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5 Business Meeting Ice Breakers for ESL Learners

April 14, 2017

How do you start a business meeting? This is a difficult question for executives and professionals to answer. What about starting a business meeting in English when it’s not your native language? This is even more difficult! We have some ideas for meeting ice breakers that will start your meeting off well. Before using these ice breakers, however, make sure that your English skills are as high as possible: with CISL’s Executive English courses, students are in a classroom of no more than 4 students and have the opportunity to perfect their communication skills regarding their profession.

Business Meeting Ice Breakers for ESL Learners

One topic; one word

Present an idea or a topic to the meeting attendants. The topic should be related to the meeting’s agenda somehow; for example, if you’re meeting to discuss hiring a new employee, the topic can be the question, “What describes a good resume?” Every person in the meeting must think of one word to answer. Then, the person can discuss his or her answer after giving the one word.

Useful language: Each person must explain in detail why he or she chose the one word. For this reason, everyone will need to use conjunctions (words like “because” and “therefore”). Check out our article on conjunctions for ways to use these connecting words.

Career Highlight

Ask everyone in the room to share a moment when they felt very proud of their work. This is a great way to hear about each person’s interests and passions with their job!

Useful language: Both the Simple Past and Past Continuous are useful when speaking about career highlights.

The Lunch Question

Ask everyone this famous question: “If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?”

Useful language: Unreal Conditionals are useful for answering this question. For this answer, use the following construction:

If + subject + modal could + base verb, subject + modal would + base verb

If I could have lunch with anyone, I would choose . . .

Check out our articles on conditionals for more information on the Zero Conditional, First Conditional, Second Conditional, and Third Conditional.

Who would you have lunch with if you could have lunch with anyone?

Book Recommendation

Ask everyone to share a book they are currently reading, or a book that they recommend, and share why they think this book is important.

Useful language: Modals for recommendations are useful in this situation. Check out our article on Modals for Giving Advice for more info!

Need some book recommendations? Check out our article on great books for English learners!

A Career Goal

Ask everyone to share something they would like to accomplish in the next year (and why). This is an excellent way to learn about each person’s aspirations!

Useful language: When speaking about the future, we can use many tenses. The most common are WILL and BE GOING TO of the Simple Future, but because we are talking about a specific point in time in the future, we can also use the Future Perfect Tense.

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CISL Executive English graduate. Another CISL student success story (from an already successful person)!

CISL’s Premier English Programs include San Diego’s Executive English and San Francisco’s Global Success. For more information on these intensive programs for the business professional, contact CISL

Business English Featured Idioms and expressions

English Business Idioms with Animals

March 8, 2017
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The famous “Charging Bull” statue, located in the Financial District of Manhattan, has become a symbol of Wall Street. It’s also a symbol of one of the most common English business idioms with animals!

Animals probably do not belong in the workplace . . . but why are there so many English business idioms with animals? It seems as if animals are the perfect way to express some of the situations and experiences in business. Want to learn about English business idioms with animals? Keep reading! How many of these can YOU use in your workplace, or in the CISL Business English classroom?

English business idioms with animals

Bear market

English business idioms with animals

In a bear market, investors sell portions of their investments in companies.

Definition: a market in which share prices* are falling, encouraging selling

Example: They are predicting a bear market the end of this year.

*shares are the pieces of a company that are owned by the public. When people buy and sell on the stock market, they are buying and selling “shares.” 

Bull market

English business idioms with animals

A bull market is great for companies, whose stock prices often rise considerably. 

Definition: a market in which share prices are rising, encouraging buying

Example: Because of the bull market this month, we invested heavily in three new technology companies.

Cash cow

English business idioms with animals

The cash cow is different for each company or business. In Hollywood, for example, Adam Sandler comedies and Jennifer Aniston romantic comedies are cash cows (despite critics always saying the movies are terrible)!

Definition: someone or something that makes a lot of money for a business, organization, etc.

Example: She owns a yoga studio, but her real cash cow is the studio’s cafe, which earns most of the profits.

Eager beaver

English business idioms with animals

“Hard work gets you more work” is a common expression. Is it a good thing to be an eager beaver? What do you think?

Definition: a person who is extremely zealous about performing duties and volunteering for more

Example: He was an eager beaver when we first hired him, but lately he’s been much less productive.

Fat cats

English business idioms with animals

Now that’s a fat cat!

Definition 1:  a wealthy contributor to a political campaign fund

Example: The politician invited all of the fat cats to his fundraiser in the hopes that they would contribute to his future campaign.

Definition 2:  a wealthy and privileged person

Example: All of the fat cats from Wall Street live in this neighborhood.

Lame duck

English business idioms with animals

“OK . . . which of you is the lame one?”

Definition: one that is weak or that falls behind in ability or achievement; an ailing company (used more commonly in British English)

Examples:

Note: a “lame duck” is also used in politics to refer to the last few months of a President’s term before the new President takes over.

Lion’s share

English business idioms with animals

The lion’s share comes from Aesop’s fables. Do you know one of the many versions of this story?

Definition: the largest portion of something

Example: We take the lion’s share of the profits and invest them back into the company.

Example: We made a huge sale today! I gave the lion’s share of the credit to my business partner because she did most of the work.

Monkey business

English business idioms with animals

“No monkey business, you guys!”

Definition 1: playful tricks or jokes

Example: No monkey business while the boss is gone!

Definition 2: illegal or improper activity or behavior

Example: They looked at the company’s portfolio, and it seems as if there is some monkey business happening in accounting.

Top dog

English business idioms with animals

He think he’s top dog . . . but maybe the cat disagrees!

Definition: a person, group, or thing in a position of authority especially through victory in a hard-fought competition

Example: My second interview with the company is tomorrow, and it’s with the top dog. I’m nervous!

All photos from Pixabay except “Charging Bull,” which is from Flickr.

Business English CISL Premier English Featured Vocabulary

CISL Premier English + Meeting Management Language

February 22, 2017

With CISL’s Premier English courses, professional, business-minded students perfect their English skills in a productive CISL environment (and in a class of no more than 4 students)! Students of these intensive courses (Executive English in San Diego and Global Success in San Francisco) go on (or go back to!) successful careers in their prospective fields. At their companies, these professionals are expected to conduct meetings and correspond in English. The meeting management language provided below is an example of the communicative skills CISL teaches in its Premier courses.

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Meeting Management Language

Opening the meeting

Thank you everyone for coming. I’d like to conduct/do some brief introductions before we begin the meeting . . .

Hello, everyone. For those of you who do not know me, my name is _____ and I am the _____ . . . .

Good morning/afternoon, everyone. I’d like to begin by asking if everyone has a copy of the meeting agenda . . .

Hello, all. I’ve called you here today because . . .

Asking for opinions

What’s your take on . . . ?

What do you think about . . . ?

What is your opinion regarding . . . ?

Agreeing

I’m in complete agreement with you.

I couldn’t agree more.

I concur.

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Meeting management language is effective in beginning meetings, keeping the conversation flowing, and closing/producing follow up.

Politely disagreeing

I see where you’re coming from; however, . . .

I’m not sure if I’m convinced . . .

I have doubts about . . .

We have some legitimate concerns regarding . . .

Moving to another topic of conversation

Great. Well, shall we move on to discuss . . . ?

If no one has anything else to add, let’s move on to discussing . . .

OK. Regarding the next item on our agenda,  . . .

Ending the meeting

We’ve now covered everything on our agenda, so this concludes our meeting. To follow up, I’d like to . . . .

Thank you again for taking the time to attend this meeting. As a follow up, I propose . . .

Again, thank you for your input during today’s meeting. We will have a copy of the meeting notes emailed to everyone later today, and we will plan to meet again on (date) to discuss . . .

 

Further Reading

Need some more Business English practice? Check out some of our other articles:

 

 

Business English Career English Featured

Five Common Interview Questions for CISL Career English Students

February 16, 2017

CISL’s Career English students work closely with the Career English Coordinator to find the host company that meets their professional goals. Students also work with the Career English Coordinator to prepare for their interview, which all students must complete before being accepted to a host company. An interview? Yikes! To many, this is intimidating in their native language . . . but it’s exceptionally intimidating in English! Before going on your interview, make sure that you know how to answer these five common interview questions.

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Five common interview questions

#1: Tell me a little about yourself

What they’re looking for: This is one of the typical questions to begin an interview. The interviewer is allowing you to “break the ice”: to warm up a little, speak about yourself and your background, and maybe include some of your interests.

Tips: Don’t speak too long . . . but don’t give a short answer either! Tell the interviewer where you are from, what you are doing in California, and how long you’ve been here. You can also include a little about your academic and professional background.

Example language: It’s a good idea to learn some phrasal verbs and idioms that make your speech natural.

  • I was born in Berlin, but I grew up in Munich.
  • I’m a fourth-generation Venezuelan living in Spain.
  • I have a passion for design and I’m a huge anime fan, so I majored in Graphic Arts at college.

#2: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

What they’re looking for: How well can you describe what you’re good at (and what you’re not so good at)? In most cases, the interviewer is looking for honesty when speaking about your weaknesses and humility when speaking of your strengths.

Tips: This is one of those questions that is really difficult to answer, so be sure to think of your answers before your interview . . . and be honest! Try to avoid cliche phrases like “I’m a hard worker.” This is boring and unoriginal.

Another tip? Don’t give a “weakness” that is actually a strength. This is called “humble bragging,” and it’s really annoying! An example of a humble brag is this: “I would say that one of my faults is that I’m always early. I’m always the first one to arrive at work in the morning and to arrive at every meeting. It makes everyone else feel like they’re behind me.” That’s not speaking of a fault: it’s speaking of a part of your character and trying to make yourself sound good!

Example language: Language of speculation is used here: words such “I suppose” and “X could be considered” are useful.

  • I suppose my greatest weakness is that I tend to take charge of group projects. I need to work on my teamwork a little and be more trusting of my colleagues.
  • One of my strengths is my loyalty to my co-workers and my company.

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#3: What was your favorite/least favorite thing about your last job?

What they’re looking for: An answer to this question helps the interviewer get a picture of your ideal workplace.

Useful tips: Don’t speak poorly about your former co-workers or boss, but be honest.

Example language:

  • I loved my old job, but I was unhappy with the hours I worked. I would prefer a more set schedule and more weekends off.
  • The best thing about my last job was that they trained me very well. I felt very prepared on my first day.

#4: Where do you see yourself in five years?

What they’re looking for: Are you a person who has personal and professional goals and a clear vision? If so, then you can easily speak of your plans for the next few years!

Useful tips: Be clear and specific. What do you aspire to, and how will you achieve these goals?

Example language:

  • In the next five years, I definitely see myself . . .
  • I’d love to . . . . in the next few years.
  • I’ll most certainly . . .

#5: Why did you leave your last job?

What they’re looking for: Can you diplomatically explain why you chose to leave your last company? This is a skill necessary for competent and capable employees.

Useful tips: Sometimes you left for a logical reason: you moved, you got a new job offer, etc. Sometimes, it just wasn’t the right fit for you. Be honest, but don’t give too many details.

Example language:

  • I loved my old job, but I didn’t see much ability for advancement in my position.
  • I left my position because I moved here.

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#5: Do you have any questions for me?

What they’re looking for: Did you do your research about the company? This is your chance to show this!

Useful tips: Do some research ahead of time, and come to the interview prepared!

Example language:

  • I do! On your website I saw . . .
  • I certainly do. I was wondering if . . .
  • Sure! Could you please explain . . .

For more information on how to enroll in CISL’s Career English program and gain experience with an American company, contact CISL!

Business English Career English CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Featured Vocabulary

Sales Vocabulary + CISL’s Career English Program

January 24, 2017

CISL is proud to offer students the Career English program, where students master business English and communication skills before spending time in an American company. Past students have experienced architecture, marketing, event planning, and even real estate through CISL!

One of the most requested areas of interest for students is sales and marketing. Do you know these common sales and marketing related terms and expressions?

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Sales and Marketing Vocabulary

Cold call

Definition: (verb, noun) to call a person or company that you do not have relations in hope of beginning a new business relationship.

Example: We estimate that 70% of our cold calls are not successful . . . but 30% are!

Example: The first time I cold called someone when I was at my host company, I was so nervous! But my English got better each time I did.

Conduct (research)

Meaning: (collocation) to do research (on the market, customers, competitors, etc.)

Example: We conducted extensive research before choosing our logo.

To close (a deal/sale)

Meaning: (verb) to finalize an agreement or sale.

Example: After closing the deal, we celebrated with a little champagne!

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Follow up

Meaning: (phrasal verb) to make contact with someone after a meeting.

Example: He made a follow up call to see if they were still interested in the product.

Implement

Meaning: (verb) to begin something, to put a plan into effect.

Example: They implemented their new marketing plan in January 2017.

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Innovative

Meaning: (adjective) original, advanced (ideas, plans, etc.)

Example: Her innovative marketing plan led to her promotion.

Lead

Meaning: (noun) a tip; a potential client or sale.

Example: I have three leads to look into today.

Optimize

Meaning: (verb) to make something better; reach its potential.

Example: After optimizing the website, we saw sales increase by 15%.

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Profitability

Meaning: (adjective) the ability to make money/be profitable.

Example: They were worried about the profitability of the new product, but in the end it was incredibly successful.

ROI

Meaning: (phrase, acronym) “return on investment.”

Example: The ROI on social media marketing is becoming easier to track.

Strategic

Meaning: (adjective) carefully planned; with purpose.

Example: They asked us to design a strategic sales plan . . . in two hours!

For more information on CISL’s Career English, contact the CISL Career English Coordinator.