As a child, my English pronunciation was terrible.
Every time I’d see big words, I’d try to pronounce them.
The butchering that occurred was atrocious.
My difficulties with correctly pronouncing English words didn’t improve until my mother made me listen to audiobooks and plays on the radio.
Gradually, I realized that being able to write well wasn’t enough. I had to learn to speak well, too.
And the first thing I needed to do was simply listen.
Why Is Listening So Important for Business English?
Due to the structure of the English language, pronunciation can be tricky.
Until you hear a word spoken many times, you’ll be left unsure of how it should sound. And when you get into a specific field, like business English, you’ll want to have these terms down before your first business meeting!
Here are some reasons why being an efficient listener is crucial to success:
- Listening can teach you a lot about different accents, correct pronunciation and it can dramatically improve your vocabulary.
- It can help you understand tone of voice and speech patterns, so that you can imitate these features in your own speech.
- It also gives you information about the person speaking it. This is very important when dealing with customers and clients. Are they into small talk? Do they get right to the point? Are they extraordinarily polite? A good salesperson picks up on these cues.
- Only careful listening will help you appreciate what the speaker is trying to say, which is crucial for successful business negotiations.
- Efficient communication is only possible when both the speaker and the listener are completely involved in the present moment. Dialogues are always two-way processes.
How to Be an Efficient Listener
Listening (as opposed to mere hearing) is a skill like any other, and can be mastered if you’re prepared to work for it. These quick tips will show you how to get there.
- Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking. Not only is it very rude, but you also interrupt the speaker’s line of thought and can possibly derail an entire conversation.
- Think about what you’re listening to. Don’t just passively listen to your colleagues. If someone is talking about changes in a business framework, think about whether these changes are plausible and effective in the current situation.
- Ask for clarification politely. If you’re genuinely confused about something the speaker said, ask for clarification in a polite and diplomatic way.
- Make eye contact with the speaker. Don’t look distracted. Let the person know they’ve got your full attention and that they’re important.
- Pay attention to body language. This is for both you and the speaker. Make sure you’re not in an awkward or slouching position. Hand movements emphasize what the speaker is trying to say. Nod to show that you’re following the thread of the conversation.
10 Best Sites for Business English Listening Exercises
I’ve sourced some of the best online resources suited to all levels of language learning. Here are my top 10 picks.
This website is an amazing starting place for learners of business English. It includes options for vocabulary training, grammar quizzes and listening and reading comprehension questions.
Their listening section has both audio and video-based exercises. Intermediate and advanced learners can check out the activities that accompany the videos, where you watch a short video clip and answer the questions that follow. The videos vary in content from business commercials to interviews to tips for those trying to get a foot in the business world.
Meanwhile, beginners might start with the audio-based exercises, which are designed for all levels and will specifically help you improve your pronunciation. There are a series of 10 different practice tests. After selecting one, listeners see items below with audio files. After pressing play, listeners hear a word and then have to choose the corresponding term.
See how many you get right, but also be sure to repeat after the speaker to test your pronunciation.
FluentU is perhaps one of the most unique sites in this list, since it takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized and fun English learning lessons.
That means you’ll be practicing listening with real English content. Understanding native speakers in real life will become easy!
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
So if you don’t understand something by listening, all you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try out this one-of-a-kind language learning program!
A fun, interactive website, English Media Lab caters to learners of all ages and skill levels.
They have a comprehensive listening section that includes vocabulary-based memory games, communicative expressions, crossword puzzles and others.
Our pick is the section that lists a number of exercises for “ESL Business and Survival English,” since they’re designed with the needs of non-native speakers who are keen to master business English in mind.
However, you need to have Adobe or Macromedia Flash Player already installed to access the exercises.
As its name suggests, this is a go-to website for all your conversation queries, be it talking to a friend in everyday English or your boss in business English. All you need to make the most of the resource is internet access and a decent microphone and headphones.
The site is designed for those wishing to go deeper in their studies by taking personalized lessons. They’re conducted on a one-to-one basis and are about 50 minutes long. They’ll take you through possible scenarios in the business world that you might find yourself in like telephone skills, negotiations and presentations.
However, the site does have a couple of listening comprehension activities (scroll to the bottom of the page) for those wanting to test their skills. Listen to the dialogues (not more than twice) and try to answer the seven questions below them without referring back to the audio.
This will also test your memory and retention skills, which are crucial to success at the workplace.
Macmillan is a trusted name when it comes to learning, and they’ve published an excellent range of business English books. For example, their text “In Company” provides a student workbook and audio for students to work on listening exercises offline.
Through their skills-based units, you’ll get exposure to grammar in a business context and lots of new business vocabulary terms.
Also, their website even has a “Business Podcast” section. Each episode features business-related interviews or articles that you can listen to and answer questions about. Some of them also have group activities, so if you have a study group or wish to learn with friends, this is an ideal resource for you.
Business English Pod is the best audio-based resource out there and covers almost every aspect of business English in an easy-to-understand manner.
Each episode or lesson comes with a MP3 audio file, PDF transcript, a lesson module and a quiz to test your learning. Check out their listening quizzes in the “learning section,” where you listen to a conversation and answer three questions. You can subscribe to them for free via iTunes or even via email.
Another great resource, TalkEnglish.com is packed with free listening and speaking exercises, a business English section, grammar information and idioms and phrases. It makes for ideal self-study material.
They have a number of listening exercises, categorized under “basic,” “intermediate” and “advanced” levels. There are over 30 exercises for each one, and you even have the option of downloading conversations for later listening as well.
If you’re learning English as a second or a foreign language, you might be afraid of the various language exams you have to take. Which is why you must bookmark this website. They list a number of English tests, all accessible for free and categorized by exam and learning level.
They have several business English listening exercises that cover everything from customer calls, sales talk, workplace discussions and everyday conversations with an executive or colleague.
They’re all very short, which means you can do them every day without cutting into your important business meetings.
Anglo-Link is a brilliant self-study resource that comes with a free trial. It includes written and oral exercises, video lessons and interactive, one-on-one sessions with specialists.
Their video lessons are carefully curated and cover pronunciation, conversations and grammar, which are often animated. In case you choose not to sign up for their language teaching services, you can access their videos for free via their YouTube channel.
ESL Lab has a huge list of activities that include listening exercises for English for academic purposes and a variety of other topics like daily activities and vocabulary lessons.
Moreover, unlike other websites, their listening exercises come with fact files, helpful tips, vocabulary and grammar activities. They even have questions you can think about or debate with a friend and online activities which you can do. For starters, check out the activities to help you prepare for a job interview and job hunting.
In short, these will improve your listening skills and general knowledge. They will also help you develop your critical thinking skills and make you a proactive and self-reliant business associate.
Finally, always remember that practice makes perfect.
Developing efficient listening skills in the business world take time. But if you’re dedicated, you’re bound to see results soon.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to check out her website or contact her for freelancing inquiries.
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