fbpx

Category Archives for General

Topics for small talk and what makes them good or bad?

Small talk topics which ones? good or bad?

Topics for small talk –  which ones and what makes them good or bad?

Last time I told you about Small Talk – When? With Whom? This week I’m telling you which topic to choose and what makes it good or bad concerning small talk. This is the third part of a 5-week training course on small talk. You can download a free pdf workbook for the 5-week training course here

As you probably already know Yvette and I are English language trainers and in our communication courses we’re often asked what are good topics for small talk. In order to answer that question, we need to establish what actually makes a topic good or bad?

 

What makes a topic good or bad?

Well, for one thing usually you have a conversation with another person, who might be in the same situation but have a different view of it or your counterpart is in a different situation with a different point of view. So, the situation from both perspectives is an important factor. The other factor is how well you know the person you’re talking to. This second aspect is important when considering the topic you’d like to start with. 

So, what do you need to be able to choose the right topic?

  1. Active listening – listen carefully to what your counterpart is saying (check out this blog post)
  2. Empathy 
  3. Powers of observation
  4. Cultural awareness

 

Neutral topics

Fortunately, there are some neutral topics, which are very safe:

  1. The weather (except in Russia, don’t talk about the weather)
  2. The place you’re both in (trade fair, conference, seminar, hotel, coffee shop, etc)
  3. The event you’re both attending (concert, conference talk, meeting, etc)

But, why are they neutral?

  1. No one is responsible for the weather
  2. You have mutual interests if you’re in the same place or attending the same event
  3. Building on common ground is easier

 

Okay, now that you know the neutral ones lets start off with good or bad topics.

In the workbook you’ll find a page about small talk topics. You can download the free pdf workbook hereUnder the topics there is a line with a plus in an arrow head on the right and a minus in the arrow head on the left. This exercise is made for you to write in the topics according to your own perceptions. Yes, your own perceptions, because everyone is unique. I do this exercise with my students in the course and every time there are differences in their perceptions of good or bad topics. As it depends on your own interests as well.

Here are a few topics to get you started: 

  1. Family – with this topic you should be careful of cultural differences, e.g. Italians love to talk about the family, Germans talk about it too, however with less enthusiasm. And the French don’t start with it, unless you already know each other.

  2. The news – this can be both good and bad, depending on the news topic, the person involved and the situation.
  1. Your country – big topic, but choose what you want to talk about carefully and then it’s a safe topic e.g. tourist sights or geographical descriptions. Do not engage into political or religious aspects unless you know the other person.
  1. Religion – normally this is a no-go topic. However, as long as it’s not personal it does not have to be a no-go topic, e.g. sightseeing – historical sights, talking about celebrations. If someone is interested in it , it’s OK.
  1. Clothes – depending on where you are, it can be a real ice-breaker, e.g. at fashion shows. You can make a positive or neutral comment about someone’s clothing or accessories.
  1. Your health – the best answer to the question ‘How are you?’ is ‘Fine and you?’ avoid talking about illnesses and details only your doctor or spouse should know. 
  1. Politics – this is not a topic you should start off with, but it could come up in later conversation. As long as you remain tolerant, everything is OK.
  1. Sport – good topic usually works for people, who are interested in it and who do it.

    Ready for some more?  

  1. Food and drink – honestly, one of my favourite topics! I’m a real foodie, possibly that’s why I think it’s very easy to talk about it. 
  1. People you both know – be careful with this one, it can be both good and bad.
  1. Work – this can even be a neutral topic, depending on the person you are talking to, though.
  1. Your holiday plans – usually a good topic, however, it’s safer to ask about your counterpart’s holiday plans first.
  1. Television – can also be a good topic as long as the other person is interested in TV or films.
  1. Weekend activities – depending on the activity, it’s usually a good topic to start off with.
  1. Celebrity gossip – now this topic really depends on if you and the other person are interested in the gossip or not.
  1. Social media – If your counterpart is into social media or active on social media then it is a good topic, even if you’re not, you can still learn a lot about it.

 

The list goes on, there are many more topics for small talk. Which is your favourite one? Let me know your thoughts.

Of course, you can just schedule a call with me and tell me Click here to schedule a call now!

Or connect with me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Most importantly … 

… you decide if the topic is good or bad and you make it a good or bad topic in your conversation. How can you do that? Well, you need to be …

  1. aware 
  2. observant 
  3. respectful
  4. and truly interested.

One more thing

We’d like to thank you for tuning in and downloading the podcast. We’d love to hear more from you. Most importantly you can help us by rating us on iTunes and if you like leave a review. By doing that you’ll help us get a bigger reach. We know that rating us takes up your time and that’s why we’ve decided to raffle three books among all of you who rate us on iTunes.

All you have to do to take part is to rate us and leave a comment. Make a screenshot of your rating and comment and send it to us either by email or as a DM on Instagram.

These are the books you can win: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Denglish for Better Knowers by Adam Fletcher and Paul Hawkins and Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker. You can participate throughout February 2019. We will make the draw on 5 March 2019.

Take care

Nadia 

PS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

Small Talk – When? With Whom?

Small Talk When? With Whom?

When and with whom?

 

This is the second part of a 5-week training course on small talk.  You can download a free pdf workbook for the 5-week training course hereThis week I’m telling you about the when and with whom concerning small talk.

When I ask the questions ‘when do you make small talk?’ and ‘with whom do you make small talk?’ the standard replies are on business trips, at seminars, at trade fairs with the people you meet there. So you could assume from these replies that it’s something you only need for special occasions.

 

Honestly? Are you sure that’s correct?

 

Well, it’s not. Think about an everyday situation in your native language. When you’re on your way to work and you stop by the coffee shop to grab your lactose-free latté with extra espresso. You stand in line and wait your turn. That’s probably your first chance for making small talk, be it with the person in front of you or behind you. Unless you are not a very communicative person, you make small talk all day long without noticing.

On a normal day, if you’re like me self-employed, then you don’t normally leave your home for the office. On Monday mornings I work from home, i.e. I make small talk online, on the phone and by email with everyone I have contact with.

On Tuesday mornings I have an offline course I teach. So I drive there by car and the first person I make small talk with is the security guard at the reception, who by the way speaks English too. Then on my way to the course I sometimes meet people and make small talk with them as well, till I finally reach the office with my participants and we commence with -would you have guessed it – small talk too.

These are just a few examples of when I make small talk and with whom. Actually we make small talk the whole time before getting to the point.

In some situations like networking events or trade fairs you have a specific goal with your small talk. You want to engage in a longer conversation and build a relationship with your counterpart. Why should you do this? Making small talk is a way of gaining information, maintaining contacts, winning new contacts or even winning contracts. Remember what I said last week? In some cultures if you don’t small talk, you don’t do business. Due to globalisation this is a trend which is becoming more popular.

 

So let’s sum up…

 

When?

The first time you meet someone

When you meet again, e.g. when you arrive at work

During a break, e.g. in a meeting, at a conference or at work

Networking events, trade fairs

When someone acknowledges you and wants to make small talk in any situation

 

Who? With …

new contacts

course / seminar participants

other people you meet for the first time

colleagues

other people you see regularly

business contacts

acquaintances

other people you haven’t seen for a long time

 

Now in some jobs having highly developed social skills is a required qualification. So what do you do?

 

Are you a …

receptionist?

sales rep?

trainer?

coach?

office assistant?

team leader?

lawyer?

entrepreneur?

 

How important is small talk for you?

For Yvette and me it is very important, because we work with people. We want to and need to build relationships with them. In order to help them improve their communication skills in English, we need to learn about their needs and their style. Everyone has his or her own style of communicating, which is good because it makes us unique. We are here to help you find and manifest your unique style of communicating in English, and small talk is part of communicating.

In case you don’t know what to talk about, I have you covered. Next week I’ll tell you which topics are safe and which are no-go topics. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. Let me know your thoughts.

Of course, you can just schedule a call with me and tell me your thoughtsClick here to schedule a call now!

Or connect with me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

One more thing

We’d like to thank you for tuning in and downloading the podcast. We’d love to hear more from you. Most importantly you can help us by rating us on iTunes and if you like leave a review. By doing that you’ll help us get a bigger reach. We know that rating us takes up your time and that’s why we’ve decided to raffle three books among all of you who rate us on iTunes.

All you have to do to take part is to rate us and leave a comment. Make a screenshot of your rating and comment and send it to us either by email or as a DM on Instagram.

These are the books you can win: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Denglish for Better Knowers by Adam Fletcher and Paul Hawkins and Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker. You can participate throughout February 2019. We will make the draw on 5 March 2019.

 

Take care

Nadia 

PS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

The why behind small talk

why small talk

The why behind small talk

This is the first part of a 5-week training course on small talk. To start off let me tell you about the why behind small talk. You can download a free pdf workbook for the 5-week training course here.

Sometimes I can read minds. Honestly, it’s a gift and a curse at the same time. Right now I can tell you don’t believe me. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

I teach people how to communicate better in English. One of the communication skills I teach is “small talk”. And now I know some of you are thinking “Why?” See what I mean?

So why is small talk important for you? That’s one of the first things I like to cover during a communication course. 

Usually I ask my students their thoughts on the topic. And they all come up with about the same reasons. 

 

Here are the top three they come up with:

1. It breaks the ice,

no more awkward silence. Imagine you’re at a conference and you meet someone and after each of you have mentioned your names and what you do, there it is: “the silence”. Using small talk here can be a lifesaver.

2. In some cultures if you don’t small talk, you don’t do business. 

You need it to establish a relationship, which is built on trust. People have to like you in order to do business with you.

3. It can help get bits of information about your conversation partner,

which will help you to build a comfortable atmosphere.

 

So far so good, but please consider these two reasons as well:

 

1. It makes you smarter.

Yes, it does! According to a study by the University of Michigan, engaging in a friendly, social interaction improves your problem-solving skill, this happens when you try to read other peoples’ minds and try to see their perspectives. Now you know, why I can sometimes read minds.

2. Sometimes we don’t see the most obvious reason. It is the first step in communication,

which you have to take to get anywhere. No matter where, at the office, the train station, the supermarket or at a conference, you need small talk to open the door. In face-to-face encounters smiling at your conversation partner helps tremendously and, speaking from personal experience, I dare say, it will earn you a smile back. Even on social media you practice small talk, by liking, sharing or commenting. We need a form of interaction with each other and that first step is, like it or not, small talk.

 

Here is a small exercise for you. Go and practice. As with everything, the more often you do it, the better you’ll get at it. It will come naturally. I know for some it’s easier than for others.

 

Next week I’ll cover the “when and with whom you have small talk with”. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. Let me know your thoughts.

Of course, you can just schedule a call with me and tell me your thoughtsClick here to schedule a call now!

Or connect with me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

One more thing

We’d like to thank you for tuning in and downloading the podcast. We’d love to hear more from you. Most importantly you can help us by rating us on iTunes and if you like leave a review. By doing that you’ll help us get a bigger reach. We know that rating us takes up your time and that’s why we’ve decided to raffle three books among all of you who rate us on iTunes.

All you have to do to take part is to rate us and leave a comment. Make a screenshot of your rating and comment and send it to us either by email or as a DM on Instagram.

These are the books you can win: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Denglish for Better Knowers by Adam Fletcher and Paul Hawkins and Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker. You can participate throughout February 2019. We will make the draw on 5 March 2019.

 

Take care

Nadia 

PS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

 

Setting goals you can keep

race tracks

Setting goals you can keep

Last time I told you about New Year resolutions and I posted the beginning of my blog post on Instagram asking every reader what their New Year resolution was. I got a direct message on Instagram from someone telling me her New Year resolution. The message read: ‘I want to improve my English skills’. My first thought was good for you, whereas my second thought was let’s make this achievable. So this post and the podcast episode is for you if you want to learn how to set goals you can keep.

What’s wrong with the resolution ‘I want to improve my English skills’?

Well for starters, it is very general. There are seriously too many skills you could want to improve. What do the skills involve? Reading, writing, listening or speaking? Or possibly all of them? Within each of these skills there are again categories. 

For example, if we take reading, what is it that you want to or have to read? Do you need to read business reports, books or articles?

For writing, do you need to improve your emailing skills or do you want to start a blog?

For speaking, do you need to improve your social skills with small talk or are you a speaker and want to improve your intonation?

As you can see the possibilities are endless. This resolution is too abstract. So what can you do?

 

Break it down

You don’t always realise what it is you need, in order to get what you want. Sometimes we do not see the forest for the trees. In this situation seeking support or guidance from a mentor is a very good option and a fast way to improvement.

A second option is to follow this road map to get you started right away:

Well, in a nutshell the first step to setting goals you can keep is that you have to break down the abstract goals into doable ones.

 

OK, easier said than done. How do you break down this abstract goal and turn it into one you can keep?

Well, start off by asking yourself these questions …

 1. Why?

Start with this question, as it’s a huge motivator. But watch out there is a significant difference between a need of something and a want or wish of something.

When I was in school I remember I hated when teachers told me I had to or needed to do something. I always wanted to know and understand the reason behind it, so I could want to do it. To know what was in it for me or what was the benefit, was exactly what I needed and wanted to know.

Here’s an example: you might need to cut back on your sugar consumption because of health problems, but you don’t really want to. How will you feel if you tell yourself you need to do something although deep down inside you don’t want to do it? You’ll feel miserable. Change your need into a want/wish. Once you realise for yourself how much better you’ll feel without much sugar, your motivational reason will change into a want/wish because you want to and not because you need to. So change your point of view and look at it from a different angle. That is a game changer.

 

2. What?

Getting to the what exactly you want to improve. Think about the situations …

for work

  • writing emails
  • giving presentations
  • making small talk
  • taking part in meetings
  • negotiating
  • giving a talk or speech
  • giving a seminar

for leisure

  • going on holiday
  • reading blogs
  • listening to music

then ask yourself what do you need in these situations …

vocabulary
  • Identify the category you need
phrases
  • Identify the situations
grammar
  • Identify you weakness
confidence
  • Sometimes that’s all that is missing. I’ve had students, who’ve had all the vocabulary, phrases, grammar and pronunciation they needed. The one thing they didn’t have was confidence.

3. When?

Identify when you need to improve …

face-to-face

Is this your Achilles’ heel? Do you forget the words you want to say when communicating  face-to-face? Or is it

on the phone

Or is it when you see a certain number you’d prefer to ignore?

in writing

Some of us have difficulties putting our thoughts into writing so others will understand what we want.

4. With whom?

Who do you interact or communicate with? Identify the people you are dealing with, are they …

colleagues?
customers?
complete strangers?

5. How?

The answer my friend is simple yet effective. Practice. In order to get better you need to practice then you’ll improve.

Do you get the picture?

Option 1.  Yes, I see it clearly! Now I know the secret behind setting goals I can keep!

Option 2.  Well, kind of, but I’d like some guidance.

Then this is for you:

Yvette and I are starting off next week with a five-week training course on small talk.

What will you learn?

We will cover the why, the when, with whom, the topics, how to start off and what to do then in five weeks. To make it easier, we’ve created a workbook just for you. It’s free of charge and you should use it during the training. You can download it here.

One more thing

We’d like to thank you for tuning in and downloading the podcast. We’d love to hear more from you. Most importantly you can help us by rating us on iTunes and if you like leave a review. By doing that you’ll help us get a bigger reach. We know that rating us takes up your time and that’s why we’ve decided to raffle three books among all of you who rate us on iTunes.

All you have to do to take part is to rate us and leave a comment. Make a screenshot of your rating and comment and send it to us either by email or as a DM on Instagram.

These are the books you can win: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Denglish for Better Knowers by Adam Fletcher and Paul Hawkins and Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker. You can participate throughout February 2019. We will make the draw on 5 March 2019.

 

You’ll find me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Of course, you can just schedule a call with me and tell me about your goalsClick here to schedule a call now!

Take care

Nadia 

PS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year!

Sounds a bit strange saying it so far into January. Maybe ‘Congratulations’ or ‘Cheers’ would be better if you’re still implementing your New Year resolutions. 

Did I strike a nerve? You haven’t made any New Year resolutions or you’ve already thrown them overboard?

Well, tell me about it! Usually, we think about our resolutions during the Christmas holidays or around the New Year. This time everything was different. Our heating system broke down on December 22. So, to make a long story short, I spent Christmas with my husband, my son and our dog mostly in the living room because we have a fireplace there. Except for the kitchen and the bathroom, which we kept at about 19 to 20 degrees Celsius using electrical heaters, the entire house felt like an oversized refrigerator. The technician from the emergency service couldn’t come before December 28. That meant a whole new challenging adventure for us, which we all accepted. Lucky for us that week in December wasn’t the coldest.

I have to admit, none of us were in the mood for planning a holiday or figuring out and coming up with New Year resolutions. 

What are New Year resolutions anyway?

Well, according to this Wikipedia article 

A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.

What can they be about?

  • starting or quitting something like losing weight, drinking less alcohol, stopping smoking, eating less meat or eating more veggies or doing more sports
  • some people challenge themselves to do a specific task like, run a marathon, go skydiving, white-water rafting or bungee jumping 
  • improving your work-life balance
  • improving your education, learning something new, reading more books, listening to more podcasts, developing your language skills
  • improving your career, doing or getting a better job or establishing your own business
  • improving yourself, reducing stress, becoming organized, thinking positive, developing a better mindset, making new friends

Why do we make them?

We want to change or implement a habit or experience something new and exciting.

Although some people make them all year round, i.e. there is no reason to only make resolutions at the New Year. If you want to change something then change it. Don’t wait for a specific date or for the ‘right time’. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today because tomorrow could be too late.

Why do we have problems keeping them?

  • Sometimes they are difficult to keep because the challenge is difficult in itself. For example, if you’ve never run before, don’t expect to run a marathon in the first three months. The goal was set too high.
  • Sometimes you don’t really want to achieve it.
  • Sometimes you just don’t want to leave your comfort zone.
  • Sometimes you find out it’s not what you thought it would be. For example, you take up a hobby like fishing because it’s supposed to be relaxing, but find you hate being outdoors. 

What can we do to make them achievable?

Imagine your goal is on the other side of a high mountain. You have to climb it and reach the top before you can even see your goal. That’s when a lot of people fail and give up, because they can’t see what they set out to achieve. So imagine you’re hiking through the Alps. The best way is to go from one hut to the other, instead of trying to reach your goal too quickly and going up to the top without a break. After all, your goal is on the other side and if you’re too tired you can fall on your way down.

In order to implement your New Year resolutions successfully, they need to be achievable. By breaking them down into small steps they become doable.

Track them, so you can see your progress, which will motivate you to carry on. Celebrate small goals and reward yourself for your efforts that will keep you motivated too.

Don’t set too many goals at once; otherwise you might end up not reaching any of them. Check out this article for more information on building habits.

 

Yvette’s resolutions for this year are to reduce plastic consumption and go swimming regularly.

Mine are to spend more time with friends and go back to the gym regularly.

 

What are your resolutions?

Let me know. You’ll find me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Of course, you can just schedule a call with me too and tell me about your resolutionsClick here to schedule a call now!

Take care

Nadia 

PS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

 

What do these idioms have to do with Christmas?

Christmas

Christmas Idioms?

Yes, there are idioms you can use at Christmas and there are idioms which use the word Christmas but are not really used at this time of year. Join us and find out what the following ten idioms mean and when to use them.

1. Christmas comes but once a year

As this event (Christmas) only happens once a year we should treat people who are less fortunate than ourselves better at this time of year, e.g. by donating to charity. However, it is also used as a kind of excuse for over indulgence on food or on gifts, because it doesn’t happen very often. This idiom is used at this time of year.

Example: Janet went to make a large donation  for the homeless people. After all Christmas only comes once a year.

 

2. Christmas has come early

This is used for situations when something positive happens to you which you were not expecting then it is like Christmas. As Christmas is associated with a positive surprise. This idiom is not used at this time of year.

Example: Tom got a letter from his company on 1st October telling him he had been promoted and was to receive a higher salary.  Christmas had come early for Tom.

 

3. All my Christmases have come together

Similar to the second idiom, where Christmas is linked to receiving pleasant surprises in form of gifts, you can use this idiom to describe a situation where all your dreams have come true. You got everything you could have wished for. This idiom can definitely be used throughout the whole year.

Example:  Two days ago I received this amazing job offer and to top it all off  my boyfriend proposed to me yesterday! It feels like all my Christmases have come together.

 

4. Good things come in small packages

This idiom is similar to ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, meaning the size of something is irrelevant. The size of a package doesn’t determine what’s inside it. You can use this idiom, whenever it fits the situation.

 

5. To light up like a Christmas tree

As Christmas trees tend to be full of lights and very bright, this idiom is used to describe someone’s sudden very happy mood, after a situation. You can use this idiom whenever such a situation occurs.

Example: Mia lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw a vase with roses on her desk.

 

6. Like turkeys voting for Christmas

Turkeys are a traditional choice of food for Christmas (and Thanksgiving) lunch or dinner. However, you don’t ask turkeys if they like those holidays, because they have no say in the matter. They have to accept it. When you accept something you don’t like without trying to change it you are like a turkey voting for Christmas. This idiom is used throughout the year, whenever appropriate.

Example: The staff agreed to work longer hours without extra pay. It was like turkeys voting for Christmas.

7. To ring in the New Year

Possibly you’re having or going to a party on New Year’s Eve (31st December) to welcome the New Year. So when the church bells ring at midnight everyone wishes each other a happy New Year. The only time to use this idiom is to describe this situation.

Example: Grace and Neil invited  friends and family  for a New Year’s Eve party to ring in the New Year.

 

8. The more the merrier 

Now this idiom you can use to say the more people there are, the better a situation or event will be. Of course, you can use it all year round.

 

9. Bah, Humbug

Have you heard of ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’? He’s the main character of Charles Dickens’ novel “Christmas Carol” and he used this term quite often. As there are some people who are not fans of this holiday season, they have adapted this expression to show their lack of the Christmas spirit.

 

10. Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle

This idiom originally comes from ‘don’t get your knickers in a twist’. It means don’t get upset or annoyed about something which is unimportant. It has been changed to get a Christmas theme, as a tinsel is decoration for your Christmas tree. So around Christmas, you can use it and for the rest of the year you can use ‘don’t get your knickers in a twist’.

There you have it, that wraps it up for today and this year

Our selection of ten Christmas (themed) idioms and when to use them. 

We wish you happy holidays and all the best for the New Year. The next blog post will be online in January 2019, till then have a wonderful time with your family and loved ones and take care

Nadia & Yvette

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do! Have you checked out our podcast yet? You can find it on iTunes and Spotify. Sign up, so you don’t miss the next episode. Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter.

 

Stop Whining and Start Changing

Sorry for my English! 

A few weeks ago, one student in an in-company course came to me after class and apologised for his English. I asked him why he thought he had to be sorry for his English. I’ve had this situation quite often, when students express their apologies for their English because they consider it to be bad. I never understood why they apologised. After all, if they were already perfect, they wouldn’t be in the course, would they?

So, why do you apologise for your English?

Here are just a few reasons I’ve heard:

My grammar is terrible, I always mix up the tenses.’

‘I use the same and simple vocabulary.’

‘My pronunciation is influenced by my accent.’

‘My English sounds so Denglish.’

 

Most people I teach are German and they have to deal with English speakers from all over the world be it by email or during a conference call. What shocked me was when during a lesson someone suggested to a colleague to just apologise in the email for her English. As that always works for her. The whole class turned to me when they heard my cry ‘What do you do? Why?

She told the whole class when she apologises for her English:

  • Situation 1: You have to write a longer email to a contact explaining a procedure and you start or end with the sentence ‘I hope you can understand what I mean, sorry, my English isn’t that good.
  • Situation 2: You are attending a conference call with six members of an international team and you begin your introduction with ‘I have to tell you, my English is bad, that’s why I won’t say that much, sorry!
  • Situation 3: You have just finished your presentation in English and a supplier in your audience asks a question you don’t understand. You react with ‘I’m so sorry, please excuse my poor English. Could you say that again?’

 

Do any of these situations sound familiar? Do you do the same?

Hearing the above-mentioned situations and reasons, I still asked ‘Why? Why do you apologise?’

Is it because you think when you apologise your listeners will …

  • ignore your mistakes?
  • not judge you?
  • be soft on you?
  • have empathy with you?

Really? Do you really believe that?

Honestly, I am not apologising for breaking the truth to you now.

Turn the situation around, someone else and not you is continually apologising for his or her bad English.

Which impressions do you have about that person? ‘The person seems unconfident and weak.

What are you concentrating on now? ‘The mistakes.’

How do you feel about hearing these apologies? ‘Annoyed and wishing the person would finally take action to improve instead of whining.

These are the replies I got from the course members, who were slightly embarrassed by their views. You all want to fit in and be admired by apologising for your mistakes and you hope you will still be liked. However, you don’t realise that you are digging your own grave. You start to concentrate on your mistakes as well and thus prevent your English from flowing. It’s crucial that you break the cycle.

Do not apologise for your English!

What can you do then?

  • purchase grammar exercise books and courses
  • learn all commonly used phrases for emailing, telephoning, presenting, negotiating and meetings
  • watch and listen to English programmes

Well, depending on the language level you are at and what you actually want to achieve, these measures can help some learners of English because you’ll feel more confident when you’ve done something to improve. It’s like when you watch a workout video on YouTube, you feel like you’ve been active yourself. You’ve guessed it, these measures alone will not change the way you communicate.

Your communication in English is what you have to focus on.

Forget about using sophisticated vocabulary and complex grammar structures. Use language your listeners will understand instead. Your words will be remembered because your audience understood them immediately and didn’t have to look them up. Believe me, they will love you for it. For some reason we tend to overcomplicate many things in life. Especially our communication. Possibly, because we believe it has to sound like legal code to be taken seriously. That’s not true and that’s the reason why many people apologise and do not improve.

Do you want to connect with your audience and leave a positive impact?

In that case, follow these steps:

  • focus on your goal, on what you want to achieve
  • structure your ideas by putting them into an order, which will be easy for your listeners to follow
  • think of your listener’s why and what you’d like them to do
  • listen actively
  • watch the people around you carefully and see what you can learn from them
  • stop whining and looking for excuses
  • change your attitude
  • stay open-minded
  • work on your mindset
  • stop looking for shortcuts, which don’t exist

 

Do you want help to implement these steps?

Your best option is to schedule a free 20 minute call. At the end of the call, you will find out how we will work together on improving  your English communication skills. Yvette, my business partner, and I have helped many other learners of English get their point across. Let us help you do the same and bring your English communication skills to the next level.

Take care 

Nadia

 

Click here to schedule a call now!

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do! You can connect with me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

 

3 tasks to do in December

3 tasks to do in December

Tomorrow is already December, can you believe it?

For some people that might seem to be quite a shock. Over the past decades I’ve come across two types of end-of-year people. People who behave differently in December. Possibly because they have too many tasks to do in December.

What kind of end-of-year person are you?

Are you …
the calm, relaxed and at ease type, who is more focussed on next year’s projects?

or the stressed type, who still has to finish so many things and wants to use the season to generate sales?

Of course which stereotype you relate to depends on your mindset and the circumstances around you, like the people you have to work with.

No matter which kind of stereotype you are, these are the three December to-do tasks :

Task 1:

Combine networking and your seasonal greetings. Think of the people you’ve met during this year at events you’ve attended. Contact them with an end-of-year or Christmas message. Use this opportunity to touch base with them, this will make them happy and feel important. In your message you could mention where you met and ask which event they are planning to attend next year. Possibly even suggest to meet up again.

Task 2:

Think of yourself. Someone once told me, he always gets himself a present, because he wants to be sure to have one of his wishes fulfilled. Maybe you are thinking of investing in a professional training. If so, then consider that some training providers have special offers this time of the year. Decide which kind of training you’d like. Is it self-development, time management or would you like to focus on your communication skills? If you’re considering to book a training to improve your English communication skills, then I’d recommend signing up for the English Advent Calendar, starting tomorrow. It’s free of charge and it’s a good opportunity to get to know us, without any obligations. You even have the chance of winning a 60 minute 1 to 1 online training with us in 2019.

Task 3:

This task consists of two parts:

First of all reflect on 2018. Think of what has worked out really well this year. Which goals have you achieved?What did not work out well this year? Why? What can you do to improve that? Which lessons have you learned?

Second plan 2019. I know how difficult it is to plan a whole year in advance. You don’t have to, if it’s too challenging. Plan the first three months instead. Set your goals for 2019 and break them down into achievable steps. Otherwise you might be overwhelmed and frustrated sooner than you think.

That wraps it up for today

I hope you’ve found these three tasks for your to-do list useful.

I’d love to connect with you and get to know you, you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter.

Have a wonderful time and take care

Nadia

PS Sign up for the calendar here.

PPS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

Building Habits

Make a habit out of it! & How can I build habits?

Some people say you need 21 days to build a habit. Others say it takes 30 and yet others say 60 days. The time needed might not be the most important factor for building good habits. If you’ve ever tried to break a bad habit, like smoking, you might know what I’m talking about. Saying goodbye to old routines, like having a cigarette with a cup of coffee or after a meal, can be really challenging. However, it’s not impossible! So, adapting and building new good habits is just as possible.

I’ve just started reading a brilliant book about building habits called Atomic Habits* by James Clear. It’s available on Amazon and if you want to buy it, you can use the affiliate link*. If you’d like more information about the author then check out his website here. James even gives you the possibility to download a free chapter of his book. This book is full of useful advice, which can help everyone build good habits and break bad ones. I recommend you check it out for yourself, as I haven’t finished it yet.

Nonetheless, here are a few useful tips and insights on what you need to have and to do in order to build habits:

  1. Patience

    This trait helps all of us through any kind of situation. I’ll admit it’s difficult to remain patient when you’re pressed for time. In such situations, taking a few deep breaths usually helps. You need to be patient with yourself. Giving yourself a hard time will make you feel miserable and won’t get you on track. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a good habit.

  2. Keep it doable

    This is why you’ll need patience with yourself. Most of us tend to overestimate ourselves and then try to go too fast. As an example, let’s say you want to improve your English skills. You know the best way to do that is to practice regularly, preferably on a daily basis. Decide on the doable amount of time you will spend on building this habit. I recommend ten minutes, which can be split into two five-minute periods if you cannot manage the ten minutes per day. James even suggests cutting it down to even smaller time frames, at least for the beginning.

  3. Keep track

    When I started building my exercise habit, I blocked time for it in my calendar. I knew if I did that, I’d get it done. Plan the habit you want to build. Have you ever felt a satisfying sensation of crossing out a task on your to-do list? Then you will feel a similar sensation when you track your habit. You can do this in your calendar or you make a habit tracker in your journal. If you do miss a day, make sure it’s only once and not twice.

  4. Consistency

    This is not always easy. But, if you stay focussed on your goal and visualise the result you want to achieve, it will keep you on track. Having an accountability buddy can be very helpful, especially if you have the same goal. It helped me a lot when I gave up smoking. Another possibility is to tell your friends about your goal. They will ask you how you are progressing and by doing that you’ll have more than one accountability buddy.

  5. Will power

    Personally, I believe this is the most important factor. At least it is for me. Ask yourself: “How much do you really want to achieve your goal?” Then answer the question: “What is stopping you?” Time limitations? No. Set your priorities and face the truth: you are stopping yourself. What are you waiting for? Go for it.

  6. Motivation

    Celebrate your achieved steps, no matter how small they are. Be proud of yourself for sticking to your plan. Once you’ve achieved a milestone like 21, 30 or 60 days in a row, you should be seeing some results. At this stage, your results will start to become your biggest motivation.

Now these aspects are guidelines. They apply to all areas in life. It doesn’t matter which habit you want to build. There is one thing you should consider if you fail. Possibly you tried the wrong approach. Let’s say you want to read more, but you just do not enjoy reading. Maybe you enjoy listening. Then grab the audio version. Find your way to make building a good habit enjoyable and you will have implemented your new habit into your everyday life with ease.

Which habit are you integrating?

Are you thinking of refreshing your English skills on a daily basis? But you’re not sure how to do that? Well, your worries are over. Yvette and I have come up with a 24-day habit creator calendar. As this post is going online end of November, it’s called Your English Advent Calendar. Some information is Christmas themed.

The positive aspects of this 24 day calendar are, it’s:

  • Free of charge
  • Doable as your tasks will only take a few minutes
  • Daily and conveniently delivered to your email in-box
  • Accountability is provided, if you want it, in a secret Facebook group or by posting your daily tasks on Instagram using the #yeac2018
  • Educational as each email contains useful bits of information in English (e.g. useful vocabulary, cultural information, writing tips & more!)
  • Motivational because if you stick to it and you post your daily task in the group or on Instagram, you have the chance of winning a prize

What you have to do to:

  • Don’t miss the opportunity
  • Decide to try it out
  • Sign up here
  • Enjoy it!

If you have any questions just let me know. You’ll find me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Of course, you can just schedule a call with me tooClick here to schedule a call now!

Would you like to have a habit tracker? You can download one here, which you can print out or just keep as a pdf document.

Take care

Nadia 

PS Sign up for the calendar here.

PPS Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

 

Avoid Making Mistakes

Making Mistakes

One of the top questions I’m asked regularly in my English communication courses is “How can I avoid making mistakes?”.  That’s why I’d like to share my thoughts with you on how you can avoid making common mistakes if you are a learner of English as a second language.

The first step …

… is to accept that you are making mistakes. It is the essential part of learning. I get many shocked looks from my students when I tell them making mistakes is OK. One of my favourite quotes is “I don’t fail, I learn.” So consider each mistake a possibility to learn and improve. Don’t be hard on yourself if you make mistakes. That attitude will result in feeling bad, uncomfortable using English and result in avoiding all English communication, which would be a pity. 

The second step …

… is to gain awareness. Ask yourself where are you making mistakes? Is it when you are speaking or when you are writing or both? What kind of mistakes are you making? Pinpointing this is not only extremely helpful, it is essential. You want to find out the reasons you are making mistakes so you cannot only avoid them, but preferably stop making them. So instead of just trying not to make mistakes learn how to identify what is causing you to make them and stop making them in the first place.

It’s all about awareness

Speaking from my own language learning experience, I used to hate it when my teachers only corrected my mistakes but never cared why I was making them. I wanted to identify what I could do to stop making them. Let me give you an example. I grew up learning three languages. Although nobody had the impression I was sometimes confused about which language to use, trust me when I tell you I was confused about a few things more than once. The main confusion occurred when trying to differentiate between English and German, as these languages do have similar words but there are words that have the same pronunciation but are written differently and have a different meaning. In school when learning numbers, I remember a task everybody had to do. It was writing the numbers in a word and not in a figure. Maybe you remember having to do that too. It’s a simple exercise to help you memorise how a word is spelt.

You write the word several times and eventually you have memorised it.

My problem occurred at the number 9 (nine). It sounds just like the German word “no”, which is spelt “nein”. That was the spelling I had used.  Unfortunately, my teacher back then didn’t recognise the problem because she didn’t speak any German. To make a long story short, my mom identified the reason behind this mistake and I’ve never made it again. I had made this mistake because I was growing up multilingually. These kinds of mistakes occur because of the influence another language has on you. Most people are not confronted with learning a second language until kindergarten or grade school. Somewhere between the ages of three to eight might be when they have their first contact with a second language. In Germany the first second language taught in the first four years of school is English. The older you are when learning a second language the more influence your native language has.

Here are some examples:

Possibly in the pronunciation …

… e.g. think of the “th” sound some non-native English speakers find difficult to pronounce. In contrast non-native German speakers have problems pronouncing the “ch” correctly in German, because it is pronounced differently.

Possibly in grammar …

… e.g. when speaking about something that happened a few days ago in English we do not use the word “for”. However, in German the word “vor”, which has the same pronunciation is often mistaken for the correct English word “ago”. Native German speakers might say “I had breakfast for three hours” when they actually want to say “I had breakfast three hours ago”

Possibly in vocabulary …

… you can find good examples of what I mean in my post about “False Friends and How to Avoid Them”, just klick the title to read more.

Another aspect to consider is the awareness of people’s cultural background, their expectations and reactions. My students are somewhat shocked when I tell them, which answers native English speaking colleagues or business contacts expect to hear when they ask “How are you?” This question is used as a prolonged hello and is not enquiring about your health. So please keep it short, don’t go into details and ask back to keep the conversation going. If you answer in full detail, chances are your conversation partner might just end the conversation before it actually started.

“What if I don’t realise the mistakes I’m making?”

In that case your best option is to …

… contact an expert, who will identify those mistakes and give you feedback on how to stop making them. Your worst option is to do nothing. 

Contact me here for a free 20 minute call. After our call I will tell you what you can do to stop making mistakes and improve your English communication skills.

 

In a nutshell, follow these steps

  1. Accept that you will make mistakes along the way and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  2. Become aware of your mistakes, find out where they come from, understand them and stop making them.
  3. Schedule a free 20 minute call and I will tell you what you can do to stop making mistakes and improve your English communication skills.

I’m looking forward to our call.

Take care 

Nadia

Click here to schedule a call now!

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do! You can connect with me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.