•
To use idioms in the context of a meeting
•
To achieve the objective of a meeting
•
To control discussion during meetings
Unit contents
2.1 PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS
2.2 KEY IDIOMS AND EXPRESSIONS
2.3 WHAT’S YOUR OBJECTIVE?
2.4 CONTROLLING THE DISCUSSION
2.1 PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS
1. Do you often have to chair your meetings? If so, are you good at maximizing
participation?
2. What are some strategies you can use to ensure that everyone participates in
your meetings?
Maximizing participation
When you are chairing a meeting, it’s important to make sure that everyone has a
chance to put forward their point of view. However, it’s also important to ensure that
certain participants don’t speak too much and dominate the discussion. You will also need
to move conversation on to the next topic when discussion around a certain point has
ceased to be productive. In this section we will look at some useful phrases for
maximizing participation and moving the conversation on in order to maximize efficiency.
Read through the explanation, paying attention to the words in bold. What type of words
have been highlighted?
Getting the most out of meetings
1. Discuss the following questions.
a. How many hours do you spend in meetings each week?
b. Are your meetings ‘time suckers’ or are they usually productive?
c. How could your meetings be more productive? Are your meetings usually well
organized?
2. Write a list of top tips for getting the most out of meetings. Think about the following
points:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Objective
Agenda
Staying on topic
Encouraging participation
Developing action points
Following up the meeting
Adding variety to meetings
3. Now read the top ten tips for productive meetings, taken from
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237690
1. Know what you want to accomplish.
2. Develop a plan.
3. Write a one-page summary of your meeting.
4. Make sure you stay on topic.
5. Ask the right questions.
6. Encourage participation.
7. Determine a timeline.
8. Don’t leave the meeting right away.
9. Learn from your mistakes.
10. Change things up.
Were the tips on your class list of top tips? Do you agree with them? Do you do this
already, or could you use these tips in your company? Can you think of any examples of
how this could be done? Or do you disagree with the tips?
4. Hold a meeting to decide on company policy for improving meeting productivity. One
person should be the chair, and one person should take the minutes. Each meeting
participant should put forward one proposal for improving meeting productivity. Debate
each proposal, and vote. At the end of the meeting, the minute-taker should report which
proposals had been accepted and will become company policy.
2.2 KEY IDIOMS AND EXPRESSIONS
We often use phrasal verbs during meetings which can cause confusion. Do you know
what the following ones mean? How and when would you use them?
to hand over
to move on
to take through
to think about
to come back to
to put on
to get back to
to wrap up
1. Look at the following phrases. Choose a phrasal verb from the target language above
and complete the phrase.
Jane, what do you A __________ __________ all of this?
Can I B __________ _________ to John now who’ll C __________ you __________ the
figures?
Let’s try to D __________ __________ to the main topic on today’s agenda.
We need to E __________ __________ discussion on that as we’re almost out of time.
We’ll F __________ that __________ the list of issues to discuss next time.
I think we need to G __________ __________ to this point once we have more
information about the situation.
We don’t have much time so let’s H __________ __________ to the next topic.
2. Look at the following sentences. Has the phrasal verb been used correctly in the
sentence? If it hasn’t, correct the sentence and explain the error.
A I’d like to move on to discuss the next point.
B I’d like to hand the discussion over to John now.
C We need to think this issue about carefully.
D I think we should come to this point back.
E Could we put that on the agenda for next time?
F Let’s wrap up now for today.
G Let’s try to get to the main topic back.
H James is going to take through us the next topic now.
More idioms and expressions
Native speakers tend to use a lot of idioms and fixed expressions in business meetings. If
you don’t understand these expressions, it is easy to miss what is being said in business
meetings. In this section, we look at some of the more common idioms you might come
across in business meetings.
1. How many of these idioms are you familiar with? See if you can match the idiom to the
explanation:
1 to be at stake _____
a. to present a matter for discussion
2 to hit the nail on the head _____
b. to come up with creative ideas about
something
3 to take the bull by the horns _____
c. to confront a difficult situation head on
4 to lay something on the table _____
d. to start a project
5 to bring someone up to speed _____
e. to start again with something
6 to give the green light on something _____
f. to change the rules in a situation in a way
that is not fair, usually in order to make it
more difficult for someone to achieve
something
7 to go back to square one _____
g. to be of importance
8 to think outside the box _____
h. to stick to a plan
9 to keep someone in the loop _____
i. to agree to something going ahead
10 to get something off the ground _____
j. to be in agreement
11 to move the goalposts _____
k. to include someone in a group of people
that is kept up-to-date with information
about something
12 to keep on track _____
l. to say or do something that others agree
is correct or true
13 to be on the same page _____
m. to give someone the latest information
about something
14 to get things out in the open _____
n. to make information public knowledge
and not hidden
2. Complete the opinion on meetings using the idioms you have just defined.
Often in a meeting we are updating other people on recent progress in projects or
departments. There are several key expressions we use here when we want to A
____________________.
We
might
need
to
make
sure
that
everyone
is B
____________________ and agrees to key decisions. Or you might simply need to C
____________________ and inform them of decisions that have been taken, or D
____________________ so that they know of any important developments. It’s very
important that all members of a team are aware of the latest developments so that they
don’t feel that you are E ____________________ in terms of what needs to be achieved.
There
are
also
expressions
__________ everyone
that
are
__________.
used
to
discuss
Participants
projects
may
in
order
to F
to
G
need
____________________ in order to H __________ the project __________, or
someone may want to I __________ some new ideas __________. Of course, if
participants
don’t
agree
with
these
ideas,
then
you
might
need
to
J
____________________ and start again with some new ideas.
If you’ve got everyone together to discuss an issue, then it’s important that everyone
knows what’s K ____________________ in terms of the importance of the issue, and
that you L ____________________ and deal with any problems efficiently. If
someone comes up with a good explanation of a problem, then you might say that
they’ve M
____________________.
You
might
then
need
everyone
to N
____________________ in order to come up with a creative solution to the problem.
2.3 WHAT’S YOUR OBJECTIVE?
How productive are your meetings? Do all your meetings have clear objectives? Is every
meeting you attend really necessary?
In this meeting, Ben is chairing a departmental meeting with Barbara and Graham. John
has been invited along to give his insights into how to make their meetings more
productive.
Listen to the conversation and answer the questions below.
1. Listen once, and decide whether the following statements are true or false:
A Ben is in strong disagreement with John.
True / False
B John thinks that it is important for each meeting to have clear
True / False
objectives.
C Everyone is in agreement with John’s suggestions.
True / False
D John says that the meeting agenda and meeting objectives are the
True / False
same thing.
E Barbara thinks that the departmental weekly meetings need
True / False
clearer objectives.
F John suggests that some weekly meetings may not be necessary.
True / False
G Graham agrees that some meetings are unproductive.
True / False
H Ben insists that all people present in the meeting reach an
True / False
agreement before moving on.
2. Select the correct particle to complete these phrasal verbs from the conversation:
A
We’re here today to draw in | up | at some guidelines for making our
departmental meetings more efficient.
B
First of all, today we’ll be looking in | up | at how to prepare for meetings more
effectively.
C
To wrap up | out | in, we’ll be looking at how we should follow up meetings.
D So to start in | up | off it’s important to think about how we prepare for
meetings.
E
We all know that we need a clear agenda for every meeting, but it’s also really
important to make sure | clear | up that every meeting has at least one clear
objective.
F
Let’s move up | on | in to the next point, John, and maybe we can come in | up
| back to looking at | up | in the purpose of the weekly meetings in more detail
later on.
3. Complete the following phrases from the conversation with the correct idiom:
hit the nail on the head - think outside the box - giving the green light - take the
bull by the horns - on the same page - bring everyone up to speed
A
Our weekly meetings are really just to ____________________ with any
developments that happened the week before.
B
The only real objective is to make sure that we’re all on the same page in terms of
____________________ to any decisions that have been taken during the week.
C
Maybe we need to ____________________ here.
D I think you’ve actually ____________________ there, John.
E
I absolutely agree that we need to ____________________ and address how
much time we’re wasting each week on non-productive meetings.
F
I think it’s really important for us all to get together once a week to make sure
we’re all ____________________ and feel part of each other’s projects.
2.4 CONTROLLING THE DISCUSSION
Idioms challenge
1. Look at the following images. What idiom commonly introduced in the vocabulary
activity could the image represent?
Think of an example phrase that uses that idiom.
2. Your trainer will divide the class into two teams. For each photo, guess the idiom from
the vocabulary activity that the images represents. Then think up a phrase which uses
that phrasal verb.
Score
2 points for guessing the correct idiom.
Up to 5 points for each correct phrase.
Team A
Team B
3. Now decide which idiom can be used to complete the sentences:
A
Our programmers identified what they thought the problem was with the
software. After working for several hours, it turns out that the problem is
something totally different, so it looks like we have to ____________________.
B
We're very glad that the planning process is over. We're looking forward to
getting the project ____________________.
C
It’s important that we all appreciate ____________________ before we take a
decision.
D I agree with Nicole 100%. I think she really ____________________.
E
Let's go over the details of what we agreed on just to make sure that we're
____________________.
F
I think it's a good policy to keep everything ____________________
because
people get suspicious if you do things in secret.
G One of our mid-level managers wasn't very popular and was causing some
problems, so we ____________________ and replaced him with somebody else.
H We need the manager to ____________________ on this before we proceed.
I
Before we go any further I think we should all ____________________.
J
I’ll feel better about it when I ____________________ about what’s going on.
K
We need to put James ____________________ about recent decisions that have
been taken.
4. Look at the following agendas. Hold these meetings in small groups of 3-7
participants.
Your trainer will assign you a role from the list below. Apart from the chair, all roles can
be assigned to more than one person. Before holding each meeting, spend 2-3 minutes
preparing some points that you would like to raise during the meeting.
Change roles for each meeting.
Agenda 1
Context: Human resources weekly meeting
Topics: Flexi-time and crèche facilities
Role 1. Your company is considering introducing flexi-time rather than fixed
office hours. Chair should start the meeting, introduce the topic and hand over
to Role 2 who will outline the proposal. Lead discussion as to the advantages
and disadvantages of flexi-time. Ensure full participation. Lead discussion as to
whether the crèche facilities in the company are sufficient for current needs.
Role 2. Current office hours are 09.00-13.00, 14.00-17.00. Proposal is to
allow workers to start as early as 7.30, and leave as late as 19.00, as long as
7 hours are completed each day.
Agenda 2
Context: Monthly staff meeting
Topic: Use of the staff kitchen facilities
Role 1. There have been issues with the use of the staff kitchen in recent
weeks. Chair should start the meeting, introduce the topic and hand over to
Role 2 who will outline the issues. Lead a discussion to find solutions to the
problems outlined by Role 2. Make sure to discuss all of the problems raised
by Role 2.
Role 2. There are several issues that have arisen. You can invent as many
issues as you like. Issues could include: incorrect use of recycling bins; leaving
milk out of fridge, not washing up after lunch, food going missing from fridge,
leaving coffee cups in office so never enough cups. Role 1, make a note of all
these problems.
Participants
Role 1: The chair
Make sure that everyone participates. If someone does not share their opinions,
encourage them to participate. If someone dominates the conversation, attempt to get
others to contribute. If someone goes off topic, bring them back to the topic. You are
short of time, so move onto each topic as swiftly as possible. Use as many phrases from
the target language as possible.
Role 2: The dominating chatterbox
Try to dominate the conversation by talking as much as possible. Resist moving onto the
next topic – if the chair tries to move you on, bring up some more points related to the
previous topic. You’ll need to prepare as many points as you can for each topic so you
can keep talking!
Role 3: The silent participant
Don’t share any of your opinions unless directly asked to do so by the chair. When you
do so, reply briefly in one or two sentences, or with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Resist all attempts by
the chair to get you to share your opinions!
Role 4: The irrelevant chatterbox
Go off topic as much as you can. Talk about anything you like, as long as it is not on the
agenda!
Consolidation
Target language
Let’s remind ourselves of the language we’ve learned in this unit:
Phrases for chairing the meeting
I'd like to hand over to (name of participant), who is going to lead the next point.
Next, (name of participant) is going to take us through...
What do you all think about this?
Could we have your thoughts about this?
(Name), is there anything you’d like to add?
Could we leave this point for now?
Why don't we come back to this later?
Let’s agree to disagree for now and move on to the next point.
Could we put this on the agenda for the next meeting?
Let’s get back to the main topic of todays’ meeting.
Let’s wrap up that discussion and move on.
Phrasal verbs
to hand over
to move on
to take through
to put on
to think about
to get back to
to come back to
to wrap up
Common idioms
to be at stake
to hit the nail on the head
to take the bull by the horns
to lay something on the table
to bring someone up to speed
to give the green light on something
to go back to square one
to think outside the box
to
to
to
to
to
to
keep someone in the loop
get something off the ground
move the goalposts
keep on track
be on the same page
get things out in the open
Transcript
Ben: Hi everyone, thanks for coming. I’d like first of all to extend a warm welcome to John from
Human Resources. As you know, we’re here today to discuss meeting productivity in our
department, and to draw up some guidelines for making our departmental meetings more efficient.
John, thanks for coming along.
John: My pleasure Ben, thanks for inviting me here.
Ben: OK, so first of all today we’ll be looking at how to prepare for meetings more effectively. Then
we’ll look at how to make the most of meeting time during the meeting itself. To wrap up we’ll be
looking at how we should follow up meetings. OK, well let’s kick off. I’d like to start by handing
straight over to John, who’s going to lead the discussion on how to prepare for a meeting.
John: OK, thanks Ben. So to start off it’s important to think about how we prepare for meetings.
We all know that we need a clear agenda for every meeting, but it’s also really important to make
sure that every meeting has at least one clear objective.
Ben: Can you tell us what you mean by that, John? Isn’t that the same thing as having an agenda?
John: Well, yes and no. An agenda is important, but it’s only a list of topics that need to be
discussed. An objective is what you want to achieve from the meeting. It’s important to make sure
that everyone is on board in terms of your objectives, and that you share your objectives with
everyone well ahead of the meeting.
Ben: OK, thanks John. Does anyone have any thoughts about that? Barbara?
Barbara: Yes, well actually I do. I can see what you mean, John, but to me it seems a little over
the top to plan every meeting in so much detail. I mean sometimes our weekly Monday meetings
are really just to bring everyone up to speed with any developments that happened the week
before. So the only real objective is to make sure that we’re all on the same page in terms of
giving the green light to any decisions that have been taken during the week, and so on.
John: OK, I hear what you’re saying Barbara. But maybe we need to think outside of the box here.
We all spend so much time each week in meetings, and not all of that time is productive. If all
you’re doing in your weekly meeting is giving an update, do you really need to physically get
everyone together in a meeting room to do that? Couldn’t you just have a quick Skype call, or even
just send a weekly email?
Graham: I think you’ve actually hit the nail on the head there, John. I’m not convinced our weekly
meetings are particularly productive, and that may well be because we often don’t really need a
meeting. I absolutely agree that we need to take the bull by the horns and address how much time
we’re wasting each week on non-productive meetings.
Barbara: I’m sorry, but I just don’t agree Graham. I think it’s really important for us all to get
together once a week to make sure we’re all on the same page and feel part of each other’s
projects.
Ben: OK, well maybe we need to agree to disagree on that for now. Let’s move on to the next
point, John, and maybe we can come back to looking at the purpose of the weekly meetings in
more
detail
later
on
once
we’ve
heard
more
…
Business English Labs
Unit 3
Formal & informal telephone language
Unit Objectives
By the end of the unit you will be able to
•
recognize features of formal and informal English.
•
hold a business telephone conversation using informal phrases.
•
hold a business telephone conversation using formal phrases.
Unit Contents
3.1 FORMAL AND INFORMAL TELEPHONE ENGLISH
3.2 CAN YOU HEAR THE DIFFERENCE?
3.3 RAPPORT AND DISTANCE
3.4 WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
Business English Labs
It’s important to try to get the right level of formality in a business telephone call. If you are
too informal, you risk sounding as though you don’t take the person or call seriously. If you
are too formal, you can sound insincere or distant.
3.1 FORMAL AND INFORMAL TELEPHONE ENGLISH
Formal or informal?
There are no hard and fast rules in the business world for when to use formal and informal
language. It helps to remember that formal language creates a distance between speakers,
and informal language brings them closer together.
Opt for formality in situations where distance is a good thing (sharing confidential information,
dealing with serious matters, negotiations etc.), or situations where you need to convey
authority, deference or control.
If, however, you want to create or maintain rapport, it’s best to avoid being too formal.
As you can see, it is often the situation rather than the person that dictates how formal to be.
Look at the situations below. Would you use formal or informal language?
A Assisting an online banking customer with a security problem.
Formal / Informal
B Speaking to a job candidate about interview arrangements.
Formal / Informal
C Informing a job candidate that her interview was successful.
Formal / Informal
D Discussing dates for an operation with a patient.
Formal / Informal
E Asking a colleague for a favor.
Formal / Informal
F Thanking a junior colleague for a good job.
Formal / Informal
G Speaking to a colleague you have never met about the Christmas party.
Formal / Informal
H Asking for a pay rise.
Formal / Informal
I Reporting a problem with a colleague to HR.
Formal / Informal
J Speaking to a supplier you have been working with for several years about
Formal / Informal
some routine admin.
K Finalizing details for an important event with a senior manager
Formal / Informal
46
Business English Labs
Key phrases: informal and formal language
Have a look at three informal telephone conversations and answer the questions below.
Chris: Hello?
Maddy: Oh, hi Chris, it’s Maddy. Is Jake in today?
Chris: Hang on. I’ll get him.
Chris: Sorry, he’s not in at the moment. Call back about 10.30, OK?
Maddy: Sure. Bye then.
Chris: Bye for now.
Pete: Hello, Pete speaking?
Naomi: Hi Pete. Is Andrea there?
Pete: Who’s this?
Naomi: It’s Naomi.
Pete: Hi Naomi. Andrea’s in a meeting til 2.30. Do you want to leave a message?
Naomi: Tell her to call me back when she’s got a minute.
Pete: OK. What’s it about?
Naomi: It’s about our presentation next week.
Simon: Hello?
Jim: Hello, is that Simon?
Simon: Yep, who’s calling?
Jim: It’s Jim from Maintenance. Is Darcy around?
Simon: Wait a sec, I’ll just check…
Simon: She’s in her office.
Jim: Put me through please.
Simon: No problem.
Jim: Cheers.
47
Business English Labs
Can you match the informal vocabulary on the left to the formal equivalents on the right?
1 Hello/hi _____
a. Can I ask who’s calling please?
2 Is x in/there/around? _____
b. One moment please …
3 Hang on/Wait a sec _____
c. Good morning/afternoon
4 Call back later _____
d. Goodbye
5 Sure/Will do _____
e. Could you call back later please?
6 Bye _____
f. Would you like to …?
7 Who’s this/calling? _____
g. Certainly
8 Do you want to…? _____
h. Could I speak to x please?
Can you match the informal vocabulary on the left to the formal equivalents on the right?
1 Tell her … _____
a. Could you/Would you mind putting me through?
2 When he/she’s got a minute. _____
b. Am I speaking to x?
3 It’s about … _____
c. Thank you
4 He’s not in. _____
d. At his/her convenience
5 Is that x? _____
e. Could you/would you mind asking her …
6 Yep _____
f. He’s not available.
7 Put me through _____
g. It’s in connection with …
8 Cheers _____
h. Yes
48
Business English Labs
Now look at the first conversations rewritten in formal language. Can you fill the gaps?
Could you − Goodbye − Good morning − Could I speak − available −
Certainly − speaking − One moment
A _______________?
Good morning Chris, it’s Maddy Bostock B _______________. C _______________ to Jake
please?
D _______________ please.
Sorry, he’s not E _______________ at the moment. F _______________ call back at about
10. 30?
G _______________. Goodbye.
H _______________ for now.
Now look at the first conversations rewritten in formal language. Can you fill the gaps?
as soon as possible − Would you like − here − Certainly − mind − Good afternoon
− afraid − connection − who’s speaking
A _______________, Peter Jones speaking?
Hello Peter. Could I speak to Andrea please?
Can I ask B _______________?
It’s Naomi Watson C _______________.
Hello
Naomi.
I’m
D
_______________
that
Andrea’s
in
a
meeting
til
2.30.
E
_______________ to leave a message?
Would you F _______________ telling her to call me back G _______________?
H _______________. What’s it in I _______________ with?
49
Business English Labs
Requests and suggestions using informal language
One of the key differences between formal and informal language is the way we make requests
and suggestions.
In very informal English, we often use imperatives for requests:
Tell her to call me back.
Wait a sec.
Put me through please.
Remember, the imperative in English is simply the bare infinitive of the verb.
Imperatives can sound like commands if you’re not careful with your intonation. To avoid this,
use Can you + infinitive or Will you + infinitive for a request:
Can you tell her to call me back?
Can you wait a sec?
Will you put me through?
In very informal language, it is also possible to change the word order of “Will” requests like
this:
Get me a cup of tea, will you?
Note that it is NOT possible to do this with “Can” requests:
Call me later, can you?
For suggestions, you can soften the imperative (but still sound fairly informal) using You
could + infinitive:
You could call back about 10.30.
You could try his mobile.
You could leave a message with her secretary.
50
Business English Labs
Fill the gaps:
Wait − Put − Can − will − Leave − Call − could
A _______________ you ask her to come to my office when she’s free?
B _______________ him at home, he won’t mind.
C _______________ a sec, the line’s busy.
You D _______________ send him a text message.
E _______________ him a message to call me back please.
F _______________ me through to Mr Harding.
Get me a cup of tea, G _______________ you?
Requests using formal language
In formal English, we tend to avoid direct commands. Look at how we do this for requests:
Informal: Tell her to call me back.
Less informal: Can you tell her to call me back?
Formal: Could you tell her to call me back?
More formal: Would you tell her to call me back?
Or: Would you mind telling her to call me back?
The structures are:
Modal + you + infinitive
Modal + you + mind + -ing
When making suggestions, try the following, formal phrase:
You might/may wish to review my document before sending it out.
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Business English Labs
Put the words from the following request in the correct order:
A you / a / taking / mind / Would / message?
____________________________________________________________
B that / called? / tell / I / Would / her / you
____________________________________________________________
C the / for / Could / the / meeting? / documents / you / prepare
____________________________________________________________
D wish / check / You / first. / Mrs Jones / with / might / to
____________________________________________________________
E she’ll / tell / when / Can / be back? / me / you
____________________________________________________________
F if / free / Check / 4pm. / at / she’s
____________________________________________________________
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Business English Labs
Choose the correct word from the options in brackets:
Would you mind A checking | check | to check whether she’s free?
Can you B asking | ask | to ask him to email me the figures?
Would you C to tell | tell | telling her to call me at home?
D To get | Getting | Get her to call me back please.
Could you E make | to make | making sure he gets the message?
You F could | can | might wish to contribute to her retirement present.
3.2 CAN YOU HEAR THE DIFFERENCE?
A call from the hospital
You are going to listen to a short telephone conversation between Julie Harding and
Keith Barker. Listen once and answer question 1 below. Then listen again as many times as
you need to answer question 2. Then attempt the remaining questions.
1. What kind of language do Julie and Keith use in their conversation?
a. Mostly informal
b. Mostly formal
c. A mixture of formal and informal
2. True or false?
A Julie works for a company called Stockholm Steel.
True / False
B Keith would like to speak to Marta Prince.
True / False
C Keith is a doctor at the hospital.
True / False
D Marta is working at home.
True / False
E Keith would like Marta to call him ASAP.
True / False
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Business English Labs
3. Here are some lines from the dialogue you have heard. Can you fill the gaps with words
from the box?
Would − Could − mind − may − calling − convenience − Certainly −
available − moment
A Good morning, Stockholm Steel, Julie speaking, how _______________ I help you?
Good morning. B _______________ I possibly speak to Marta King please?
Can I ask who’s C _______________ please?
D _______________, it’s Dr Keith Barker from the City Hospital.
One E _______________ please Dr Barker.
I’m sorry, Mrs. King isn’t F _______________ at the moment. G _______________
you like to leave a message?
Yes please. Would you H _______________ asking her to call me back at her I
_______________? She has my number.
Some good news
Marta King is back at her desk and has found the telephone message from her colleague
Julie. She picks up the phone to call Dr. Barker at the City Hospital. Listen once to their
conversation and answer questions 1 and 2 below. Then listen again as many times as you
need to answer question 3. Then attempt the remaining question.
1. What kind of language do Marta and
2. What kind of language do Marta and
the secretary use in their conversation?
the doctor use in their conversation?
a. Mostly informal
a. Mostly informal
b. Mostly formal
b. Mostly formal
c. A mixture of formal and informal
c. A mixture of formal and informal
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Business English Labs
2. True or false?
A Dr. Barker is a brain surgeon.
True / False
B Marta’s test results were negative.
True / False
C Dr. Barker asks if Marta would like the results in the post.
True / False
D The secretary will arrange Marta’s next appointment.
True / False
3. The formal and informal phrases below are used in the conversation. Can you match up the
parts of the phrases correctly?
1 Dr. Barker’s secretary _____
a. moment please.
2 Can I ask _____
b. to arrange your next appointment?
3 I’ll put you _____
c. there.
4 One _____
d. who’s calling please?
5 It’s Keith Barker _____
e. back on
6 Hello _____
f. on
7 Do you want _____
g. speaking?
8 Hold _____
h. here.
9 I’ll put my secretary _____
i. through.
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Business English Labs
Is Catherine around?
Now you are going to listen to a short conversation between colleagues Mike and Suzie.
Listen once and answer question 1 below. Then listen again as many times as you need
to answer question 2. Then attempt the remaining question.
1. What kind of language do Mike and Suzie use in their conversation?
a. Mostly informal
b. Mostly formal
c. A mixture of formal and informal
2. True or false?
A Suzie is calling from a construction company.
True / False
B She wants to know if Catherine is available.
True / False
C Catherine will be out at lunch for the next quarter of an hour or so.
True / False
D Suzie wants Catherine to call her back as soon as she returns.
True / False
3. Which of the following informal words and phrases do you hear in Suzie and Mike’s
conversation?
1 Mike speaking
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
2 Hi
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
3 Hiya
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
4 Is Catherine around?
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
5 Is Catherine there?
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
6 Is Catherine in?
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
7 Wait a sec
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
8 Hang on
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
9 Nope
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
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Business English Labs
10 Would you like …
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
11 Do you want…
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
12 Tell her to call me back
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
13 When she’s got a minute
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
14 Can you ask her to call me back?
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
15 Sure
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
16 Will do
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
17 Thanks!
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
18 Ta!
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
19 Cheers!
Hear the words / Don’t hear the words
Transcripts
Audio 1
Audio 2
Julie: Good morning, Stockholm Steel, Julie
speaking, how may I help you?
Secretary: Good afternoon, Oncology Department,
Dr. Barker’s secretary speaking?
Keith Barker: Good morning. Could I possibly
speak to Marta King please?
Marta: Oh, good afternoon, I’m returning a call
from Dr. Barker.
Julie: Can I ask who’s calling please?
Secretary: Can I ask who’s calling please?
Keith: Certainly, it’s Dr. Keith Barker from the City
Hospital.
Marta: Certainly. It’s Mrs. Marta King.
Julie: One moment please Dr. Barker. [pause]
Julie: I’m sorry, Mrs. King isn’t available at the
moment. Would you like to leave a message?
Keith: Yes please. Would you mind asking her to
call me back at her convenience? She has my
number.
Julie: Certainly. I’ll make sure she gets the
message.
Secretary: I’ll put you through Mrs. King. One
moment please.
Keith: Hello Mrs. King, it’s Keith Barker here.
Marta: Hello there.
Keith: Thanks for calling back. You´ll be pleased to
know that your rest results came back negative.
Marta: Oh, that’s fantastic news, thank you.
Keith: Thank you. Goodbye.
Keith: I thought you’d be pleased. Do you want to
arrange your next appointment?
Julie: Goodbye now.
Marta: Sure.
Keith: OK, hold on and I’ll put my secretary back
on.
Marta: Thanks.
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Business English Labs
Audio 3
Mike: Hello, Mike speaking?
Suzie: Hi Mike, it’s Suzie from Building Services.
Mike: Hi Suzie. What can I do for you?
Suzie: Is Catherine around?
Mike: Hang on, I’ll check. [pause]
Mike: Nope, she’s popped out to get some lunch. Do you want to leave a message?
Suzie: Er, what time will she be back?
Mike: She’ll be back in about 15 minutes I think.
Suzie: Just tell her to call me back when she’s got a minute will you?
Mike: Will do.
Suzie: Cheer
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Business English Lab
3.3 RAPPORT AND DISTANCE
Cheers or thank you? Sure or certainly? Send me an email or Would you mind sending me an
email? There are different ways of expressing ourselves in English using formal and informal
language, and this applies to telephone conversations too. Now is the time to make sure you
know when to be formal or informal, and practice using the vocab you have learned in the
preparation activities.
What a suggestion!
Target language
Formal
Neutral
Informal
You may/might wish to +
infinitive, e.g.
You could + infinitive, e.g.
Imperative (bare infinitive),
e.g.
You might wish to
send him a text message.
You could send him a text
message.
Send him a text message.
The people below are all in their first week of a new job, and are not coping very well:
Business English Lab
Imagine you are their managers. What suggestions could you make to help them? Try making
formal, neutral, and informal suggestions, like this:
Picture A
You might wish to order a new chair.
You could order a new chair.
Order a new chair.
The best suggestion for each picture earns a point!
Informal and formal telephone phrases
Informal and formal telephone phrases
Informal
Formal
Hello/hi
Good morning/afternoon
Is x in/there/around?
Is that x?
Could I speak to x please?
It’s x here.
Am I speaking to x?
This is x speaking/calling.
Who’s this/calling?
Can I ask who’s calling please?
Hang on/Wait a sec
One moment please…
He’s not in/around at the moment.
He’s not available at the moment.
When he’s got a minute.
At his convenience.
It’s about…
It’s in connection with …
Cheers!
Thank you.
Bye (for now)!
Good bye (and thank you for calling).
Remember also to make use of:
Please
I’m sorry, but …
I’m afraid that …
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Business English Lab
Exercise 1
Rearrange the phrases below. Are they formal or informal?
1. about tomorrow it’s drinks night.
2. she’s afraid not at the available moment I’m.
3. he got back when’s can he’s a call minute?
4. please Anthea is hi around?
5. good is Mistry afternoon this Mrs calling.
6. supplier contract with it’s new in the connection.
7. you convenience him asking to mind call at would me his?
8. sec around see if a wait I’ll she’s.
Exercise 2
Fill the gaps in this telephone conversation using target vocabulary from the appropriate
register (e.g. formal or informal).
1. Good morning, _______________ Mr. Staufenbiel please?
2. _______________ please?
3. _______________. This is Joseph Lane _______________ from HQ.
4. _______________ please Mr. Lane, I’ll see if he’s _______________.
5. I’m _______________ he’s not available _______________. Would you like to leave a
message?
6. Yes please. Would you mind asking him to call me back _______________?
7. _______________ Mr. Lane. Can I ask what _______________?
8. I’m _______________ that it’s highly confidential.
Practice the conversation with a partner.
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Business English Lab
Exercise 3
Choose the best word from the options given to complete this dialogue:
A Hello | Good morning, Alice speaking?
B Good morning | Hi Alice, it’s Sandra White from Admin here. Is the boss C available |
around | round?
Wait D a min | a sec | on, I’ll check.
Nope, he’s not E in | available | on I’m afraid. F Might you wish | Do you want to
leave a message?
G Just | Only ask him to pop down to my office H at his convenience | when he’s got
a minute would you?
I Sure | Certainly | Yes. Bye then.
J Bye | Goodbye for now.
Practice the conversation with a partner.
Formal and informal requests
Target language
Informal: Tell her to call me back.
Less informal: Can/Will you tell her to call me back?
Formal: Could you tell her to call me back?
More formal: Would you tell her to call me back?
Or: Would you mind telling her to call me back?
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Business English Lab
Exercise 1
Look at these pictures. Can you
make
requests
for
each
picture?
Example for picture 1:
Open the window.
Can/Will you open the window?
Could you open the window?
Would you open the window?
Would you mind opening the
window?
Should I use formal or informal English?
Spend five minutes discussing the statements below:
•
I am comfortable using formal and informal English.
•
It is easy to know when to use formal and informal English.
Now read the blog post below, and discuss the questions that follow.
Should I use formal or informal English?
Deciding whether to use formal or informal English can be difficult. There isn’t a simple
formula, such as young person + old person = formal, or junior colleague + junior colleague =
informal.
Fortunately, there are two questions you can ask yourself which will help you to choose.
1. What are we talking about?
We tend to choose informal language when we discuss everyday topics (weather, TV, social
life etc.) and reserve formal language for topics of a more serious nature: health, business
issues, politics etc. That is why even people you know well may use more formal language if
they talk about these serious issues with you. You may joke with your boss in the office
(informal language) but you are both likely to adopt formal language if you are negotiating a
new contract.
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Business English Lab
2. How do we feel about the person and the topic of conversation?
Imagine we get into a taxi and start chatting to the taxi driver about an everyday topic, such
as the weather. We would probably use neutral, perhaps even informal language, with them
as the topic is a familiar one (even though the taxi driver is a stranger). This would probably
change dramatically if the taxi driver tried to overcharge us. In order to show our frustration,
we might switch to formal language to show we are serious about the topic (the price) and to
demonstrate that the social interaction is a professional not a personal one.
(Adapted from http://britishenglishcoach.com/should-you-use-formal-neutral-or-informalenglish/)
Discuss:
1. True or false? There are clear rules to follow governing the use of formal and informal
English.
2. Can you think of some workplace conversation topics that call for informal language?
3. And for formal?
4. Can you think of a business situation that is parallel to the situation in the taxi
described in the blog post?
5. How do you choose whether to use formal or informal language in your mother tongue
(or other languages you know well)? Would the guidelines in this blog post apply to
your language?
Put it together
Exercise 1
You will work in pairs to role-play formal and informal telephone conversations where you
make a request. Your trainer will give you role A or role B. Role As will make the call, and Bs
will answer.
Preparation
Your trainer will give each pair a number. Look at the prompts for the number you have been
given and decide whether you should use formal or informal language:
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Business English Lab
Role A
Have a telephone conversation, with the following basic structure, using the prompts. You will
start:
Formal
Informal
Greet
Good morning/afternoon
Hello, hi
Ask to speak to the person
Am I speaking to x?
Is that x?
Introduce yourself
This is x speaking/calling.
It’s x here.
Can you + inf?
Make your request
Would you + inf …?
Will you + inf?
Would you mind + -ing …?
Inf + will you?
Thanks.
Say thank you
Thank you very much.
Cheers.
Say goodbye
Goodbye
Bye for now
Role B
Person A will call you. Listen to them carefully and react, using formal or informal language as
appropriate. You will find the following vocabulary useful:
Greet
Formal
Informal
Good morning/afternoon
Hello, hi
Speaking …
Confirm who you are
Yes, that’s right.
Yes, it is.
Sure
Agree to request
Certainly
OK
No problem
Don’t mention it
No problem
Respond to thanks
You’re welcome
You’re welcome
Say goodbye
Goodbye
Bye for now
When you have finished, swap roles.
Exercise 2
Preparation
Think of two different requests that you might make in your real job. These could be requests
for information, help, favors, ordering supplies etc. One of the requests should be fairly
informal, and the other should be formal.
Share the situations with the group and/or your partner. Briefly discuss why you think the
situations require formal/informal English.
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Business English Lab
Role play
In pairs, make two separate phone calls to your partner to make the requests. Each call should
have the structure below, as a minimum:
A
B
Answer phone
Introduce yourself
Say why you are calling
Make your request
Thank partner and say goodbye
Use formal or informal language target language, as appropriate to the context.
You can also add vocabulary from other sections of this unit (especially Building rapport and
Getting information) to develop the role plays, if there is time.
Swap roles.
3.4 WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
Write it down
1. Formal telephone language
Look at the informal telephone words and phrases below. Can you write a word or phrase that
has the same meaning in more formal English?
Example:
Informal: Hi, Alistair speaking?
Formal: Good morning, this is Alistair speaking. How may I help you?
1. Is Margaret around?
2. Wait a sec.
3. Tell her to call me back will you?
4. Hello Sales?
5. It’s John here, from HR.
6. Cheers!
7. Do you want to leave a message?
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Business English Lab
2. Informal telephone language
Now do the same for the phrases below, but this time write the informal equivalents.
1. Would you mind asking her to call me back at her convenience?
2. Could she return my call as soon as possible please?
3. I’m calling in connection with the iScream product launch.
4. Thank you very much for calling.
5. Could I speak to Aneka Petersen please?
6. Would you mind holding please?
7. Certainly Mr. French.
3. Making requests
For each of the prompts below, write five requests.
Example:
Prompt: Get coffee
Imperative: Get me a coffee (will you)?
Can: Can you get me a coffee?
Could: Could you get me a coffee please?
Would: Would you get me a coffee please?
Would you mind: Would you mind getting me a
coffee please?
1. Call back after 2pm.
2. Send me the files by email.
3. Take a message.
4. Order refreshments for the meeting.
5. Work late tonight.
4. Making suggestions
For each of the prompts below, write three suggestions.
Example, prompt: Send an email.
Send an email
You could send an email
You might/may wish to send an email
1. Write a letter of complaint.
2. Call the restaurant.
3. Negotiate a better price.
4. Use the microphone.
5. Hang up and call me back
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Business English Lab
Unit 4
Responding to emails – disagreeing, linking words
and hedging
Unit Objectives
In this unit students will:
•
Practice using language to disagree
•
Revise linking words and hedging
•
Practice using vocabulary and grammar in writing tasks
The Language of Disagreement
Have you ever offended anyone by stating an opinion too strongly? Or have you ever avoided
giving an opinion because you were worried you might cause offense? In this unit, you’ll learn
some phrases you can use to disagree strongly without causing offense.
Brainstorm: Make a list of some of the phrases that you would use when writing to someone
and disagreeing with them.
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Business English Lab
Activity 1
Match these phrases to the categories below.
a) I couldn’t disagree more
g) How can you possibly deny that I’m right?
b) The fact of the matter is …
h) My instinct tells me that we are close.
c)
i)
I really don’t see how you could say that
d) That’s simply not true
j)
If I were to play devil’s advocate …
e) There must be another option
k) I understand where you are coming from but …
f)
l)
My gut instinct is that it’s a bad move.
There’s no doubt there is a problem.
Could we look at this from a different angle? Say ….
m) I totally agree with what you’re saying, but …
Direct disagreement:
Stating an opinion as fact:
Introducing a new way of approaching the issue:
Sympathizing and then strongly disagreeing:
Talking about your instincts:
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Business English Lab
Activity 2
Put the correct modal verb into the sentences below.
A I’m sorry but I _______________________________to disagree.
B I _________________________________ help but think there must be another option.
C _________________________________ I play devil’s advocate for a second?
D _________________________________ we look at this issue from a different angle?
E I _________________________________ disagree more.
F I really don’t see how you _________________________________ say that.
G There _________________________________ be another option.
H You _________________________________ deny that we have no choice.
I How _________________________________ you possibly deny that I am right?
Activity 3
You have just gotten an email from your manager at work. She wrote her comments about
your last presentation, but you think she isn’t right about it. Look at the information below and
write your manager a polite email explaining why you disagree with what she wrote.
Your manager’s comment:
•
presentation: too short, too general, uninteresting
•
pictures: too small, people in the back couldn’t see them
•
you didn’t invite enough people, there were only 10
Remember to use some polite phrases expressing disagreement. You don’t need to include the
manager’s comments as written above, simply focus on your opinion and what you think about
the presentation.
Write 75-100 words.
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Business English Lab
Linking words
You will revise the function and use of linking words.
In English, we use many linking words when speaking and especially in writing. Can you think
of a few linking words? While you’ve probably heard of and even use ‘but’ and ‘however’, you
may not use ‘hence’ and ‘nevertheless’, In this activity we practice with useful linking words
which will make your vocabulary richer.
Take a look at the linking words below. How many of them do you already know? How many
do you use?
•
nevertheless
•
in addition to
•
in the event
•
still
•
hence
•
after all
•
yet
•
namely
•
in order that
•
whereas
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Business English Lab
Activity 1
Can you place the correct linking words into the sentences below?
A To some people your jokes might be funny _________________________________ they are not for the
workplace.
B _________________________________ to racist jokes, he tells sexist jokes about women all of the
time. I find it offensive!
C _________________________________ that a junior manager questions the decision of a senior
manager this is seen as ‘loss of face’.
D He didn’t mean anything by it, _________________________________ I don’t think those sorts of
comments are appropriate.
E He kept pushing the limits, _________________________________ we asked him to leave.
F _________________________________ you can’t make those sort of jokes and not expect anyone to
eventually tell you off!
G He’s quiet and reserved _________________________________ really funny when you get to know
him.
H Some jokes push the limits, namely racist, weight, sexist _________________________________
political jokes.
I We adopted a Zero Tolerance policy on sexist jokes _________________________________ our
female employees would feel more comfortable.
J She’s serious _________________________________ her sister is a total comedian!
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Business English Lab
Activity 2
Brynn is on holiday on the West Coast of Scotland and is experiencing some very wet weather.
He writes an email to his friend Candice, describing the weather. Read his email and notice the
linking words he uses to join his ideas together, making his writing more interesting and easier
to understand.
Write your own email to a person allocated to you by your trainer describing some interesting
weather. One or two of these emails will be shared with the group who will discuss how linking
words have been used.
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Business English Lab
Hedging
When you write about situations, you sometimes prefer not to commit absolutely to an
opinion. This is called ‘hedging’. To avoid committing yourself you can use hedging words to
modify your opinion or allow for the possibility that your opinion may only be right in certain
circumstances. In this activity, we are going to look at how to use nouns and adjectives to
hedge.
Four good reasons to hedge
1. By hedging, you can modify your statements to reduce the risk of opposition.
2. The reader understands that you are not making a final decision or statement. Hedging
can be used to show you are considering the situation.
3. When you hedge you avoid seeming arrogant or all-knowing or even unapproachable.
You appear polite because you are open to listen to other points of view.
4. You can also use hedging words when you want to distinguish between facts and
opinions and when the information given cannot be 100% verified and there is an
element (however small) of doubt.
Discussion Questions
•
Do you think you use hedging language on a daily basis? At work or in the home?
•
In what situation do you think it is most common or necessary?
•
Are there some types of jobs where hedging language is very important? Can you give
some examples? (i.e. journalism, diplomacy)
•
Do you think hedging language is used more when speaking or when writing? Why do
you think that is?
•
Are you good at hedging language, or do you tend to speak in a direct fashion?
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Business English Lab
Hedging words
Common nouns for hedging
possibility – probability – appearance – indication – inference – likelihood – suggestion –
tendency – to my knowledge – assumption
Common adjectives for hedging
apparent – certain – consistent with – few – many – most – presumed – several – some –
supposed – clear – overall – possible
Activity 1: Complete the following sentences below with the hedging nouns and
adjectives above.
A In all _________________________________, the assistant you spoke to didn’t fully understand your
point of view.
B The clothing has the _________________________________ of being worn.
C There is always a _________________________________ that the item was faulty.
D The _________________________________ honesty of the customer is not in question.
E Some customers have the _________________________________ to exaggerate.
F One _________________________________ solution could be to offer a discount on her next
purchase.
G _________________________________ no one else has been dissatisfied with its performance.
H The _________________________________ use of this product may be excessive.
I The only _________________________________ way we can please this customer is to refund their
money.
J There isn’t a _________________________________ answer available.
K The _________________________________ service you received though was good.
L The _________________________________ of failure isn’t very high.
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Business English Lab
Activity 2: Now use nouns and adjectives together to complete the sentences below.
A _________ _________ exist.
B The _________ _________ made by the client shouldn’t be ignored.
C A _________ _________ of _________ _________ service has not been established.
D Your _________ _________ was made before you had been informed of all the facts.
Categories of hedging language
Modal verbs
It might be that…
It could seem like…
Verbs
It is estimated…
It appears to be…
It is not known whether…
Adjectives and adverbs
It is possible that…
It is unlikely that…
Practically everyone…
Approximately two thirds…
Usually all employees…
Roughly half the population…
Introductory phrases
To our knowledge…
We feel that…
It is our view that…
There is little doubt that…
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Business English Lab
Top 5
Overused business hedges that might be best to avoid.
1. In order to…
2. Despite the fact that…
3. In connection with…
4. As such…
5. For the most part…
Activity 3: Identify whether the following phrase contains hedging language (T) or
not (F):
A Negotiations seem to be failing, but stockholders still hope they can find
True / False
a compromise.
B It is widely recognized that this problem can be solved with traditional
True / False
surgery.
C It may be possible to drive to that town in less than a day.
True / False
D The recent work of the historical society has been key in preserving old
True / False
manuscripts.
E Virtually all employees here responded very positively to the new
True / False
policies.
F There are cases in which it is not possible to follow this procedure.
True / False
G Putting these measures into effect will reduce our expenses for next
True / False
year.
H There is some evidence that employees do not respond as expected to
True / False
financial incentives.
I It is estimated that two-thirds of our employees do not take all of their
True / False
vacations days.
J The commitment to sustainable practices is stronger than ten years ago.
True / False
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Business English Lab
Discussion Questions
1. Do you think the disclaimer: “I may be wrong, but…” is very useful? Do you use it
often?
2. Do you think it could weaken your position or message? Why or why not?
3. Can you think of a situation in which you tried to distance yourself from what you had
to say?
4. Do you have a similar concept for “don’t shoot the messenger” in your country?
5. How do you think this type of language helps when the other person could get upset?
Linking and Hedging in Action
Target Language
Modal verbs
It might be that…
It could seem like…
Verbs
It is estimated…
It appears to be…
It is not known whether…
Adjectives and adverbs
It is possible that…
It is unlikely that…
Practically everyone…
Approximately two thirds…
Usually all employees…
Roughly half the population…
Introductory phrases
To our knowledge…
We feel that…
It is our view that…
nevertheless – in addition to – in the event – still – hence – after all – yet – namely – in order
that – whereas
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Scenario
When an employer makes a job offer, they expect you to negotiate. You need to be able to
discuss and negotiate the terms and conditions of a new job in writing – even if the initial
discussions take place by phone it’s a good idea to confirm everything in writing. In this
activity, you will practice writing a formal letter in response to an offer from your new
employer.
Dear Mrs. Walker,
Further to our conversation on April 26 th regarding terms and conditions of employment with
BK International, I would like to make the following proposal.
First of all, the company agrees that a smart appearance is essential to the post and
therefore we suggest that a clothes allowance of £300 per annum is included in your salary
and benefits package. Secondly, following discussion with HR, we have decided to offer you
enhanced holiday entitlement of 28 days per annum. This is three days more than the
standard entitlement given at your level. Finally, due to the current budget constraints, I
regret that we cannot offer you any increase of the basic salary of 30,000 per annum at this
time. However, the company intends to review the salary scales in the next six months, and
I expect that you would receive a small increase under such a review.
I believe we have offered the best possible terms and conditions and hope that you will
accept our offer. We think that you would make a valuable addition to our team and look
forward to welcoming you on board.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Yours sincerely,
Heather Graham
Activity 1:
You are Mrs Nicole Walker. You are going to write a formal reply to Heather Graham, in which
you:
•
Thank her for her offer
•
Accept her proposal for an extra three days holiday
•
Ask for a clothes allowance of £400 (with justification)
•
Ask for a travel allowance to compensate for the low salary
•
Ask for clarification about the pension plan
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Your reply should be around 180-200 words. It should use:
•
Formal language (Further to, regarding, yours sincerely etc.)
•
Hedging/negotiating verbs with “that” or “to”
•
Linking words
Activity 2: Written warnings
Complete the activity and then the written task that follows. The written task will be checked
by the person that you have been paired with and they will comment on:
•
Your ability to use formal language
•
Your use of linking words, verbs, relative clauses, and hedging vocabulary.
•
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation
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Unit 5
Clarifying and confirming
Unit Objectives
By the end of the unit you will be able to
•
interrupt politely and ask for clarification
•
confirm and summarize the key points of an argument
•
use common phrases and idioms for summing up
Unit Contents
5.1 CLARIFYING AND CONFIRMING
5.2 DO YOU GET MY DRIFT?
5.3 LET ME CLARIFY
5.4 WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
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Whether you are having a one-on-one conversation or taking part in a meeting, demonstrating
that you are listening carefully to what someone is saying is an important element of being
polite. If you need to clarify what they are saying, you will need to interrupt them politely and
ask for clarification and may need to summarize or confirm their main arguments. In this unit,
you will learn how to interrupt politely and clarify and confirm the key points of an argument.
5.1 CLARIFYING AND CONFIRMING
Excuse me, please.
Communication is fundamental in the workplace. It can either be verbal or written and internal
(with colleagues and managers) or external (with clients - suppliers etc.). Getting it wrong can
be embarrassing and even costly. Misunderstandings typically arise from two situations; either
you misunderstand something that was communicated to you, or you communicate to another
person and they do not understand what you mean. In either situation, there are words and
phrases that you can use to help clarify the situation.
In this section, we are going to look at how you can interrupt someone politely so that you can
ask for clarification.
Let’s look at an example. A co-worker is explaining the new invoicing system to you. He tells
you that you have to be sure to enter the account number, the vendor number, the invoice
number, and project number into the system. You are confused about where you find the
numbers on the invoice because they do not seem to be clearly marked. Before he goes
further you need to stop him, or you will be hopelessly lost.
You can’t just say, “Hey. Stop. You’re going too fast!” How can you stop him without sounding
impolite? What can you say?
The following sentences can be used when you need to state that you do not understand
something:
I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean.
I'm not sure I follow you.
I don't see what you are getting at.
I don't know what you mean.
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Remember that in order to be polite, we often start expressions such as these with the phrase
‘Excuse me’ or ‘Pardon me’. We may also say the word 'Sorry' or the phrase, ‘Sorry to
interrupt, but..’.
Order the following phrases that we can use to interrupt when you don’t understand
what someone is saying:
A know / you mean. / Excuse me, / what / I don't
____________________________________________________________
B I'm not
/ I understand
/ you mean. / Sorry, / quite sure / what
____________________________________________________________
C what / Sorry / getting at. / but / you are / to interrupt, / I don't see
____________________________________________________________
D I'm / I follow / Pardon me, / you. / not sure
____________________________________________________________
What do you mean?
Now that you have stopped the flow of information, you will need to ask for clarification. The
following sentences can be used when you do not understand something you have heard or
read and require clarification:
What do you mean by ...?
Do you mean ...?
Could you repeat that? (spoken communication only)
Could you clarify what you mean by …?
Could you be more specific …?
Could you give me an example of ...?
Could you elaborate on that please?
Could you show me that again?
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Complete each phrase:
repeat − elaborate − more specific − show me − you mean − to say −
an example − clarify
A Could you be ____________________ about what the client wants?
B Do you mean ____________________ that we won’t deliver the project under
budget?
C Could you ____________________ that?
D What do ____________________ by ‘project number’?
E Could you ____________________ what you mean by an ‘open-jaw’ ticket?
F Could you ____________________ on your last statement please?
G Could you ____________________ those figures again?
H Could you give me ____________________ of ‘controlled flow’?
What I mean to say is…
In other situations, you may be the person who was misunderstood. Imagine now that you are
the person explaining the new invoicing system. You have been politely interrupted, and your
co-worker has asked for clarification. It is important to be polite and somewhat formal in the
workplace. Therefore, you will want to use phrases like the ones below when something you
have communicated has not been understood:
Let me put it another way ….
Let me explain what I mean ….
Sorry, let me explain.
Let me expand on that.
In other words ...
To say it another way ….
Let me show you.
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Matching
1 Let me put it another way. ____
a. when I say that the report was filed
incorrectly.
2 Sorry, let ____
b. you want us to agree to your proposal.
3 Let me explain what I mean ____
c. The ‘project number’ is the number we create.
4 Let me ____
d. aren’t interested in our proposal.
5 In other words ____
e. me explain.
6 To say it another way, you ____
f. where I think the proposal is flawed.
7 Let me show you ____
g. expand on that.
Let me sum up
Well done! You have politely interrupted the speaker, expressed your lack of understanding
and asked for clarification. The other person has clarified what they were saying. You think you
understand, but you want to be sure by confirming and summarizing the key points.
You can use phrases like those below to summarizing and repeat in your own words what the
person has told you.
Let me be sure I understand.
Let me sum up what I heard you say.
So, what you are telling me is…
In our simple example of the new invoicing system, you might say:
Let me be sure I understand. The ‘project number’ is one that we create at the
beginning of the project.
If you have summed it up correctly, the speaker will agree, and you are ready to go on with
the explanation. If you have not summed it up correctly, you and the speaker will need to
continue the clarification process.
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Choose the correct word in the sentences below.
Let me A sum up | expand on what I heard you say.
Let me be sure B you | I understand.
So, what you are C saying | telling me is …
Idioms for misunderstandings
English is a language that is rich in vocabulary and idioms. Using idioms and expressions with
regards to misunderstandings is commonplace. However, in the workplace you must be careful
with using some idioms, because they may sound impolite or too informal. For example, the
expression “as clear as mud” is a common idiom used to say that something is not clear.
However, it is often used sarcastically so would not be appropriate to use in a formal setting.
However, there are many idioms that you will find useful such as:
in a nutshell
to be on the same wavelength
to be on the same page
to get straight to the point
to miss the point
to start from scratch
to shed some light on something
to get (or not get) somebody’s drift
Now let’s see if you can work out what they mean. Match the idiom with its definition:
1 in a nutshell ____
a. to talk about an issue without small talk
2 to be on the same wavelength / to be
b. to start again
on the same page ____
3 to get straight to the point ____
c. to clarify something
4 to miss the point ____
d. to understand what someone is saying
5 to start from scratch ____
e. using as few words as possible to
summarize
6 to shed some light on something
f. to think in a similar way
____
7 to get somebody’s drift ____
g. to misunderstand something
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Now fill in the gaps in the text with a suitable idiom:
on the same page − to get his drift − start from scratch − the same
wavelength − get straight to the point − In a nutshell − shed light on
A ____________________, we are going to have to start the project development over
again. Luckily, we won’t have to B ____________________.
C Now that you have ____________________ what happened, I understand Jill’s
reaction to my comment this morning.
D I like your idea. It looks like we are ____________________.
E I like working with Samantha, she and I are always on ____________________.
F
At
first,
I
did
not
understand
Alan’s
proposal.
Now
I
am
starting
____________________.
G Because we are short on time, I’ll ____________________.
5.2 DO YOU GET MY DRIFT?
Now that you have learned about some expressions and idioms you can use when you
are communicating with someone, let’s listen to a conversation between Alicia and Human
Resource Manager, Marco. The company needs to hire some new employees, and he has asked
her to manage the process.
First, let’s see what you understood about this situation. Choose the correct option:
1. Marco wants Alicia to _______ employees.
a. hire
b. fire
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2. The purpose of the meeting is for Alicia to
c. create a timeline.
d. place an advertisement.
e. organize the hiring process.
3. It will take almost a month to hire new employees because
c. there are no good applicants.
d. there are several steps in the hiring process.
e. Alicia doesn’t understand how to hire new employees.
4. Now let’s see how Alicia and Marco asked for and gave clarification. You may want to listen
to the audio again to hear exactly how they interacted. Alicia had to ask Marco for clarification
about the deadlines. Let’s see how she did this. Did she interrupt him politely?
a. Yes, she said “excuse me” before making her request.
b. Yes, she said his name before making her request.
c. No. She should not have interrupted him.
5. How did she tell him that she needed clarification?
a. She said, “I don’t understand.”
b. She asked him if he could “clarify the deadline for hiring”
c. She did not ask for clarification.
6. Alicia told Marco she would place the advertisement, and he told her that they could “start
hiring people by the first of April which will work out well.” How did Alicia tell him that she was
not sure what he was saying?
a. She apologized for interrupting and then said, “I’m not sure I follow you.”
b. She told him he was wrong.
c. She did not ask for clarification.
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7. Marco clarified that the hiring process takes some time. How did Alice tell him she
understood and sum up?
a. She didn’t.
b. She thanked him and said she was ready to go on.
c. She said, “Before we go on, let me be sure I understand.”
8. Alicia said, “Sorry. I’m not sure I follow you.” Which idiom could she have used instead?
a. Sorry. I think I missed the point.
b. Sorry. That’s it in a nutshell.
c. Sorry. You will have to start from scratch.
How many new employees?
Marco and Alicia have clarified the timeline for hiring the new employees. Marco is ready
to leave, but Alicia has some more questions. Let’s see what’s up.
1. In this situation, Alicia interrupts Marco _______ by saying “Excuse me, Marco.”
a. politely
b. impolitely
2. When Alicia asked how long the contract is for, Marco _______ why she is asking.
a. does not understand
b. understands
3. They decide that all of the positions should be permanent.
True / False
4. As Marco is getting ready to leave, Alicia says: Excuse me, Marco. I do have another
question. What else could she have said that is also polite?
a. Hey, Marco. Hold up.
b. Excuse me, Marco. Could you clarify what you mean about the employees?
c. Excuse me, Marco. I don't see what you are getting at.
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5. Marco ask Alicia, “What is your point?” Which idiom could he have used instead?
a. I can’t make head nor tail of it.
b. Please get straight to the point.
c. I think I am missing your point.
6. Later he said, “I see your point now.” What does he mean?
a. I think I am missing your point.
b. I understand now.
c. I don’t understand.
7. Alicia said, “Sorry, let me be more specific.” She is:
a. Clarifying
b. Asking for clarification
c. Expressing lack of understanding
8. Alicia says, “So, what you are telling me is…” to _______ .
a. sum up
b. ask for clarification
9. What did Marco mean when he said, “…if you get my drift.”
a. He was asking her to go sailing.
b. He meant, if you understand what I mean.
c. He was summing up.
10. Then Alicia replied, “It sounds like we are on the same wavelength.” This means that
a. They were listening to the radio.
b. That they had the same idea about the issue.
c. She was summing up.
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Transcripts
Conversation 1
Marco: Alicia, thank you for agreeing to help me with this hiring process. We got a big order
from a firm in Ohio, so we will need to add some employees. We will need to fill these
positions quickly.
Alicia: Thank you for asking me.
Marco: According to our figures, it looks like we will need three line workers and one more
person in the shipping department. Then, I think…
Alicia: Marco, excuse me. Before we go into the details, could you clarify the deadline for
hiring?
Marco: Certainly. I guess, I am getting ahead of myself. The shipping date for the first order is
April 30. Today is Monday, March 15, so we need to have the new employees hired no later
than April 15.
Alicia: Yes, I see. I can place the advertisement this week.
Marco: Right, then next week applications will come in and we can start hiring people by the
first of April which will work out well.
Alicia: Sorry. I’m not sure I follow you. I thought you said they should start by April 15.
Marco: Yes, I did. But remember they will need to go through the hiring process. They also will
need some training, so the earlier the better.
Alicia: I see. Before we go on, let me be sure I understand. I’d like to write down this timeline.
I will place the advertisement for the 4 positions this week. We will accept applications until
March 26.
Marco: Yes, that sounds good.
Alicia: Then we will make selections and invite people for interviews the following week.
Marco: Correct. We should finish that process by April 2.
Alicia: Then the following week they will do their medical screening and finish their paperwork
and be ready to start work by April 15. I see.
Marco: Good. I’m glad that is clear. Now let’s…
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Conversation 2
Marco: Ok. It looks like we have the timeline ready. I’ll leave so you can write the
advertisement and send it out.
Alicia: Excuse me, Marco. I do have another question.
Marco: Sure. What is it?
Alicia: Do you know how long the order contract is for?
Marco: Yes, it is for 90 days. What is your point?
Alicia: Sorry, let me be more specific. We need to decide whether the employees will be
permanent or temporary.
Marco: Oh, I see your point now. Let’s hire one person for the line as a permanent employee.
Then we can hire the rest as temporary employees.
Alicia: So, what you are telling me is that I will advertise for one permanent position and 2
temporary positions on the line, and 1 temporary position for shipping?
Marco: Exactly. If the Ohio contract is renewed, then we can change the temporary positions
to permanent, if you get my drift.
Alicia: Yes. It sounds like we are on the same wavelength.
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5.3 LET ME CLARIFY
In every professional situation, people communicate. However, communication is not always
clear. Sometimes, one person may not say enough and may need to elaborate. In other
situations, one person may not understand what the other person said. This is normal in
communication; however, in order to avoid these situations from becoming misunderstandings
we may have to interrupt the other person and ask for clarification.
Picture that idiom
Can you remember the word which completes the idiom? If you get stuck your trainer will
help!
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How we clarify
Decide whether the following phrases are expressing a lack of understanding, asking for
clarification, or clarifying your point. The chart below demonstrates how you can organize your
answers.
A In other words you want us to agree to your proposal.
B Let me put it another way we need to finish the project as soon as possible.
C What do you mean by your last statement?
D Could you repeat that?
E I'm not sure I follow you.
F I don't see what you are getting at.
G Could you clarify what you mean by we only have 20 days?
H Could you be more specific about what the client wants?
I Could you give me an example of how we can improve the program?
J Sorry, let me explain.
K Let me expand on that.
L Could you elaborate on that please? I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean.
M I don't know what you mean.
N Do you mean to say that we won’t deliver the project under budget?
O Let me explain what I mean by spending more and cutting back.
Expressing a lack of
Asking for
understanding
clarification
Clarifying your point
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Role play in pairs
For each situation below, one person should play the manager, and one the team member.
The manager has sent an email to the team member outlining their task for the month, but he
has not given them many details! The managers should only repeat the information given in
the email and should make the team member work for the information by asking for
clarification. The team member needs to ask their managers for clarification and must come
away with clear action points.
Before you start, read about the three topics and decide what language you will need to
politely interrupt, ask for clarification and give clarification.
a. New recruitment:
Manager
Start the conversation. Give the information that you gave in the email below – only give more
details when you team member asks for clarification.
Please focus this month on hiring new employees. I want you to manage this project. It is
important that you start with the most urgent vacancies.
Team member
The company needs to hire new employees and the email suggested that you manage the
project. You have never done it before and are not sure exactly what is involved/ expected. In
his email, he/she asked you to start with the most urgent ones - you are not sure what they
are. You need clarification about the deadlines and are also unsure as to whether you will be
conducting interviews or just organizing them. Get clarification.
b. Holiday party planning
Manager
Start the conversation. Give the information that you gave in the email below – only give more
details when your team member asks for clarification.
The holiday party needs planning. This is a priority as time is running out. The suggested date
is December 11th. Please book a meal and order drinks.
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Team member
You need your manager to confirm what he/she would like to do for the party and whether it is
just for the department or for the whole company. In the email, he/she suggested a date.
However, when you checked, it was a Sunday. The email also suggested that you need to book
the meal and order the drinks. Can he give more details? Get clarification.
c. Client presentation: Africa
Manager
Start the conversation. Give the information that you gave in the email below – only give more
details when your team member asks for clarification.
As you know we will be holding a 30 minute presentation on Africa this month. Please send out
the invites to the presentation and complimentary breakfast and confirm numbers. As this will
be an after work event, make sure to be free yourself that evening.
Team member
Your company is due to hold a presentation, and your boss has asked you to send out the
invites and confirm numbers. You are not clear on who your boss wants you to invite - clients,
prospects or both. You also need confirmation on the topic to be presented as the email
suggests Africa, which is too broad for a 30-minute presentation; you think it needs to be
more focused. You are also not sure what date the presentation is, or even the time of day the
presentation is to be held, as the email mentioned breakfast and after work. Will refreshments
be required?
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The process of clarification
Discuss the following questions:
1. Have you ever misunderstood anything that was communicated to you at work? When,
where and with whom have you had to ask for or give clarification in the past? Was it
an easy process? Was there finally mutual understanding?
2. Was there a time when you were unable to understand what another wanted, or they
were unable to understand you so that you both left the meeting frustrated. Who?
When? What? Can you remember what the main point of misunderstanding was? What
was the result? What could you have said to clear up the misunderstanding? Think of
one phrase.
3. Brainstorm different types of misunderstandings at work and identify why they have
occurred.
4. Do you feel that you could now confidently ask for clarification in a meeting?
5. Why is asking for clarification important?
What's your experience?
1. Think of one situation that you described in the previous section. Perhaps choose a situation
that you feel you could have performed better in.
•
Where was it?
•
When was it?
•
Who was at the meeting?
•
What was the subject under discussion?
•
Where did it go wrong?
•
How could clarification have played a role?
Make some notes and then role play this situation.
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2. Now think of a current, or possible future, issue in your business life that needs or will need
to be clearly understood.
•
What is it?
•
Why is it important?
•
Who needs to participate?
•
Where might there be some areas of misunderstanding on your part?
•
Where might there be some areas of misunderstanding on the part of others?
•
How will you ask for and give clarification?
Make some notes and role play the situation.
5.4 WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
Target language
Let’s remind ourselves of the vocabulary we’ve covered in this unit:
Expressions, phrases, idioms
Interrupting
Excuse me,
Pardon me,
Sorry,
Expressing lack of understanding
I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean.
I'm not sure I follow you.
I don't see what you are getting at.
I don't know what you mean.
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Asking for clarification
What do you mean by ...?
Do you mean ...?
Could you repeat that? (spoken communication only)
Could you clarify what you mean by …?
Could you be more specific …?
Could you give me an example of ...?
Could you elaborate on that please?
Could you show me that again?
Summing up
Let me be sure I understand.
Let me sum up what I heard you say.
So, what you are telling me is…
Idioms
in a nutshell
to be on the same wavelength
to be on the same page
to get straight to the point
to miss the point
to start from scratch
to shed some light on something
to get (or not get) somebody’s drift
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Write it down
The expressions and phrases that we looked in this unit are often used in spoken English.
However, there are situations when they are also used in written English. Of course, in writing,
you would not politely interrupt, but you can ask for and give clarification using many of the
phrases we learned.
Think about the following situations and draft an outline response:
1. You have been asked to write an email to a customer about a recent complaint they
had about one of your company’s products or services. How would you sum up their
complaint? Then ask for clarification on one or two points. Remember that you can
include one or two of the idioms, but don’t overdo it!
2. Your co-worker missed a recent meeting and asked you to send the minutes so she
could see what was discussed. Several points were not clear. Write a memo or email to
your colleague giving clarification on several points. Remember that summing up is part
of the clarification process. You can include one or two of the idioms, but don’t overdo
it!
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
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Unit 6
Asking the right questions
Unit Objectives
By the end of the unit you will be able to
•
recognize and use direct and indirect question forms
•
use indirect questions appropriately in order to sound more polite
Unit Contents
6.1 ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
6.2 COULD YOU TELL ME WHERE …?
6.3 WAS I RUDE?
6.4 WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
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When we want to find out information we need to ask questions. In this unit, we look at a
range of different question types, and consider when it is appropriate to use more polite
question forms. There are situations in which a direct question may sound rude, so you have
to think about how to ask the same question in an indirect, or more polite, way. We will
practice using both direct and indirect questions,and will learn how to use and respond to
these question forms in a range of situations.
6.1 ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Question review
Imagine you are at a party and you are making small talk. You want to learn more about your
new acquaintance. How do you do that? You ask questions. Or imagine that this is you first
day at a new job and you don’t know how to use the copy machine. What do you do? You ask
questions.
Question-asking is a basic part of communication and how you ask a question can be as
important as what you ask. Some question forms are more direct and more informal than
others and are appropriate in some situations and not others. Other question forms are more
indirect and sound more polite than others and should be used in certain situations.
Put these words in the right order to make questions:
A to / you / time / ? / What / go / work / do
____________________________________________________________
B working / people / Do / like / ? / with / you
____________________________________________________________
C ? / your / Who / supervisor / is
____________________________________________________________
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D worked / long / here / you / How / ? / have
____________________________________________________________
E the / afternoon / ? / going / office / Are / to / party / afternoon / you /
this
____________________________________________________________
Ask the right questions
Of course, asking questions is more than just being able to put the words in a question in the
correct order. You also have to think about the situation or the context in which questions are
being asked and answered. Let’s look at an example.
Imagine that you are at a party, and you have met someone for the first time. Is it appropriate
to ask that person, “Where do you work?”
In English-speaking countries and cultures, this is a very common question among new
acquaintances. You may ask someone, “What do you do?” Or, “Where do you work?” Such
questions are important ‘small talk’ for getting to know a stranger, or when interacting in
social situations.
There are also formal situations in which such a direct question is appropriate. Imagine that
you are interviewing for a job. Is it appropriate for the interviewer to ask that same question,
“Where do you work?” Absolutely. Although the interviewer has your resume in front of them,
they will often ask some these types of simple, direct questions to help you relax as the
interview begins. However, you will notice that in many professional situations, indirect
questions are more commonly used.
Let’s look at an example in which a direct question is appropriate in one situation and not
another.
You are talking to a stranger at a party and the person asks: “Do you like your boss?”
Depending on how comfortable you are with this new acquaintance, this direct question is one
you may answer directly or indirectly. If you do like your boss, you may say, “Oh yes, I really
like my boss.” If you do not like your boss, but do not want to say it directly, you may answer
indirectly, and say, “Oh, you know how bosses are”. You may even turn it back on the person
and ask, “Why do you ask? Do you like your boss?”
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On the other hand, this direct question would be inappropriate for a job interviewer to ask.
However, they may try to get this information in an indirect manner. They may ask, “Could
you tell me about a situation in which you and your boss had different opinions about an
outcome?”
Fill in the gap:
In many professional situations A direct | indirect questions are more appropriate.
The situation or context in which questions are being asked and answered is B important |
unimportant.
You often ask C indirect | direct questions in informal situations.
If you are not comfortable answering a direct question, you may give an D direct | indirect
response.
Direct and indirect questions
Now, let’s think how you can ask questions that fit different situations. When you are talking
with friends and family you are usually more direct and informal. However, in work and
professional situations or contexts, you need to use a more indirect form (slightly more formal
and polite).
Do you remember what a direct question is?
If you said, it’s just a regular question, you would be right.
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Let’s see if you can recognize direct and indirect questions. Categorize these questions:
A How much money do you make?
B Would you mind telling me where you work?
C May I ask how much money you make?
D Where do you work?
Direct questions
Indirect questions
Forming indirect questions
Let’s take another look at the questions you looked at in the previous section:
a. Where do you work? (direct question)
b. Would you mind telling me where you work? (indirect question)
a. How much money do you make? (direct question)
b. May I ask how much money you make? (indirect question)
Look at the two indirect questions again. What did you notice about how an indirect question is
formed?
First of all, they sound more formal and more polite. Did you also notice that their form is
slightly different from direct questions?
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Let’s compare the first pair:
a. Where do you work?
b. Would you mind telling me where you work?
In the first question, we use a “Wh-” question word and we have to use the auxiliary “do” to
form the question. Now look, at the indirect form. What is missing? The auxiliary “do”. You will
notice that the same happens in the second pair, “do” disappears.
The phrases “Would you mind telling me…” and “May I ask…” also add politeness to these
questions. It gives the other person a chance to say, “I work at ABC Corporation.” Or “No, I’d
prefer not to say.”
Read each direct question. Then choose the correct form for an indirect question.
Read each direct question. Then choose the correct form for an indirect question.
1. How much do you want to pay for a suite for your meeting?
a. May I ask how much you want to pay for a suite for your meeting?
b. May I ask how much do you want to pay for a suite for your meeting?
2. Where do you want me to file the travel reports?
a. Could you tell me where do you want me to file the travel reports?
b. Could you tell me where you want me to file the travel reports?
3. What did you tell the customer?
a. I was wondering what you told the customer.
b. I was wondering what did you tell the customer.
4. Where does Alice’s husband work?
a. Would you mind telling me where Alice’s husband works?
b. Would you mind telling me where works Alice’s husband?
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5. How much does that item cost?
a. Would it be possible for you to tell me how much that item costs?
b. Would it be possible for you to tell me how much costs that item?
Indirect questions and ‘to be’
Now let’s look at another pair. Which one you think is the direct question and which is the
indirect question? The questions are about salary, but more directly in the context of a job
interview.
a. What is the salary for this position? (direct question)
b. Would it be possible for you to tell me what the salary for this position is? (indirect
question)
What do you notice about verb placement in this indirect question? In the direct question, the
verb “to be” is placed before the subject – normal word order for a question. However, where
is the verb in the indirect question? Yes, it is after the subject (the salary) like a statement.
Did you notice that there is a question mark at the end of the sentence? Is this a mistake? No,
remember that “Would be” is the controlling verb in this sentence.
Notice that the phrase “Would it be possible…” also adds politeness to this question. It gives
the other person a chance to say, “Yes, it is….” Or “No, we are not ready to discuss salary right
now.”
Shall we practice this a bit? Put these sentences in the correct order:
A Bob Smith’s position
/ is / Could you tell me, / ? / at ABC corporation / what
____________________________________________________________
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B that / where / Is there / is / Alice Simpson’s office / know / any chance / ? /
you
____________________________________________________________
C ? / have any idea / are / where / the keys to my file cabinets / Do you
____________________________________________________________
D that we could change
/ what
/ the meeting to next week. / are / I was wondering /
? / the chances
____________________________________________________________
Polite statements
Let’s look at a final pair.
a. Do you like your boss?
b. I was wondering if you like your boss.
I’m sure you identified “I was wondering if you like your boss” as the indirect question. But
wait! Why isn’t there a question mark at the end? Is this a mistake? No, it’s not. In this case,
the indirect question is actually a statement which is inviting the other person to give more
information. They then have the choice of how they will answer.
Did you also notice that the indirect question used the word “if”? This is common when asking
“yes/no” indirect questions.
Let’s look at a two examples using “if.”
a. Does Robert like his new job?
b. Do you know if Robert likes his new job?
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a. Has Barbara typed the report yet?
b. Do you have any idea if Barbara has typed the report yet?
Read each direct question. Then choose the correct form for an indirect question.
1. Are John and Mary joining us for the meeting?
a. Could you tell me John and Mary are joining us for the meeting?
b. Could you tell me if John and Mary are joining us for the meeting?
2. Is the copier broken?
a. Do you know if the copier is broken?
b. Do you know is broken the copier?
3. Have you opened your bank account yet?
a. May I ask if you have opened your bank account yet?
b. May I ask you opened your bank account yet?
Match the two parts of the indirect questions:
1 Would you mind telling me _____
a. where the copier is.
2 If you don’t mind _____
b. you could tell me where the copier is?
3 I was wondering _____
c. could you tell me where the copier is?
4 Is there any chance _____
d. where the copier is?
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6.2 COULD YOU TELL ME WHERE …?
First day on the job
Now that you have learned about asking indirect questions, and some ways to form them, let’s
listen to some in action. In this first situation, Amanda has just started a new job. Fred has
been asked to show her around the office.
You should listen to the conversation twice. After the first time, you will answer some
questions about the conversation. Then listen again and pay attention to how each person uses
direct and indirect questions.
Listen once. Mark the correct answer to the following questions.
1. Who do you think Fred is?
a. The owner of the company
b. A co-worker
c. The supervisor
2. Fred has worked for the firm for _______ years.
a. three
b. one
c. five
3. Why does Fred seem uncomfortable in this situation?
a. Amanda is asking too many direct questions
b. Fred does not seem uncomfortable
c. Fred wants to go eat lunch
4. Amanda seems _______ in her new workplace.
a. uninterested
b. interested
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Direct to indirect
Now listen to the conversation again. This time pay attention to how each person uses direct
and indirect questions.
1. The first question that Amanda asked is: “Where’s the restroom?” Choose the correct
indirect form of this question.
a. Where the restroom is?
b. Could you tell me where is the restroom?
c. Could you tell me where the restroom is?
2. Then Amanda asked Fred: “How long have you worked here?” A more polite sounding
indirect question would be:
a. You have worked here how long?
b. I was wondering how long you have worked here.
c. I was wondering how long you have worked here?
3. Amanda directly asked Fred: “Do you like working here?” Which would be a better way to
ask this question?
a. May I ask if you like working here?
b. May I ask if you working here like?
c. Do you like to work here?
4. How could Amanda have asked this question more politely? “What time can I leave for
lunch?”
a. Do you know what time I can leave for lunch?
b. What time do you leave for lunch?
c. Do you know what time if I can leave for lunch?
5. To sound more polite how could Amanda re-phrase this question? “Does everyone take their
lunch break then?”
a. Why does everyone take their lunch break then?
b. Do you have any idea if everyone takes their lunch break then?
c. Do you have any idea if their lunch break then everyone takes?
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At the bank
You just listened to two co-workers having a conversation which was a little uncomfortable for
one of the people. In this situation Manfred is new to the city and needs to open a bank
account.
Listen
to
this
conversation
between
Manfred
and
the
bank
customer
service
representative (CSR).
First, you’ll answer some comprehension questions. Then listen again and notice the way that
indirect questions are asked.
Listen once and choose the correct option:
Manfred has gone to the bank to A open | close a bank account.
The Customer Service Representative (CSR) asks Manfred if he is interested in a checking
account or a B loan | savings account.
With a checking account you C cannot | can write checks.
You may use an ATM card with D either | neither account.
At this bank the E savings | checking account pays a higher rate of interest.
The person decided to open a F checking | savings account.
Let’s Help Manfred! Manfred asks several indirect questions, but they are not formed
correctly. See if you can spot the mistakes and suggest corrections. You may listen to the
conversation again if you want to.
1. Manfred asks: “May I ask what a checking account or a savings account the difference is?”
Which would be a better way to ask this question?
a. There is nothing wrong with this question.
b. What a checking account or a savings account the difference is?
c. May I ask what the difference between a checking account and a savings account is?
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2. Manfred asks: “Would it be possible for you to tell me when I can use an ATM card with a
checking account or a savings account?” Which would be a better way to ask this question?
a. There is nothing wrong with this question.
b. Would it be possible for you to tell me if I can use an ATM card with a checking account
or a savings account?
c. Would it be possible for you to tell me when I could use an ATM card with a checking
account or a savings account?
3. Manfred asks: “Would you mind, which account would you recommend?” Which would be a
better way to ask this question?
a. There is nothing wrong with this question.
b. Would you mind telling me, which account you would recommend?
c. Would you mind telling me, which account would you recommend?
4. “Is there any chance can I open a savings account today?” Which would be a better way to
ask this question?
a. There is nothing wrong with this question.
b. Is there any chance I could open a savings account today?
c. Is there any chance will I open a savings account today?
Manfred takes our advice
Manfred liked our suggestions. Let’s listen to his conversation with the Customer Service
Representative now. You might find it helpful to look at the transcript as you listen. Note down
the main differences you hear, and compare and contrast with the transcript from the previous
conversation.
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Transcripts
Conversation 1
Fred: Hello, Amanda. Welcome to our firm. My name is Fred and I work in your area. I hope
you will like working here. Mrs. Preston asked me to show you to your work space. Let me
know if you have any questions.
Amanda: Thanks. Yes, I do have a question. Where’s the restroom?
Fred: Um, uh, well, it’s down the hall. Would you like for me to show you where it is?
Amanda: No, that’s ok. I think I can find it. How long have you worked here?
Fred: Um, well, this is my 3rd year.
Amanda: Oh, that’s a long time. Do you like working here?
Fred: Well, uh, um, yes. Here’s your workspace.
Amanda: Great. What time can I leave for lunch?
Fred: Oh, well, I often take my lunch break around 12:30.
Amanda: Does everyone take their lunch break then? I wanted to meet my friend at noon and
tell her about my first day on the job.
Fred: Yes, well, I suppose it’s up to you. If you need anything, just let me know.
Amanda: Sure. Thanks.
Conversation 2
Manfred: Hello. I want to open a bank account.
CSR: Could you tell me if you are interested in a checking account or a savings account?
Manfred: May I ask what a checking account and a savings account the difference is?
CSR: Yes. With a checking account, you will receive checks which you can use. You cannot
write checks on a savings account. You withdraw the money directly.
Manfred: Oh, I see. Would it be possible for you to tell me when I can use an ATM card with a
checking account or a savings account?
CSR: Yes. You may use an ATM card with either account.
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Manfred: That’s good. Would you mind, which account would you recommend?
CSR: If you do not want to write checks, I would recommend the savings account. It pays a
higher rate of interest.
Manfred: Thank you. That is good. Is there any chance can I open a savings account today?
CSR: Certainly. First you need to fill out this application and I will need to see your driver’s
license.
Conversation 3
Manfred: Hello. I want to open a bank account.
CSR: Could you tell me if you are interested in a checking account or a savings account?
Manfred: May I ask what the difference between a checking account and a savings account is?
CSR: Yes. With a checking account, you will receive checks which you can use. You cannot
write checks on a savings account. You withdraw the money directly.
Manfred: Oh, I see. Would it be possible for you to tell me if I can use an ATM card with a
checking account or a savings account?
CSR: Yes. You may use an ATM card with either account.
Manfred: That’s good. Would you mind telling me, which account you would recommend?
CSR: If you do not want to write checks, I would recommend the savings account. It pays a
higher rate of interest.
Manfred: Thank you. That is good. Is there any chance I could open a savings account today?
CSR: Certainly. First you need to fill out this application and I will need to see your driver’s
license.
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6.3 WAS I RUDE?
In any situation in which you are communicating with other people, you will probably be asking
and answering questions. In some situations, direct questions are appropriate, especially when
you are asking for information. However, in situations in which you do not know someone well,
in formal situations and in professional settings, direct questions can sometimes sound rude.
Using indirect questions, we can obtain the same information, but in a way that sounds more
polite.
Hold your tongue!
1. Match the idioms to their meanings:
1 to bite your tongue ____
a. To scold someone severely or speak to
them very aggressively or rudely.
2 to give someone the rough edge of
b. To express yourself in polite terms.
your tongue ____
3 to hold your tongue ____
c. To stop yourself from saying what you
really think.
4 to keep a civil tongue ____
d. To scold someone severely.
5 to give someone a tongue-lashing
e. To stay silent and say nothing.
____
2. When was the last time that you had to bite your tongue? Describe the situation.
3. Have you ever given someone or has someone given you the rough side of the tongue?
Why? What happened?
4. Use the following idioms in sentences to show that you understand their meaning: hold your
tongue, to keep a civil tongue, tongue-lashing
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Was that impolite?
Read this short phone conversation aloud between Amanda (from the previous lesson) and her
friend, Betty. Make two columns on a piece of paper. One column should say direct; the other
indirect. When you hear a question, make a mark in the correct column.
Direct
Indirect
Betty: Hi, Amanda. What’s up?
Amanda: Oh, I just finished my first day at my new job. Do you want to hear about it?
Betty: Yeah, I guess. Sure.
Amanda: Well, first of all this really stuffy co-worker showed me around.
Betty: What do you mean?
Amanda: Well, for example I asked, “Do you like working here?” He acted like I had asked a
strange question.
Betty: Well, maybe that was a little too direct.
Amanda: What do you mean? I was asking for information.
Betty: Well, yeah, but you know, in a professional setting, maybe they expected something
more indirect.
Amanda: What do you mean?
Betty: Well, like, “Would you mind telling me if you like working here?” Or “I was wondering if
you like working here.”
Amanda: Oh, I see what you mean. I guess I did sound a little impolite. Talk to you later. Bye.
Betty: Bye. Let’s meet for lunch on Saturday and you can tell me all about it.
1. How many direct and indirect questions did you find?
2. Did the two friends ask direct or indirect questions to each other?
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What do you remember?
1. Make some indirect questions by matching up words and phrases.
2. Fill in the gaps with the correct words.
W _______ you mind …?
If you don’t m _______ …
M _______ I ask …?
Would it be p _______ …?
Do you k _______ …?
I was w _______ …
I’d like to k _______ …
C _______ you tell me …?
If it’s all r _______ …
Do you have any i _______ ...?
Is there any c _______ …?
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3. So far you have learned some phrases that you can use to ask indirect questions. Indirect
questions often sound more polite than direct questions. In more formal and professional
situations, direct questions can sometimes sound rude. As you learn to use these phrases, be
sure you pay attention to how to form the question correctly for that phrase.
In this activity, you are going to complete a dialog choosing from the phrases you are given.
Notice that some phrases can be used more than once.
Dialog 1:
The topic of this dialog is “My Order.” It is a phone conversation.
Could you tell me…?
May I ask…?
Would it be possible…?
Would you mind…?
Andy: Hello.
Darian: ______________ telling me who is speaking please?
Andy: This is Andy. ______________ who you are, please?
Darian: Hello Andy. This is Darian Sipes. I need to speak to Mr. Smith.
Andy: ______________ why you need to speak to him?
Darian: Yes. It is about my order. ______________ for me to speak to him for just a moment?
Andy: Certainly. Hold, please.
As you see from this dialog, “May I ask” and “Could you tell me” often can used
interchangeably.
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Dialog 2
The topic of this dialog is “Is the Copier Working?” It is a face-to-face conversation.
Do you know…?
Could you tell me…?
Do you have any idea…?
If you don’t mind…?
May I ask…?
I’d like to know…
Chandra: ______________ if the copier is working?
Mark: I’m not sure. I haven’t used it today.
Chandra: Ok, I’ll go check.
Terry: I am glad you are here. ______________ how to work the copier?
Chandra: Yes. ______________ may I try it first. It was broken yesterday.
Terry: Perhaps that’s why I was having trouble.
Chandra: _______________ which button you pressed first?
Terry: This one.
Chandra: Oh. That’s the problem.
Terry: _______________ what you did.
Chandra: I pressed this button first.
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Business English Lab
When polite is better …
Would you mind…?
If you don’t mind …?
May I ask …?
Would it be possible…?
Do you know…?
I was wondering…
I’d like to know…
Could you tell me…?
If it’s all right,…
Do you have any idea…?
Is there any chance…?
1. Look at the following situations. Discuss how formal each situation is and whether direct or
indirect questions would be appropriate to ask. Then find suitable phrases from the target
language for each person for each situation. Can you think of any other suitable phrases?
a. You are a new employee. You are talking to your boss about office policies and rules,
such as office hours, lunch breaks, and coffee breaks. How can you ask about these
policies and rules politely?
b. Your company has asked the employees to meet to discuss a new customer service
policy. You think that the policy is not clear. How can you ask for clarification without
sounding rude?
c. You are talking to a co-worker at the company party. This person works in a
department and has a slightly higher level job than you do. You are interested in
transferring to that department. You would like to know more about the positions in
that department so that if you are interviewed you will sound knowledgeable. What are
some questions you could ask your co-worker?
d. You answered the company phone, and there is a very angry customer at the other
end. How will you handle this situation? What are some questions you could ask which
might calm the person down?
2. Role play each situation.
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Activity 1 Rude Behavior at work
1. Look at the list of 10 rude behaviors at work. Give an example or explain what each of these
behaviours involves. Why are they annoying?
•
Gossiping
•
Announcing your victories
•
Being a snob
•
Aggressive typing
•
Being a glory stealer
•
Abusing trust
•
Smelling like an old ash tray
•
Being a smartphone junkie
•
Being late all the time
2. Rank each behavior from most to least rude and explain your ranking. Can you agree on the
most annoying behavior?
3. Are there any other rude behaviors at work that are not listed? What are they?
4. Do you think you are more likely to be rude if others are rude to you?
Activity 2 Is rudeness contagious?
Read the following text and answer the questions below:
How rudeness spreads like a virus at work: Employees more likely to pass on
bad manners if they have been on the receiving end themselves
Bad manners can be contagious, a study suggests.
It found that those who
experience rudeness in the workplace are more likely to be impolite to colleagues.
Scientists observed graduate students practicing negotiation with classmates. They
found that those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to
be rated as rude by a later partner.
Researchers found that rude behavior can influence how we respond to others.
Participants were asked to watch a recording of either a polite or an impolite
interaction. They were then asked to answer a fictitious customer email that was
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Business English Lab
neutral in tone. Those who watched the impolite interaction were more likely to
be hostile in their responses. Lead author and doctoral student Trevor Foulk, from the
University of Florida, said: 'When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more
noticeable. You'll see more rudeness even if it's not there.
'Part of the problem is that we are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they're
actually really harmful. 'Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the
workplace.'
Mr Foulk continued: 'You might go your whole career and not experience abuse or
aggression in the workplace, but rudeness also has a negative effect on performance.
'It isn't something you can just turn your back on. It matters.' The study has been
published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Credited Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3166060/How-rudeness-spreadslike-virus-work.html
Discuss the following questions. Try to use some of the following synonyms for the word
rude in your responses:
ill-mannered, bad-mannered, impolite, discourteous, impertinent, hostile, insolent, cheeky,
presumptuous, uncivil, disrespectful, blunt, unpleasant, disagreeable
1. Why are bad manners contagious?
2. What did you learn about rudeness in the workplace from the article?
3. Are you or have you ever been rude at: work, in your personal life? Describe the
situation/s.
4. Do you work with rude people? How do they make you feel and how do you deal with
them?
5. Do you think that there should be consequences for those who are unnecessarily rude
in the workplace? Why or why not?
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How do you ask questions?
Discuss the following questions:
1. Have you ever used direct questions in a conversation with a friend? A stranger at a
party? With a co-worker? Your boss? Were you able to use them correctly? How did the
other person respond? Was communication effective?
2. In the past, has there been a time when a person you were talking to seemed rude
because the questions that person was asking sounded impolite? What was the
situation? How did you react? How did the other person react? Were you able to
communicate effectively?
3. Has there ever been a time when you were talking to someone and they seemed
uncomfortable because the questions you were asking were too direct? What was the
situation? How did you react? How did the other person react? What was the result of
your interaction?
4. Have you ever been at a meeting when you did not understand exactly what was going
on? Did you ask questions? Were they direct or indirect? How did others respond? Did
you get the answers you needed?
5. Have you ever been at a meeting with a boss and needed to ask questions? Did you ask
direct or indirect questions? How did the boss respond? Did you get the answers you
needed?
What's your experience?
Target language
How can knowing how to ask indirect questions correctly help you in professional situations?
Think about these questions and talk about how you can use them to sound more polite.
1. Think of one situation that you described in the previous section.
Perhaps choose a
situation when you could have used more indirect questions and did not.
•
Where was it?
•
When was it?
•
Who was the interaction with?
•
What was the subject under discussion?
•
Which direct questions did you ask that may have sounded impolite?
•
How could you change those to indirect questions to sound more polite?
Make some notes and then role play this occasion again.
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2. Now think of a current, or possible future, issue in your business life where you may need to
ask questions.
•
What is it?
•
Why is it important?
•
What kind of information might you need?
•
How will you ask for this information?
Make some notes and role play the situation.
6.4 WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
Target language
Let’s remind ourselves of the vocabulary we’ve covered in this unit:
When polite is better …
Would you mind…?
If you don’t mind …?
May I ask …?
Would it be possible…?
Do you know…?
I was wondering…
I’d like to know…
Could you tell me…?
If it’s all right,…
Do you have any idea…?
Is there any chance…?
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Write it down
Think about a project you are currently working on. Write a project update. Make sure to
answer the following questions and to use the target language.
•
What are the purpose and goals of the project?
•
When did it start? What activities have been undertaken? What have the results been?
•
What is future progress likely to be? Make some predictions.
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________
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