Monday, December 20, 2010

New iPad app for Improving Your English

A new iPad app has just been released based on the popular ESL book Speak English Like an American. The new Speak English Like an American app teaches over 300 of today's most common American English idioms and expressions. Follow the fun story of an American family as they go about their daily life (and teach you lots of useful expressions!)...Listen to native speakers read the 25 dialogues and improve your pronunciation. Record yourself reading the dialogues and play them back.

Check it out here:
Speak English Like an American iPad app

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Improve your Business English with some Tech Talk

Just when you thought the $99 laptop was around the corner...the Wall Street Journal reports that the costs of PCs (personal computers) is going up. Read these exerpts from their article of December 14 by Ben Worthen and then we'll review some key business English expressions. The expressions we will focus on are in bold.

Rising Computer Prices Buck the Trend

For the first time in several years, people shopping for personal computers are doing something new: paying more.

Computer prices are rising even as the prices of other consumer electronics such as high-definition televisions and digital cameras plunge this holiday season.

In November, the average retail price of a PC sold in the U.S. was $615, up 6% from last year's $580...

The rising prices for a stark turnabout for the $250 billion global PC industry, which for years has coped with sharp price declines even as machines became more powerful.

The cut-throat pricing of recent years has rippled through the industry, squeezing profit margins for big PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc...

The higher-end models are "flying off the shelves," said PaulHenri Ferrand, chief marketing officer for Dell's consumer unit.

Now let's discuss the terms in bold:

buck the trend - to go against the direction things were moving; to be an exception to the rule (NOTE: This term is often used in investing. A company whose stock is "bucking the trend" is going up while the overall stock market is going down.)

plunge - to go down by a lot; to sink. Often said of prices or demand.

to cope with - to deal with something bad

cut-throat - very competitive. Often used with the word competition, as in: The cut-throat competition in the PC industry has led to lower prices OR Joe faced cut-throat competition to gain admission to Harvard Business School).

to ripple through - to travel through, as in a wave; to move through (think of waves rippling through an ocean).

to squeeze profit margins - to make profit margins go lower (profit margins show how much a company is earning). A company wants profit margins to be as high as possible (more $$$ for the executives!) so when they are squeezed, it's a bad thing.

to fly off the shelves - to be very popular; to sell very well (Imagine products with little wings flying through the air of the store, headed to the cash register). This idiom is featured that way in More Speak English Like an American, which teaches 350 American English expressions and is part of the bestselling Speak English Like an American series.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Costumes Sure to Scare and Some Business English Too

Have you ever heard of Snooki? I hadn't until recently when I found out that the Snooki Halloween costume is a bestseller this year. So who is Snooki? She's a character on the MTV show "Jersey Shore." She has big hair and she wears a short leopard dress.

According to a Wall Street Journal article: "Costumes based on Snooki's poofy hair...have been flying off store shelves."

Time to break for some vocabulary:

poofy hair - big hair that usually goes high up in the air before settling down again (not a compliment)

flying off the shelves - this is a great idioms that means to sell very fast. Another idiom that means the same thing is: to sell like hotcakes.

Snooki's costumes are flying off the shelves so fast, some shelves are now empty of Snooki wigs. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Retailers who are selling out of the official Pauly D Snooki wigs and other authorized wear are coming up with makeshift Jersey Halloween packages.

in a pinch, they're finding that they can put together a pretty good Snooki kit with skin bronzer, furry pink slippers, and one of last year's unsold Amy Winehouse wigs...

A return to Business English vocabulary:

makeshift - something made up to meet an urgent need; something put together quickly because it's needed

in a pinch - in a difficult situation, when no other options are available (You can hear the store owner yelling in desperation: "Oh no! We ran out of official Snooki wigs. Time to get out the old Amy Winehouse wigs...Maybe nobody will notice").

Happy Halloween! If you want to learn more business expressions, give yourself a TREAT and buy yourself a copy of the new book/audio CD "Speak Better Business English and Make More Money."

Friday, October 22, 2010

New iPHONE app for learning American English Expressions

Wow, there's a great new iPHONE app that's just been released based on the popular ESL book Speak English Like an American. The new Speak English Like an American app teaches over 300 of today's most common American English idioms and expressions. Listen to native speakers read the 25 dialogues and improve your pronunciation. Record yourself reading the dialogues and play them back.

Click here for more info on this new app.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Putting Problems Behind You

Ever face a thorny problem that you wished would just go away? By "thorny problem," I mean a difficult problem. (For more on the word thorny, including to hear a man pronounce it, click here:

These days, it seems many corporations are facing thorny problems. British Petroleum, Toyota, Hewlett-Packard, and now Johnson & Johnson (J & J). Maybe someday computers will take over the job of management and things may run a little smoother. After all, as the popular old saying goes: to err is human (to err = to make a mistake).

Let's focus now on J & J and how they're addressing their thorny problem. The following is an extract from today's Wall Street Journal article entitled J&J Chief Tends Corporate Wounds co-authored by this blog's favorite Joann Lublin and Jonathan Rockoff. After the extract, we'll discuss some key terms used in the article so you can improve your business English. Terms we'll be discussing are in bold.

At a recent town-hall meeting, Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive William Weldon sketched out for employees his plans for fixing the manufacturing problems that have prompted a string of recalls and triggered a criminal investigation.

Now, he faces the more difficult task of executing those plans and convincing the public that J&J has put its problems behind it. His success—or failure—may be among the most important legacies he leaves the company near the end of a four-decade career there.

Mr. Weldon, 61 years old, is expected to retire late next year, though the company doesn't have a mandatory retirement age. To resolve the pressing issues, he will likely draw on a careful, low-key approach to decision-making and the support of J&J's board, in keeping with his conservative style, people familiar with the situation say.

Okay, here we go with our business English exploration:

town-hall meeting - an informal meeting in which all employees are invited to share their views (in theory at least). This is a friendly term. It suggests a great meeting in a democratic forum. Town Hall is of course the government building in a town or city where all key administrative functions are housed.

(to) sketch out - to discuss plans; to describe something in a general way

a string of - a bunch of; one after the other

(to) trigger - to cause; to set something off (this is a powerful action verb - think of a gun - you pull the trigger to shoot it - no wonder this verb has such a sense of impact)

(to) face a difficult task - to deal with something thorny (see the discussion of "thorny" above)

(to) put one's problems behind one - a nice way of saying one is getting rid of one's problems. You want your problems BEHIND you, not with you or IN FRONT OF you! This phrase suggets that you are ready to move on, get a fresh start.

pressing issues - biggest problems (these need to be "resolved" or figured out). Resolve your pressing issues and you can move on to more important stuff - like figuring out how to make bigger profits!

low-key approach - a style one uses when one does not want to attract a lot of attention; a calm, rationale way of going about something

Discussion questions (feel free to post your comments to one of these questions on this blog):

1) Why are so many big corporations facing thorny problems these days?
2) What would you do if you were the CEO of J & J?
3) What is a legacy? How does a CEO leave a positive legacy?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Business English Book Teaches Expressions You Need for Career Success

Language Success Press announces the release of Speak Better Business English and make More Money. This new book and audio CD helps non-native speakers master the expressions most often used in today's workplace. Expressions and words such as scuttlebut, golden opportunity, iron out, on the fence and 400 others are featured in this new system.

The title is written by Amy Gillett, author of the bestselling Speak English Like an American series (Speak English Like an American, More Speak English Like an American, and Speak Business English Like an American) also available from Language Success Press. Speak Better Business English and make More Money features a new set of over 400 important business expressions.

Americans don’t speak the kind of English you’ll find in textbooks or hear in most classrooms. They speak business lingo — a collection of expressions and idioms that cover marketing, finance, accounting, HR issues, strategy and other business topics. Now you can equip yourself with this powerful lingo too.

This book gets down to brass tacks so you can talk American business English with a whole new level of confidence. This book opens doors. If you seek a better job, more pay, faster promotions, and better client or customer relationships, this book is for you. Chapters include everyday conversations on topics like asking for a promotion, discussing legal issues, increasing consumer demand, and growing your business.

As Gillett explains in the book's introduction, mastery of American English can result in a bigger paycheck. Studies show that foreign-born workers in the USA who speak very good English make more money on average than those who do not — from 5 to 15 percent more.

The book comes with an audio CD featuring the voices of six native speakers. The CD will help you remember the expressions and will facilitate better American pronunciation.

Speak Better Business English and Make More Money retails for $29.95. For a limited time, the book and CD will be available for $24.95 through the Language Success Press website.

To view sample chapters of the book, click here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bonuses Twice a Year!

An exciting new trend is out there, according to the Wall Street Journal: companies paying bonuses semi-annually (that's twice a year). The Journal reports today that this practice is "gaining traction". That means it's become more and more popular. In an era of shrinking bonuses, surely this is something we should all encourage management to consider.

Here are two extracts from the Wall Street Journal article by Joann Lublin with the news that some industries are fattening their employees wallets twice a year, business expressions to be reviewed are in blue:

More bosses are getting two bites at their bonus apples. A growing number of U.S. companies, mainly in the retail and high-tech industries, are replacing their annual incentive structure with bonuses earned twice a year. In addition to boosting morale at a time of salary freezes and pay cuts, semiannual bonuses help companies retain key players by dangling the carrot of two targets a year, while giving boards a chance to raise those goals quickly if economic conditions improve."
[While many large companies, including Home Depot and Xerox have started paying bonuses two times a year, the practice has its opponents. The Wall Street Journal article includes this quote from the U.S. "pay czar" Kenneth Feinberg]:

Rewarding managers for brief bursts of performance strikes certain compensation critics as a bad idea. "Earning a bonus every six months is an awful short-term vindication of worth," says Kenneth Feinberg, the U.S. pay czar. People will "cut corners to get the quick fix," he warns.

So, while some people will be getting rich off bonuses two times a year, we'll be enriching our business vocabulary! Let's review the key business vocabulary:

incentive structure - how people are paid for their work (including salary, bonuses, benefits). Given the right incentive structure, people will be more productive.

(to) boost morale - morale is the general mood in an office. Boost means to lift. So when you boost morale, you improve the mood in the office (you make workers happy!). Things that boost morale are called morale boosters. Bonuses are certainly one morale booster. A company trip to a fun location could be another.

salary freeze - when companies stop giving raises. Your pay gets stuck at a  certain level. This helps companies cut costs (but doesn't do much for morale -- see above!)

key players - the most important people in an organization. The kind of person YOU want to be. The opposite of the poor slob who gets canned (fired) at the first sign of trouble.

(to) dangle the carrot - to offer as an incentive, or something that motivates. "Dangle" means to hold something in front of someone, while "carrot" is a promise of a reward. This comes from the complete phrase "carrot and the stick." The stick, of course, is something that punishes (the opposite of the carrot).

U.S. pay czar - this person works for the U.S. government and advises on salaries. When U.S. companies received government funds as part of their rescue packages, the U.S. pay czar had the authority to determine pay levels of senior executives at these companies. The U.S. government has other czars too - including an energy czar, a drug czar, and a war czar. I wonder what Nicholas and Alexander would think of all of capitalism's Czar talk!

(to) cut corners - to save effort by finding easier ways to do things (or to save costs by finding cheaper ways to do things). Generally this is not a good thing to be accused of!

(to) get the quick fix - to get a reward quickly (to do activities and take measures that will earn one the reward, but those measures may not deliver results into the future). This expression can also mean a solution that's put together quickly and only solves the problem temporarily.