Overcome Shyness in Business English

Many people have suffered from shyness at one time or another. Shyness is quite normal for those studying to become fluent in English. One of the most important things to remember is that shyness happens when we are aware of our own discomfort. Knowing your faults is a strength (not a weakness). Shyness can be defeated when we accept ourselves for who we are. Learning how to improve yourself will teach you how to overcome shyness in business English situations. This lesson focuses on opening lines, statements and questions that will help you get business conversations flowing.

Practice and Map for Confidence

In business we often meet strangers but it is interesting to know that successful business people talk in five key stages. If you practice these stages, you will build a library of conversation topics that will in turn increase your confidence. The five key stages that you will need to practice are; 1) opening lines; 2) introductions; 3) trying out topics; 4) exploring common ground; 5) closure, including the exchange of contact information. Once you can remember these stages, you will understand where you are in the conversation and what you need to do next.

Smile, be Friendly and be Natural

The golden rule is to be friendly with your opening line or introduction. Smile like you already know the person, be professional but don’t be too formal. A natural delivery to your opening line will put the other person at ease. It’s also fine to sometimes skip the opening line and jump straight in with a fantastic bit of business news!

Whatever you do, have a backup plan just in case your opening line flops. The classic example is when you ask someone, “Hello, my name is Steve. How are you?” and they reply, “Fine”. You need to be prepared to ask a follow up question, ask about another topic or make a new statement. In all cases, practice will build your library of conversations and give you a better chance to recover your business meeting.

Some good opening lines are.

“Hi, I’m Steve from English Teacher Online.” (offer to shake hands)

“Hello, I’m Steve. What’s your name?” (wait to see what they do)

Or if you want to jump straight in.

“I was really impressed by the speech you gave at [an event] last year.”

“I just tried [a starter] from the buffet table and I’m going to get another. Care to join me?”

Your list of backup questions and answers should expand as you practice to include things that will help you in various situations.

“How long have you been a member of [this organization]?”

“How long have you been working here?”

“What company are you from?”

Have some comments for the situations that apply to your business.

“This building is so modern and clean.”

“Amazing, there are so many customers here today.”

“This event is always popular, last year I ……………”

Have some questions for the situations that apply to you.

“Could you tell me where Teacher Steve’s office is please?”

“I missed the introduction. Did they hand out the agenda yet?”

“Do you know when we need to be back from the break?”

Ask questions about the other person.

“What do you do in the company?”

“Do you have any children?”

“What do you usually do [for fun] on the weekend?”

Make a positive statement about the other person.

“You look like you’re in a good mood today.”

“I like your tie. Where did you get it?”

Make a statement about yourself.

“I’m so happy right now. I’ve hit my sales target 12 months running.”

“So I just found out my boss wants me to work [on Saturday afternoon].”

“A friend of mine is still trying to decide whether to go on holiday [to Asia].”

If you know the person, ask for an update about what they’ve been doing.

“So how was your weekend [at the lake]?”

“How’s your son doing? Did he pass his test yet?”

“What have you been up to recently? Have you finished decorating [your kitchen]?”

Ask the other person to do something for you.

“Do you want to swap emails so we can finish this later?”

“Would you mind passing the salt and pepper please?”

“Could you save my chair for me? I’ll be back in one minute.”

Ask someone if they want to do an activity together.

“Do you want to be in my group?”

“Do you want to go check out the other exhibition room?”

“My golf club is membership by invite only. Would you like me to invite you?”

Practice For Personal Success

Practice giving your own personal answers to some of these questions. Write a few of your answers down in a journal. Pick one of your favourite questions and try to write a script, how do you think the conversation should go? Write one script where everything goes to plan. Write another script where everything goes wrong! When the conversation dies, add a new question or statement. How long can you keep your conversations going? Finally, practice your conversations with a study partner or teacher.

This is how you build a good foundation in your conversation library and start to overcome shyness in business English situations.

If like this lesson and want to expand your library of topics, please check out our IELTS speaking topics page.

How To Study For An IELTS Exam

IELTS is the most popular International English Language Testing System with more than two million IELTS taken last year. If you reside in East Asia* and have your IELTS score, you can enter the British Council’s  competition and win up to £40,000. The 2017 deadline has just been extended to the 28th of February. This review describes what IELTS is, how to study for an IELTS exam and links to enter the competition to win up to £40,000. We also trust this article will help you in your quest to become fluent in English.

Why are there two types of IELTS, Academic and General?

Academic IELTS is for people applying for university or professional registration. It tests some useful academic language and is used to determine whether you are ready to study in an English speaking country.

General IELTS is for people applying for secondary education, work experience or training programs and is required for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The general test focuses on survival skills in a variety of social and workplace scenarios.

What’s the difference and how long does IELTS take?

Listening and speaking tests are the same for both Academic and General IELTS. Reading and writing tests differ to reflect the specific requirements of either the Academic or General IELTS student’s needs.

Listening, reading and writing tests are completed on the same day with no breaks in between. You should contact your test center to ask about the speaking test which can usually be taken up to one week before or after the other tests. The total test time is two hours and forty-five minutes.

How To Study For An IELTS Exam!

Give yourself enough time and don’t leave it to the last minute. You still have plenty of time to take your IELTS exam before the competition deadline. Don’t rush, stay calm and breathe!

Organize your study space. Make sure you have room to spread out when you need to. Index your resources so you can find them easily, which means putting them back in the same place when you’ve finished using them! Make sure people know where and when you are studying. Put up a “STUDENT AT WORK” sign so they respect your space.

Practice with old test papers and questions to familiarize yourself with the language used. Just like driving a car, you are allowed to practice in real life situations. You can find sample questions to all sections of IELTS by clicking this link here.

Schedule your time properly. Don’t wait until the last minute to start preparing for a test. Commit to study times by writing them on a calendar, in a diary or PDA. Divide your study time into small manageable chunks throughout the week and take regular breaks. Check off these “study goals” as you go so you can see your progress and you’ll always know exactly where to start in your next study session.

Snack on brain foods such as berries, chocolate, cereal mix, peanut butter on toast, salsa, cheese, hummus and veggies. Don’t go crazy on just one type of food. Add variety to spice up your study time.

Organize study groups with friends and explain your answers to each other. This means you will actually use English to communicate your ideas in real life situations. After practicing an old test, write your answers down and talk to a friend to compare what you both think. You can even join our IELTS Study Partners Facebook group.

How Can I Win Up To £40,000?

Once you have your IELTS score, you will be able to apply to the British Council’s East Asia* competition and win up to £40,000 by following this link here. They have extended their deadline for 2017 applications until the 28th of February.

* East Asia region includes Hong Kong & Macau, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam

Are you aged between 16-19 and want to study in the United Kingdom? Teacher Steve personally recommends The College of Richard Collyer as one of the best places to study in the UK.

We suggest you get started by checking out our IELTS speaking topics and answers lesson. You can ask for additional help by writing in the comments section.



Learn English in 30 Minutes a Day

New to English Teacher Online this week, we look at the English in 30 Minutes program to check out their free lessons and rate how they could help students learn English in 30 minutes a day. You can get a free trial very easily by signing up with a valid email account. The course was created by Adrian several years ago to change the way we study English. He says that his ten to thirty minute lessons are the optimal study length for most learners.  There is a mature nature to some of the content so I would recommend this course to older students. There are lessons for learners of all levels, although the free lesson I reviewed is appropriate for pre-intermediate students and above to become fluent in English.

There are twenty-five units in the course and each has a theme of study ranging from Daily Life to Science and Technology. Each focus on different grammar topics such as Future Perfect Simple so you can easily choose to practice the areas that are of interest to you. Within each topic, there are thirteen lessons that are broken down into short ten to thirty minute lessons. These lessons focus on verbs, adjectives, antonyms (opposites), phrasal verbs, adding prepositions, idioms, listening, reading and much more. Each course has a handy interactive check box that helps you keep track of your progress.

Let’s start to Learn English in 30 Minutes a Day

I sign up for my free trial and go to Unit 5, Relationships. I am advised that the grammar focus is Present Perfect Simple and that I am going to learn a large range of words/phrases about love and relationships. The unit is separated into the thirteen lessons as described above. I can see the objectives of the unit which explain that I will be provided with practical examples and exercises to reinforce my learning.

Now I am inside the first lesson and I can clearly see that there are sub lessons which include at least nine videos, some flash card lessons and a review. The second lesson has at least five flashcard sections, two match up lessons and two videos. A variety of learning techniques are used and the lessons are short and sweet. I really like the way Adrian uses himself in the videos to thoroughly teach the Present Perfect Simple Tense.

Towards the end of the unit I am given a listening test. I listen to a four minute reading by Adrian from a classic novel. He has a nice reading voice which makes me want to listen to the extract. I notice that the text is available for me to read while listening so I can see that Adrian has really made a great effort to accommodate students of various levels.

After Adrian has finished reading to me, I press the next button and am directed to another page to take part in a multiple choice quiz. I can see all of the questions and am allowed to listen to the story clip again. I can pause, go back or forward and listen to the clip as many times as I wish. On this page, I am given ten questions and asked to choose from three multiple choice answers for each. I can check and change my answers while still in the test and I can see a submit answers button at the bottom of the page. Once I am happy with my answers, I press the submit button to get my score. I make some deliberate mistakes and score 7/10 so the test gives me a chance to go back and retake the test. I am also given an option to see the questions with the correct answers, very handy for people who keep giving the wrong answers! I take the test again and get 10/10. The test took just under thirty minutes and I am getting a real sense that this program could be a great tool for students to learn English in 30 minutes a day.

There is so much more in this free lesson and I have just reviewed a small part of it. What I really like is the opportunity Adrian gives students to listen to a native English voice, replay it and imitate it, all while studying a specific grammar point.

I gave Adrian a big 9/10 and highly recommend this site to all my older students. I think it’s a great plan to learn English in 30 minutes a day. Please visit English in 30 Minutes to get your free trial on love and relationships in the present perfect simple tense by clicking here.


Fluent English New Year Resolution

To become fluent in English is a great New Year’s resolution. If you made it your resolution this year then English Teacher Online wants to help you keep it. I hear that many people give up their New Year’s resolution before the end of January so I thought to myself, “How can I help my students keep going all year long?”

New Year Action Plan!

First, you have to remember why you want to become fluent in English. Do you need it for travel, business, to pass an exam or just so you can speak to a foreigner in your street? Maybe you are doing a number of different activities that require fluent English this year. Whatever the reasons, you need an ACTION PLAN and all good action plans need short, medium and long term goals so let’s start there!


Long Term Goal?

Your long term goal may be to become totally fluent in all forms of English but that’s a bit vague for this year’s resolution. Perhaps you just want to be fluent in conversational English or business English. Do you have a specific goal like wanting to pass an English exam or going on a trip to an English speaking country? Maybe you have suddenly realized that you need to refresh your English skills for a completely different reason. Whatever your long term goal is you should write it down at the top of your New Year’s Resolution Action Plan.


Medium Term Goals?

Next, try to make some smaller goals that you will be able to check off your list as you reach them throughout the year. This will help to give you a sense of achievement and stop you from feeling disheartened. Start with your plan for January and February. Make goals through to May and June. Also have goals for November and December. These will be your medium term goals and should be achievable over the next six months to a year. Medium term goals could include things like; be fluent in airport conversation English; write responses to customer questions in business English; or read the first 1,000 English sight words efficiently.


Short Term Goals?

Within your medium term plan you will also want weekly goals that you can check off when complete. These could include; asking for directions to the transfer lounge at the airport; writing polite English responses or writing in the present continuous tense. They could be simply checking off a number of sight words each week. These short term goals will help to keep you motivated because you can check them off on a regular basis and track your own improvement. Remember that you can become fluent in English if you are willing to put in the time.


Make Time!

Make a schedule and stick to it! It’s pretty obvious that the more you study and practice English the quicker you will become fluent in it. Be realistic and don’t over work yourself! If you can schedule 30 minutes a day for reading, writing, listening or speaking English then this can make a huge difference to your progress. As I wrote in Become Fluent English Speaking, keep learning according to your own interests. Maximize your time when studying for goals.

Short term goals are essential if you want to keep your New Year’s resolution going into February and beyond. Learning just two new vocabulary words a day (that’s 14 new words a week) is an excellent way to keep yourself on track and fully motivated.

Reading an English newspaper, book or internet article according to your own interests is also something you should be able to do for 10-15 minutes a day. Writing a short diary entry before you go to bed will help to keep you balanced between input and output skills.

Listen to the radio or watch English television programs. Copy the phrases that you think will be useful in your life. Whatever you do, try to do a little every day.

If you need me to write you a lesson, just email steve@englishteacheronline.org because if you need it, I promise you that others will use it too. I am always happy to write lessons for all my students.

Stick to Your Plan and Keep in Touch.

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive regular weekly updates to help you stay on track. Come back and visit English Teacher Online throughout the year to get even more ideas. Make a list of your long, medium and short term goals. Leave a brief summary of them in English in the comment section below.

Thanks, good luck and Happy New Year!

Learn An English Accent

Learning an English accent is an important path on your quest to become fluent in English so I wrote this blog to help you improve your English pronunciation skills. Focusing on and practicing these lessons everyday will slowly increase your accuracy. It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn an English, American or any other accent, applying these tips and tricks will help you feel more confident when speaking to others in English. All these tips are FREE and designed to help you improve your own unique accent

1) Listening (An Introduction)

Some English sound are really similar and hard to tell apart. Did she say steep or street, fin or thin? Once you can hear the difference, it will be much easier to practice the correct sounds and understand context.

As a teacher one of the hardest skills to teach is listening because not all students have the same interests. People tend to listen more when they are interested in a subject. So whenever you want to listen to something in English, make sure it’s interesting or as we teachers say, “according to the student’s own interests!”

Once you have started listening to English sounds you are ready to copy them. From the start make sure you are practicing English that will be useful for the purpose you are learning it for.


2) Listen to Your Own Voice.

Listening to your pronunciation errors while speaking is not always an easy thing to do. It may not be an accurate way to improve because you will be doing 2 things at the same time. Break the 2 processes down. First, try recording the sound of your own voice by speaking into your PC or smartphone. Then, replay the recording and make a note of the specific sounds that you want to improve. If you think you need to improve your “th” sounds, try recording this sentence.

“Thirty-three thin things I thought of this Thursday.”

Remember to slow down and speak clearly, focusing on each syllable and stress.

Replay the recording and make a note of the sounds you don’t like or need to improve.


3) Imagine It and Do It

Find the correct mouth position for the sound you are trying to improve. Imagine saying the “th” sound and then just say it slowly and clearly. If you worry too much on theory you will never practice. Practice without the correct theory
is equally wasteful. Find a good theory that works for you and practice till it’s perfect. We are going to keep practicing the “th” sound to give you an example.

To make the “th” sound, first put the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Keep your tongue inside your mouth put just behind your top front teeth. Then blow the air out slowly and smoothly between your tongue and your top teeth. Do NOT make a strong voiced sound while you do this. Try it now. Did you make the “th” sound ok?

Practice these pairs of words.

mouse – mouth

sin – thin

thin – thing

dirty – thir-ty

tree – three

bought – thought

sink – think

is – this

Sirs – Thurs


4) Look in the Mirror.

Now you know the correct mouth shape, have imagined and practiced saying the “th” sound. Next you need to check your progress. Before you record yourself again, look in the mirror and make sure your tongue and teeth are in the correct position when making the “th” sound. Compare what you see to what you should be doing and make corrections. Practice again. “Thirty-three thin things I thought of this Thursday.” How did that sound? Have you made any improvments yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t because there are other tips to think about too.


5) Practice Intonation and Stress.

Intonation is, “the rise and fall of the voice.” Stress is where, “some words are louder or clearer than other words.” Creating a good English accent is about understanding how to use intonation and stress correctly.

Thirty and Thursday both have 2 syllables. The stress is on the first syllable so we say the first syllable a little louder than the second syllable. “Thirty-three thin things I thought of this Thursday.” Keep practicing this tongue twister until you are happy with the pronunciation.

Be careful because changing the stress on a word can change it’s meaning. An example of this is present. Say “present” out loud. Do you know the 2 meanings for “present?”

If you said PREsent, where the stress is on the first syllable, you are using it as a noun. Like the present tense or a birthday present. If you said preSENT, where the stress is on the second syllable, you are using it as a verb. Like to present a show.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize all the rules. The best way to learn is to listen and practice with a native English speaker.


6) Copy Native English Speakers.

Listening to native English speakers is the best way to hear the correct stress and intonation in sentences. I am sure you watch television and movies in English. Have you ever tried listening to radio programs or online recordings. Listen to them and imitate what you hear. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what they are saying just try to copy the accent, stress and intonation. How do English people sound like in your own language? Can you imitate the accent English people make? Make this exercise fun by trying to imitate foreign accents in your own language and in an English accent. Finally, focus what you have learnt and try to mimic the English accent using English sentences!


7) Practice Alone.

Most people have pronunciation problems because they don’t practice, usually because they are afraid of making mistakes. You have to break that cycle of fear and just do it. Practicing alone is a great way to get started and build confidence. Recording your voice and replaying it sounds strange to everyone the first few times but after a while it will become easier. Practicing alone can be really fun too. Sing songs, read out loud, say tongue twisters or just copy your favourite actresses on television. The secret is don’t be shy, be brave!


8) Find a Study Partner or Teacher.

Keep practicing lesson 1-7 until you feel confident or just feel bored of studying alone! It’s now time to find a study partner or teacher. It’s really important that you practice everything you have just learnt alone with another real life person. Study friends or teachers can offer valuable feedback. They can help you focus on a particular problem you may be experiencing. Moreover, practicing with others is really fun too!

If you are ready to study with others you can find a teacher by clicking here!