The theme of today's crossword is business and the level is advanced. Click here to do the interactive online version of the crossword or download the PDF. And if you sign up for the daily newsletter, you can receive a new crossword by email every day!
We've all heard about the amazing perks some companies offer their staff. But how much do you really know about a company before you sign on the dotted line and turn up for your first day? Seek's new company reviews tool lets you uncover what a company is really like to work for - from the people who've actually worked there. Here's their ad.
TRANSCRIPT BOSS: You are absolutely going to love working here Nathan, it is super fabulous. Hey! It's Bunny Day today. My idea. How good is that? And next week we've got Cat Day. Then Dog Day. We have teleconferences in the ball pit. Everyone gets a Segway. You are gonna love that. And we have beach meetings. That's fantastic. It is the best place ever. VOICEOVER: Seek company reviews. Real reviews by real employees.
COMMENT This video would be a good discussion starter for the topic of corporate perks and rewards. Why do companies offer them? Are they they a good or bad thing?
LESSON IDEA Give students in groups a list of corporate perks and get them to put them in order of desirability (see below for ideas).
COMMENT I didn't know what 'Peeps' were and had to Google it. According to Wikipedia, "Peeps are marshmallow candies, sold in the United States and Canada, that are shaped into chicks, bunnies, and other animals. There are also different shapes used for various holidays. Peeps are used primarily to fill Easter baskets". So now you know!
LESSON IDEA Why not get your students to create their own infographics using one of the following online graphic design tools?
One of the key skills Business English students need to acquire is using the telephone. Here's the plan of a lesson I did with my EM Normandie students on that topic.
First of all, I used this PowerPoint to introduce some key vocabulary. The second slide links to a video of Lady Gaga's 'Telephone' with lyrics, which has some useful telephone language in the first minute or so.
I then showed them this video and asked a few general questions (who are the people, what's the purpose of the call, etc.) You can download the transcript here.
4. After finishing with the video, I got them to do two sentence shuffle activities (here and here). 5. They also had time to explore the sites on this page of telephone resources (the Telephone English Challenge was very popular!) 6. Back in the classroom, I used this speaking activity to give them the opportunity to practice the language they'd seen. I also gave them this list of telephone expressions. To make things a bit more interesting, I organized it like a 'speed interviewing' session, and gave them 2 minutes to complete each call before changing partners. The best way to do this is to arrange the tables in a rectangle with Students A on the inside, and Students B on the outside. When the time's up, those on the inside just have to move to their right. Students B stay where they are. 7. If you wanted, you could test what they'd learned with this worksheet.
NOTES 1. If you liked this lesson, check out this one about a travel agency. 2. I embedded a 'guest' version of the Edpuzzle video so that anyone could use it, but you can also create 'classes' which allow you to see your students' answers and provide feedback. All for free!
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of the excellent Simple English Videos website, which is hosted by husband and wife team Vicki Hollett and Jay Silber. To follow that up, I thought it would be interesting to do an interview with Vicki, who was one of the pioneering Business English coursebook writers back in the eighties. Vicki kindly agreed to answer my questions and here are the results!
EB: I think the first time I came across your name was back in the late 1980’s with ‘In At The Deep End (Speaking Activities For Professional People)’. And then, of course, came the very successful coursebooks ‘Business Objectives’, ‘Business Opportunities’ and the video course ‘Meeting Objectives’. How did you get into EFL publishing in the first place?
VH: It began when I was teaching a beginners' class for businessmen in Japan in the 1970s and I had no materials. I sent a proposal for a business English course to Longman. They said ‘no thanks’ but commissioned me to write a little book about Importing and Exporting instead. That was my first book.
In the 1980s Business English was a much smaller field. I was working at a training centre for executives in Cambridge in the UK and the trade barriers were about to come down in Europe so we were really busy. It was hard to find enough Business English teachers to cover all the classes. We were often employing general English teachers and there weren’t many published Business English materials around to help them. So I wrote stuff and stuck it in filing cabinets for everyone to share and after several years I parceled it up and sent it to OUP. To my delight they published it and that was ‘In at the Deep End’. Then the other courses followed as Business English took off. I was very fortunate because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
EB: How would you say that the EFL/ESL publishing industry has changed since those days, and what do you think of modern coursebooks?
VH: Modern coursebooks have a lot more components, so things like tests, videos and other digital elements. They’re much bigger undertakings and almost always written by large teams of writers these days. Publishers will need to publish multiple levels at once and it would be physically impossible for one human being to write it all. As a result there’s less of the quirky stuff that you used to find when they were driven by one or two personalities.
EB: How do you see things developing in the future? Will traditional EFL/ESL publishers such as Longman, Cambridge and Oxford (to name but three) continue to dominate the market? Or is the coursebook as we know it destined to disappear?
VH: I think the coursebook has a lot of life left in it and its components will continue to grow. The ELT publishing industry has been through some hard times with lots of layoffs, and it’s tougher for authors these days too, with publishers paying piece rates rather than royalties. Piracy has hit the industry hard. But there are still plenty of good authors and editors around so I think we can look forward to plenty more good coursebooks coming out.
VH: It started as a movie trailer site. We discovered we could license trailers from the big studios for limited periods of time and we found some software on Github that enabled us to make clickable transcripts. Movie trailers have always struck me as cool viewing material if you’re learning a language because they tell stories very concisely and you get to see language in context.
Then we started adding some of our own videos. Jay (my husband) has a background in film and TV, so it started as a hobby for us. The movie trailers have gone now (they took too long to encode) and we just post the videos we make together.
EB: How long does it take you to produce a video from start to finish?
VH: It varies greatly depending on the video. For example, we have a video about our dog ordering a meal in a restaurant. We set up the scene one evening and then shot it the next. After that, editing took about half a day and it was done. But a lot of our videos include lots of short clips which we shoot over a period of months or even years in some cases. Jay’s pretty fussy about lighting and sound, so it can take three hours to set up a shot. I try to organize it so we can shoot multiple scenes in the same location.
EB: All the videos on the site are freely available, and they’re on YouTube as well, but I know you had an online store before where one could download videos and lesson materials for a small fee. I know because I actually bought some! Why did you stop doing that?
VH: There was a change in the law. To ensure companies like Amazon and Apple paid taxes, the EU introduced new legislation about selling digital products. An unintended consequence was small vendors like us found we would have to register and report VAT or stop. So we decided to put our energy on making the videos instead.
EB: What’s the best resource you’ve come across recently for English teachers or learners (apart from Simple English Videos, of course)?
VH: There are some good podcasts for learners around. I like ‘La Mansion del Ingles’ which is designed for Spanish speakers and very engaging. They deservedly won the UK podcasters awards last year. But top of my list is my son Tom’s YouTube channel. It’s called True Life English and it’s about phrasal verbs. Of course I’m biased because I’m his Mum but I think they’re doing some cool stuff shooting with just cell phones.
EB: Do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you would be willing to tell us about?
VH: Sure! I’m working on an app, a video series about British and American English and I’m writing a video course for beginners. Oh, and I’d like to make some videos with tips on how to learn faster too. I just need a few more hours in the day.
EB: Thanks Vicki, it's been very interesting. And good luck with your projects!
As promised yesterday, here's some more information about my 'Google' lesson. After doing the Google Quiz, I showed my EM Normandie students some clips from the 2013 movie The Internship. The movie as a whole is pretty rubbish, but it does contain a few good scenes which are usable in class (the meeting where Billy and Nick get fired, the Skype interview, discovering the Googleplex, the integration seminar), especially if you have a version subtitled in English (I've got a DVD). You can find the transcript for the Skype interview scene below in this Word file. Watch the video, then continue reading below.
LESSON NOTES 1. Google is famous for its tricky interview questions, one of which is featured in the scene above. I stopped the video at 52s and got my students to say what they would do if they were stuck in a blender. I then showed the rest of the scene. As a follow-up group discussion activity, I took a few more questions from the book Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? and put them in this PowerPoint (which also has the quiz and some other images that can be used for discussion purposes). I displayed the questions using a videoprojector and got the students to discuss each one in turn, giving feedback based on the suggested answers in this PDF. 2. To finish the lesson, I used this Google crossword. But rather than just getting the students to complete the crossword individually (or in pairs/groups), I cut the crossword up, giving the empty grid to one student, the clues to another, and the answers to a third. They then had to collaborate verbally (no looking at each other's information!) to fill in the grid. The role of the student with the solution is to help the other two if they get stuck, or to confirm that they have the right word. I find that doing it this way leads to a lot more discussion.
How much do you know about Google, the world's most popular search engine? Test your knowledge with this quiz I created for my EM Normandie students. You can download the original PowerPoint presentation here. I'll give more details about the rest of my 'Google lesson' tomorrow.
Business English Pod’s MP3 lessons feature example training dialogs with clear explanations of the target language, vocabulary, idioms and useful phrases, followed by a short practice and review session. The audio lessons can be downloaded directly from the website or transferred to your iPod or MP3 player using free software such as Apple’s iTunes program.
You can join Business English Pod’s premium member community to access detailed study notes, including a full transcript, example phrases, vocabulary and language review exercises. Online quizzes, language exercises and vocabulary flashcards for each podcast lesson are also available to premium members.
COMMENTS I'm a big believer in podcasts as a means of improving your English, and if you are a business English student or a business professional who needs English for their job, you should definitely check out Business English Pod. They have literally hundreds of lessons covering all sorts of business and professional topics. A one-year premium membership is currently €79, which can be renewed for €28 a year (see details of payment options). However, you can also sign up for a free trial (no credit card needed), which gives you access for 8 days. Even if you don't sign up at all, you can still have access to dozens of free lessons with resources. There's also a BEP YouTube Channel where you can find over 100 videos. And for mobile learners, there's also a free iOS app available.
VERDICT Probably the best all-round business English site available.
If you asked British people to name one British entrepreneur, the name most of them would probably come up with is Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin group of companies. In this video from the British council, we find out a bit about his background, and then, in an interview, he gives us the secret of his success. I used this video as the basis for a lesson about famous entrepreneurs with my EM Normandie students, and you can find more details and resources below.
What makes a good entrepreneur?Sir Richard Branson, who started the highly successful UK company Virgin, gives his views.We’ll be discussing this topic on our new, free online English course: Exploring English. A great opportunity for you and your students to improve your English!– The course starts this Monday, 22 June. Join now! http://bit.ly/1LAR3nl#FLlearnenglish
LESSON PLAN There's an interactive lesson and a lesson plan based on this video on the British Council LearnEnglish website, but I adapted it for my own use. Here's a brief summary of my lesson (you should definitely check out the British Council resources as well though). a) First, I used this PowerPoint to introduce the topic and get some discussion going about what an entrepreneur is. The students had to identify the people and say what they have in common (they're all entrepreneurs). I then got them to tell me what they knew about the entrepreneurs presented, and give a definition of the term 'entrepreneur'. b) Next, I took the students to the multimedia lab where they watched the video and completed this worksheet. Afterwards, I gave them the transcript so that they could go through the video again and check their answers. c) To end the lesson, we held a balloon debate, in which each student had to pretend to be one of the entrepreneurs we'd studied and say why they should remain in the balloon. d) As a follow-up, I asked them to prepare a short presentation of an entrepreneur to be given in class the following week (you can find details at the end of the PowerPoint).
COMMENT My students are business English students, but I think this activity would work well with general English classes too.
Simple English Videos is a site is hosted by husband and wife team Vicki Hollett and Jay Silber. Vicki is an English teacher who has written award winning course books and videos. British by birth, she now lives in Philadelphia. Jay’s a multimedia expert, and his training films have also won awards. You can find well over a hundred videos on their site, or on their YouTube channel, covering topics such as grammar, vocabulary, songs, and business English. Here's their latest video, which looks at sports and the verbs 'play', 'go', and 'do'.
COMMENTS Vicki was responsible for some classic early nineties business English coursebooks such as Business Objectives and Business Opportunities, and the video course Meeting Objectives, which older teachers (like myself!) may remember. In fact, I've still got copies of those in my office ... Her expertise is evident in Simple English Videos. The videos are well scripted, professionally produced, and have some delightful touches of humour. Just watch this one about ordering a meal, where the main character is their dog Carter. The sheer range of grammatical points and vocabulary topics covered is impressive, and each video comes with a full transcript. What's more, they've all been optimised for mobile devices too (see list). In short, this is an excellent resource for learners at all but beginner levels. The one thing that I would say was missing is some indication as to what level each video is suitable for, or a 'search by level' feature.
PayPal, the future is now. That's the theme of the e-commerce company's Super Bowl commercial, which is set to air during the first quarter of Sunday's CBS telecast. The 45-second spot marks the brand's first big-game appearance. Read more >>
COMMENT I always look forward to the Super Bowl every year, not because I'm a fan of American football (I'm not!), but because you can usually rely on there being some ads that can be used in class. So far, this year's ads have been disappointing apart from this one featuring Christopher Walken, which I liked, but which is a bit too 'weird' for my students. However, this ad for PayPal is perfect - plenty of good visuals and onscreen text.
LESSON IDEAS/QUESTIONS 1. Stop the ad after about 12 seconds and see if students can define 'new money'. 2. What do you mean if you say something is 'not a dirty word'? 3. What is meant by the phrase 'old money closes at five'? 4. Work on vocabulary: cash, banknotes, bills, dollar, buck, grand, coins, nickel, dime. 5. What does the phrasal verb 'move over' mean? 6. Discuss other forms of old and new means of payment (cash, cheques, credit card, debit card, mobile devices such as smartphones and watches, Apple Pay). 7. Get students to talk about how they pay for their purchases. You could get them to produce a market survey questionnaire.
Read the introductory 'blurb', watch the ad, and see what you think. Then read my comments below.
INTRODUCTION The first ever start-up whose employees will go to all your meetings in your place, in all 43 destinations nationwide where Widerøe is flying, leaving you more free time. On www.norwegianmeetingservices.no, you can book a person to go to your meeting in your place, a time and a place. The website allows you to specify the type of meeting from among countless alternatives: from strategy conferences, to sales meetings to parent-teacher evenings or quiet dinners for two. And it doesn’t stop here: you can also state the details of your personality, food allergies, preferred drinks and meeting behaviours of the person you are meeting. After everything is completed, the most important part follows: Norwegian Meeting Services handpicks the meeting “stand-in” who best suits the client’s needs.
COMMENT So what did you think? Did you realize it's a spoof (= humorous imitation of something)? Norwegian Meeting Services doesn't really exist as such, although the website is real enough. It's actually a rather brilliant campaign for the Norwegian airline Widerøe (there's a clue in the blurb above). The hoax is so well constructed that you can actually book an 'agent' to go to a meeting on www.norwegianmeetingservices.no (try it, it's fun), and even get as far as the Paypal invoice. I'm not sure what would happen if you clicked on 'Pay', however, as I didn't try! Once you know it's a joke, you can appreciate all the excellent touches of humour in the video and on the website (those hoverboards, and the 'stock photo' look of it all). Excellent!
LESSON IDEAS This would be a great video to use with a business English class - especially on April 1st. You could present it as a 'real' service, and ask if they think it's a good idea. See if anyone suspects all is not what it seems. I've also done a quiz based on the voiceover below.
TRANSCRIPT To build and maintain strong business relations, people need to meet face-to-face. But do you always need to be there yourself. Well, not any more. Norwegian Meeting Services are specialized in attending meetings for others. Your meeting is our business. We’re experienced with all kinds of meetings: board meetings, negotiations, strategy development, and emergency meetings. Let’s not forget conferences and seminars, team building and leisure events. Private matters are also our business. With help from Widerøe and their frequent departures to more than 40 destinations across Norway, we can attend your meeting, anywhere, any time. To book one of our agents or get more information, visit norwegianmeetingservices.no today.
This 60-second video illustrates how a modern car (in this case a Vauxhall) is manufactured in just 8 hours using an efficient and largely automated production line.
COMMENT This video would be ideal for teachers who want to illustrate the use of the passive when describing a process. I've embedded a sequencing activity below, but there are lots of other things you could do with the transcript. For example, there are very few sequence markers (First, next, etc.), so one activity could be to add those to the text. Or create a gap-fill activity by removing all the passive verbs.
TRANSCRIPT Steel coil is unrolled and flattened. Flattened steel is pressed to body panels. Pressed parts are assembled by robots and production operators. The car is sealed, primed and painted. Wiring, sound-proofing, upholstery and cockpit are added. Engine, brakes, suspension and exhaust are fitted by robots. Seats, wheels and doors and fitted last. Car goes through stringent quality tests before being driven off the line.
Here's a Quizlet flashcard set on the topic of Transport and Logistics I created for my EM Normandie students. There are 100 items in all with the French translation. Click on 'Choose a Study Mode' (bottom right) to change the study mode or play games. You can access all my Quizlet sets, which now feature over 2,500 words, here.
This ad from Pitney Bowes, a US business services company, has some striking images and a voiceover that is rich in business vocabulary (see activity below).
LESSON IDEA As a change from the usual gap-fill activity, I thought I would create a word scramble. It's a bit more fun. You can find the original transcript here.
WORD SCRAMBLE It’s big. It’s 1) saft. It’s mind-boggling. It’s 2) moremecc – a world filled with complexity and 3) shoca. A world also filled with 4) tworgh and great opportunity. Get it 5) thirg, you win. Get it 6) grown, you lose. To succeed, you need 7) orpeincis and accuracy – the skills of a craftsman, and the 8) vorpne skills of Pitney Bowes. We’ve helped 1.5 million small 9) subseesisn, and over 90% of the Fortune 500 across the 10) shapcily and digital 11) daplenacs. As craftsmen we make messages 12) elorpsan. We use data to find the best 13) clape to build your business. We make shipping 14) lempis, and we get statements and 15) vioscine to the right person at the right place and 16) emit. We’re 15,000 men and 17) emown creating, shaping, sharpening, and 18) nigerfin. That’s what craftsmen do, and that’s what the 19) drowl of commerce needs. Pitney Bowes – the 20) scartnemf of commerce.