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American Business Traditions + Common English Business Idioms

July 15, 2017

Business English is more than just learning the language, phrasal verbs, and vocabulary that you need to be confident in a professional setting: it also includes learning the American business traditions that you need to know in order to conduct business in the U.S.! Do you know these American business traditions? See how they differ from the business traditions in your country.

American Business Traditions + Common English Business Idioms

 

American Business Traditions

The handshake: an important first impression

The handshake is your first impression in business and it is considered VERY important. Make sure that during a handshake you:

  • Hold the person’s hand firmly
  • Look the person in the eye
  • Smile
  • Saying something such as “nice to meet you” or “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Formal names and titles

Before meeting with the person, make sure that you know their full name . . . but always use “Mr” and “Ms” when you first meet them. If the person has a title, such as “President” or “Doctor” or “Professor,” use this title + the person’s last name. Here are some examples:

  • It’s a pleasure to meet you, Professor Smith.
  • Nice to meet you, Doctor Jones.
  • Pleased to meet you, Vice President Roberts.

If the person prefers for you to use his or her first name, they will tell you. Usually, please say “Please, call me [first name].”

Dress to impress

It is true that Silicon Valley has a reputation of companies that accept very casual attire (think about Mark Zuckerberg, for example: he always wears a grey shirt!). However, in traditional business settings, it is important to dress professionally. For men, this often means a tie and a long-sleeved dress shirt; for women, this can mean nice slacks or a skirt and a dress shirt.

American Business Traditions + Common English Business Idioms

Forget gifts; remember hand-written notes

In the U.S., gifts can be seen as bribes (gifts you give someone to persuade them to make a decision). Instead, try to be thoughtful: send a hand-written note after the meeting and thank the person for his or her time, and suggest an opportunity to meet again.

American Business Traditions + Common English Business Idioms

Business cards before or after

Business card culture in the U.S. is very casual. Once you meet the person and get settled (sit down, take out your meeting notes) you can present your card; sometimes, this is something people do at the end of the meeting. The only thing that is important is giving your card when the other person does. If you’re unsure, wait to see when the other person gives you his or her card, then do the same.

If the card has an interesting design or logo, it is appropriate for you to give the person a compliment.

Smiles, eye contact

Body language is very important during a meeting. Be sure to smile, look at the person when they are speaking, and make eye contact. Avoid using your phone, and take notes if you can. Make sure that your phone is turned on silent so that it does not ring or buzz during your meeting.

Lunch meetings are productive

Lunch can be lunch . . . or, it can be an opportunity to discuss business. In American culture, it’s very common for people to have a productive lunch meeting where they eat together and talk about business plans.

American Business Traditions + Common English Business Idioms

Avoid smoking

Of course, there are some people in the U.S. who smoke, but many do not. It is considered rude to smoke without asking the people around you if it bothers them: to be safe, leave your cigarettes in your bag and wait until after the meeting.American Business Traditions + Common English Business Idioms

Common Business Idioms

Do you know these common business idioms?

To talk about similarities

To be in the same boat

Definition: to be in a similar situation.

To be on the same page

Definition: to understand someone; to agree with someone.

To talk about strategies

To cut corners

Definition: to not do things thoroughly; to not follow the normal steps for a process or project.

Game plan

Definition: a plan of action for a project.

To meet someone halfway

Definition: to compromise.

To think outside of the box

Definition: to think creatively.

Trade-off

Definition: to sacrifice something in order to gain something else; to compromise.

To talk about struggles/difficulties

A long shot

Definition: something that has very little chance of success.

To be between a rock and a hard place

Definition: to have the choice between two difficult decisions, both with outcomes that are not ideal.

To go out of one’s way (to do something)

Definition: to give extra effort, resources, etc. to help someone.

To have one’s head underwater

Definition: to feel overwhelmed, unprepared.

Converse International School of Languages in San Diego and San Francisco provides Business English classes with no more than 8 students per class (an average of 7 students) to help you improve your English skills for the workplace. If you need more intensive practice, CISL’s Premier English Executive Programs for professionals offer intensive instruction with 4-student classes focused on your career’s required English skills. Watch our testimonials below to hear about the success CISL students experience in our small classrooms and intensive curriculum. 

Contact CISL to learn more about our San Diego Executive English Program and our San Francisco Global Success Program and to begin the next phase of your career: conducting business confidently in English! 

 

Cambridge Exams CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco

5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking The Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam

July 8, 2017

Are you taking the Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam soon? Studying can be stressful, and so is test day! How should you study? What should you study? And what should you expect on test day? There are so many questions students have! Here are 5 things you need to know before taking the Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking The Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam

There is a right way to study

Cambridge CAE and FCE exams have four official parts: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. In each of these parts (called “modules”), there are many smaller parts; for example, Reading and Use of English for FCE has 7 parts (8 for CAE); Speaking has 4 parts, Listening has 4 . . . it’s a complicated test! Many students do not know where to begin.

Self-study is possible using the materials Cambridge has purchased. However, with such a complex test and so many parts, students often get confused . . . plus, there is no way to improve your speaking with self-study. A qualified instructor is necessary to help you understand each part of the test and the tips and tricks for passing each section. A teacher will also help you improve your pronunciation and speaking confidence.

On test day, know what to bring (and what not to bring)

Make sure you bring your valid photo ID, pencils, and erasers to the test. Electronics cannot be brought into the room, so if you want to watch the time, bring a watch (or use the clock that will be in the room). Food and drinks are also not allowed.

For more information, read these documents about Exam Day Tips for the paper-based test and the Speaking Module. They are from Cambridge ESOL.

Exam Day Tips, Paper-Based Test

Exam Day Tips, Speaking Module

You can also read Cambridge’s official Summary of Test Day Regulations for Candidates.

Understanding the test format saves time

Picture this: the Speaking Module recording begins, and the beginning of the recording is the instructions for the test. If you know the test rules, you do not have to listen to this portion of the test: instead, you have extra time to read the contents of the test.

For some, the test format is a little strange; for example, in the CAE Reading and Use of English Part 4, you must rewrite a sentence. Half of the new sentence is already written: you must use one given word plus 2-5 more words to complete the second sentence. What a strange format! If you know this in advance and have practiced this many times, this section is not a problem . . . but if you’ve only seen it a few times, you will probably have to read the instructions again. This is a waste of precious time.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking The Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam

When you consider that the entire test has many different parts (and that each part has different instructions and rules), then you see how understanding the test format saves time.

You can request your partner for the Speaking Module

Did you know that you can request your partner for the Speaking Module? You can! Talk to your Cambridge instructor about how to do this.

If you do not request your partner, you can still know who your assigned partner is before the speaking test. This gives you time to meet your partner and practice, which is very important to do before test day.

If you are assigned a partner who is very shy, check out our article on How To Deal With A Shy Speaking Test Partner.

Knowing what Cambridge wants will improve your score

Many parts of the Cambridge Exams (like Writing and Speaking) are not “right” or “wrong”; therefore, they are graded by trained teachers. But how are these instructors grading your test? Knowing what Cambridge wants will improve your score.

For example, the Writing Module is graded on the following:

Content (Did you answer the prompt? Did you include enough information?)

Communicative Achievement (Did you create the letter, report, review, essay, etc. as you were instructed? Did you correctly present your ideas to the reader?)

Organisation (Are your sentences and paragraphs well connected?)

Language (Did you use appropriate vocabulary, and a wide range of vocabulary? Did you use varying and complex sentence structures?).

A good Cambridge instructor will base his or her lessons on these things so that you have the tools you need to succeed in each module. Once you have these tools, you will use them as you write . . . and your score will improve.

Converse International School of Languages has been a trusted Cambridge Testing Centre for over 25 years and is proud to provide quality English instruction in small classes (no more than 8 students). To learn more about our Cambridge FCE and CAE programs, contact us.

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Career English CISL San Diego Social Media Student Articles

Career English Student Success: Hyebin’s Talent Scout and Marketing Experience!

May 5, 2017

CISL’s Career English program allows international students to master English skills and then spend time with an American company. Our student Hyebin recently completed the Career English course by spending time with Gaslamp Event Management, a marketing company that also is a talent management company for models. Hyebin provided us with some information about her experience with the Career English program and her time with GEM.

Hyebin remembers the interviews before her placement. “I had two interviews. One was for B Green Foods and the other was for GEM.” She says that she “searched about the companies in advance,” but of course she was anxious! Hyebin remembers that “it was my first job interview, so I was nervous, but both were casual interviews, so it was comfortable for me.”

In the end, Hyebin’s chose Gaslamp Event Management, a company located downtown just five minutes from the CISL campus.

What did she do each day? “At first, I made tickets which were for Saint Patrick’s Day. After preparing tickets for 1 week, I sold them on Saint Patrick’s Day. There was a booth in front of a bar, so it was good for meeting a lot of customers.”

What an awesome opportunity to speak English with native English speakers!

Hyebin’s responsibilities also included working with models. “My CE placement was also a model agency, so I was a talent scout & manager. Every day, I received a lot of application letters and I invited them to our interview. In addition, I was in charge of Downtown Dolls’ social media marketing.” She states that “experiencing many tasks was good for me. As I mentioned, I was a talent scout & manager, so I had to respond to application letters so it was good for improving my writing skills . . . I managed Downtown Dolls’ official website and social media sites. I could do a real social media marketing.”

When looking back on her experience, Hyebin is very pleased. “My boss and colleagues were friendly. I was the only one who couldn’t speak English fluently. Every time when I didn’t understand what they were saying to me, they told me again and helped me. They encouraged me and I could work happily. I was satisfied with my CE program.”

Would Hyebin recommend this program to others? Absolutely! She says “I would recommend CISL’s Career English program to potential students who want to experience real tasks at a company. You can learn English and experience many things and meet nice people. It will definitely be worth it.”

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Hyebin! We are so happy that you enjoyed your time at your company and that your English improved!

California Life CISL San Diego Featured Idioms and expressions San Diego San Diego Travel Tips

English Expressions with “Warm” + San Diego’s (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

April 18, 2017

English Expressions with "Warm" + San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

San Diego is warm nearly all year, but as the temperatures increase, we are reminded just how perfect the SD weather is! This month we are looking at some expressions with “warm” to celebrate the coming of summer. We are also looking at San Diego’s weather temperature averages throughout the year to show how ideal the SD weather is . . . from January to December!

Expressions with “Warm”

Housewarming (party)

Definition: a party to celebrate when someone moves into a new apartment or house.

Example: Are you going to Sarah’s housewarming party? She just moved to a new place in Little Italy!

We can also use housewarming + gift/present to talk about the present we give someone at a housewarming party.

Example: I bought her a new cheese plate as a housewarming gift.

Warm body

Definition: any person; someone needed to be present in order to be counted.

Example: The director needed a few warm bodies for the scene, so he asked the people at the beach if they wanted to be in the movie.

Warm the bench/bench warmer

Definition: to be a part of the team but not play.

Example: He warmed the bench for most of the game.

We also call the person who warms the bench a “bench warmer.”

Example: I played baseball when I was young, but I was not very good. In fact, I was a bench warmer most of the time.

Warm regards

Definition: a polite way to end an email or letter.

Example:

Warm regards,

Sarah

For examples of ways to begin emails or letters, check out our article on Beginning an Email in English.

Warm up to (someone/something)

Definition: to begin liking someone or something when you didn’t at first.

Example: He’s warming up to the idea of getting a dog.

Warm welcome

Definition: greeting someone; being very happy to see him or her.

Example: What a warm welcome from my host family! They had a big BBQ for me and I got to meet all of my neighbors.

English Expressions with "Warm" + San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

San Diego’s (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

How good is the weather in SD? It’s pretty amazing! Holiday Weather provides excellent statistics on the average monthly temperatures for San Diego. While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is freezing in the winter, San Diego is enjoying not only warm temperatures, but many sunny days; it’s not uncommon for people to be at the beach several weekends during January and February!

English Expressions with "Warm" + San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

In the chart below, we can see the average high and low temperatures. San Diego stays consistently warm in the winter months, so although you need a jacket at night, it doesn’t have to be a huge parka!

San English Expressions with "Warm" + San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

The Pacific Ocean gets significantly warmer in the summer months, but with a wet suit, San Diego’s surfers can be in the water all year.

English Expressions with "Warm" + San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

To see more statistics about the San Diego weather, check out Holiday-Weather.com.

CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Featured Vocabulary

Phrasal Verbs for the ESL classroom

February 7, 2017

Phrasal verbs are an important part of the English language, and we find them used in the business setting, while using public transportation, when talking about love, and–you guessed it–in the classroom! Academia is common place for phrasal verbs: read on to learn more about phrasal verbs for the ESL classroom!

Phrasal Verbs ESL classroom

Phrasal verbs for the ESL classroom

Some of these phrasal verbs have more than one meaning. In this case, we are looking at the definition that is used with the context of an ESL class.

Catch on

Meaning: to understand a concept.

Examples:

  • Your CAE Speaking score has really improved. It seems like you’re really catching on!
  • It was difficult at first to learn a new trolley route when I arrived in SD, however, after two weeks I’ve caught on.

Note: this phrasal verb is intransitive (it does not require/take an object). To learn more about intransitive vs. transitive phrasal verbs, check out our article on Grammar Lesson of the Month on phrasal verbs. 

Hand out

Meaning: to distribute (usually papers).

Examples:

  • The teacher handed out the test to everyone and then we began taking it.
  • Before my presentation, I handed an outline out to each classmate.

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and hence is optionally separable. The second example shows how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Phrasal Verbs ESL classroom

Hand in/Turn in

Meaning: to submit (usually papers/homework).

Examples:

  • We all handed in our tests before we left for the day.
  • Did you hand  your homework in so I can correct it?
  • I forgot to turn in my essay! Hopefully I can email it to my teacher.
  • Did you turn your paper in?

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and hence is optionally separable. The second and fourth examples show how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Make up

Meaning: to do at a later date than originally planned.

Examples:

  • I was sick on Monday, so I made up my test on Tuesday.
  • You cannot make the CAE up; therefore, it’s important that I don’t miss my test!

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and is optionally separable. The second example shows how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Pass out

Meaning: to distribute (similar to “hand out”).

Examples:

  • She passed out our new EAP books today and I think they’re great!
  • My classmate passed candy out to each of us after his presentation. They were chocolates from his hometown.

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and is optionally separable. The second example shows how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Student.Question.Class.Teacher.FAQ,Phrasal Verb

Speak up

Meaning: to say your opinion.

Examples:

  • If anyone doesn’t understand, please speak up.
  • Which beach should we go to after class? Someone speak up!

Note: this phrasal verb is intransitive (it does not require/take an object).