Many people think it will take a very long time to leave the beginner level of business English.
You don’t have to stay a beginner for long!
If you have been reading our blog for a while, then you have already learned some great tips about how to listen during meetings and how to learn more business vocabulary.
Putting these tips to use will help you improve your workplace English.
That being said, going from beginner level to advanced is a big jump—you have to have mastery over phone conversations, small talk, interviews, business media and much more.
In order to reach this level of business English, you’ll need a really strong game plan.
These five tips are designed to help learners of any level to advance in their business English at an accelerated speed.
5 Top Tips to Promote You from Advanced Business English to Fluency
1. Take a One-on-one Course
Classroom settings are great, but there is nothing better than the attention you’ll get during a one-on-one lesson.
- Choose relevant topics. In a one-one-lesson you not only set the pace, but you also have the opportunity to guide the topic of each lesson. Do you have a big presentation coming up? Ask your teacher to help you prepare. Need to understand a file? Go through it during your lesson.
- Work on speed of delivery. Even if you know a lot of words and can understand others easily, you’re never going to sound like an advanced English speaker if you don’t have a natural flow. Use your private lesson to work on your flow.
Helpful Phrase: “Spit it out!”—this is not about your chewing gum. It’s about your words. If you’re taking too long to respond, you might hear an impatient person tell you this. He/she means you should hurry up and say what you need to say.
- Ask the teacher to always speak at a “native pace.” As a beginner or intermediate learner, you might not be able to keep up with the pace of a fluent English speaker. It’s tempting to ask him/her to slow down, but don’t do this. By listening to someone speaking at a native pace, you’ll train yourself to be a more attentive listener. When you don’t understand something, then you can ask your teacher to repeat it.
Helpful Phrase: “Come again?”—this is something that a person might say if he/she did not understand what was said. This cues the speaker to explain or try wording it in another way. If you don’t understand someone, you can say this!
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2. Never Stop Listening
Having advanced business English skills is not only about speaking; it’s about listening and comprehending as well. Take time to practice doing this.
- Record meetings and listen later. This will help you not only to improve your English, but will make you remember what was talked about at that important meeting. Some tips for when you’re listening to recorded meetings:
- If you don’t understand something, press “stop” and then replay it over and over until you get it.
- Try to transcribe the entire meeting, writing down everything you hear as it’s being said.
- Read back your transcription out loud, and try to keep the same pace as the original speaker.
- Pay attention to things that can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Some words like “can’t,” “not” and “won’t” have similar meanings but are a little bit different. They are used in different contexts to express slightly different things. These kinds of details are easy to miss, but they’re really important. Prefixes like “un” are easy to miss, too, and can change a positive word to a negative word, for example, “likely” can become “unlikely.”
- Summarize what a person has said to confirm you’ve understood correctly. This is helpful if the person has given a lot of instructions or has been talking for quite some time. By summarizing, you may avoid later confusion.
3. Learn Regional Phrases and Accents
If you travel across the states, you’ll quickly realize that there are many different ways of talking. In order to truly be considered an advanced English speaker, you need to be able to understand different accents as well as regional phrases. To learn the accents, you should try to listen to people from different states. There are dozens of different accents, but some major ones include:
This includes Southern states like Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and a whole lot more. While there are many types of Southern accents and more specific regional expressions, most people who haven’t spent time in the American South won’t know the difference.
In the South, you need to be familiar with the contraction “y’all.” You + all = y’all.
“Are y’all going to go for a drink after work?”
“When are y’all going to be finished with the project?”
Sometimes, you may also hear the phrase “all y’all,” which basically means the same thing.
“All y’all need to participate in the Twitter contest for our marketing campaign.”
This includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and states in that region. Like the Southern accent, there are different Midwestern accents, but this is a broad category just to get you started.
In the Midwestern states, you’ll hear people refer to soda as “pop” and sneakers as “gym shoes.” You’ll also hear chocolate pronounced as “chawck-let.”
Though New Yorkers will hate to hear this, certain traits of this accent extend into New Jersey. Someone with the traditional New York accent will probably call their city “Noo Yawk.”
Some things to keep in mind in New York:
It’s not a “metro”— it’s a train or a subway.
It’s not a “shopping cart”— it’s a wagon.
When it’s sunny out but also raining, it’s a sun shower.
People from Boston tend to drop “r’s” that come at the end of a word. This results in things like “caah” for “car,” “baah” for “bar” and so on. You get the idea. If you really want to hear the Boston accent, check out Matt Damon or Ben Affleck in “Good Will Hunting.”
Though regional expressions aren’t too difficult to grasp, it’s important to have a basic idea about the differences. Though this might not be directly related to business English, it’s important simply because you’ll likely interact with individuals from around the United States when doing business. Being familiar with regional accents and phrases will help you to understand their unique ways of speaking.
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4. Understand Sarcasm
Sarcasm is when someone says the opposite of what they mean.
- Tone of voice. Usually, the only way to tell someone is being sarcastic is by the tone of their voice. While each individual has a different “sarcastic tone,” it’s likely to be different from their normal way of talking, and usually the tone will sound very exaggerated or even silly.
- The situation. You can also identify sarcasm by the situation. If a person sounds excited about doing something that most people would find boring, then they’re probably being sarcastic. Example:
“So, are you okay staying late?”
“Oh, of course! Shredding important files for four hours sounds like my perfect Friday night.”
- Avoid using sarcasm, but be prepared for others to use it. Some people aren’t really fans of sarcasm, and if you use it in the wrong situation, it can land you in hot water (read: trouble). It’s probably a good idea to avoid sarcasm, especially if you’re not pals with the person you’re speaking with, but that doesn’t mean other people will avoid using it. You still need be able to recognize sarcasm when you hear it.
5. Learn How to Read Financial Reports
Last but certainly not least, if you want to advance your business English, you’re definitely going to have to have a good understanding of the phrases and words frequently used in financial documents. As a beginner, you should also know some of the basics like “profit” and “loss,” but in order to get to an advanced level you need to know much more.
To get you started, here are a few:
Securities: In financial terms, this means you pledge or give something in order to get a loan. In the event that you default (do not pay), this item or money will be taken by the loan provider.
Equity: How a company is divided among shareholders. A company may ask you to join by offering a small percent of the company.
Operating costs: This is how much money it costs to keep your business running.
Balance sheet: This is an accounting document that outlines all of a company’s money in the bank, revenue, assets and expenses. It’s called a balance sheet because what remains after taking expenses into consideration is called the “balance.”
Solid performance: To have done a good job. In a financial report, this means that the financial numbers were good.
In order to continue to improve, you can read financial reports. Most companies offer financial reports online in a PDF format. When you don’t know a phrase or a word, just look it up or ask your tutor to explain it.
We hope these simple tips help you to advance your business English in no time!
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