Business, Business English, English, language, Learning & Education

Business English is Boring – Apparently

Today we are going to learn some language for meetings…..

Time for Business? 

A collective groan fills the classroom. The teacher inwardly sighs, wishing he were somewhere far more stimulating, like Lidl. The students head fall with an audible smack as they hit the table, dreading the next turgid hour and a half of ‘stuff they don’t want to learn’, ‘things they already know’, ‘words and phrases they’ll never use’ , ‘a complete waste of time’.

Ever been there? Tasked with teaching a subject that is seemingly one the students hate and indeed one you as the teacher can not get enthused to teach?

Welcome to the world of teaching Business English. A world where the Director of Studies chuckles with an evil laugh as they draw up the next week’s schedule and pencil in someone for the ‘graveyard shift’. Post lunch, Business English class. A world where eyes role and knees tremble, hoping a bout of severe diarrhea wreaks havoc upon bowels and weekends so that Monday does not arrive and the teaching of Business English can be avoided. And some other poor bugger (hopefully the director of studies – oh the irony) has to teach the class instead.

Yes, for some teachers, Business English is a curse worse than a plague of boils. It is the last thing they want to teach, the area of English they feel least competent and practiced in. The area they wish to avoid at all costs. They would rather teach a class of delinquent 15 year olds the language of politeness and respect, than step up to the task of teaching presentation language.

But why is Business English feared by some and on the other hand, embraced by a few (myself included, I really enjoy Business classes)?

The reasons are various, but I would narrow it down to the following;

  • Lack of Business Experience – Left university, partied around S.E.Asia for a year and a bit, came home, worked in Tescos for 6 months, did the CELTA, started teaching in a far flung corner of China or Indonesia, never worked in a corporate environment, nor a temporary office job. Never experienced the world of ‘work’, of meetings and presentations, of financial information, of negotiations and international business class travel….
  • A Feeling of Inferiority – You are 25 years old, a graduate in media studies and fine art. You are faced with a class of 50 year old middle and senior managers, specialists in their area of business, more experience of the world of business than you have been alive, high fliers in their company. All eyes are on you. ‘What do YOU know?’. Are YOU a fraud? What can YOU actually teach THEM?
  • The Subject Matter – The language of meetings, diplomatic language, negotiations, dealing with people, conflict in the workplace, presenting, interview skills etc etc. You start looking through the Business English textbooks and immediately feel your eyes glaze over. Soporific, somnolent, snooze inducing stuff. zzzZZZZ. And you have to make this stuff attractive, interesting, easy to follow and practicable in  application. The wolves are waiting and they are hungry. Off you go…
  • Why Me? – It is a good question. In some schools the Business English class is seen as the least preferred class to teach. It is not ‘sexy ‘ English. It is not fun. It is boring, the students are dull, unreceptive, unwilling to learn anything new, sent by their boss and not particularly motivated. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? It feels as if you are being punished. Why? I was only 2 minutes late to class last Thursday….
  • Lack of Preparedness – It is Friday afternoon. The new schedule is posted. You check and find it is your turn. Pass the poisoned chalice. Monday Business class awaits. What on earth are you going to teach them? I don’t have any materials prepared….I haven’t got any cool handouts for them. Monday arrives and blind panic has resulted in photocopying a bog standard textbook (though to qualify myself, they are many excellent Business English textbooks out there)…OK then, page 1. Saying Hello at a meeting….. The groans grow louder
  • Not Wanting to Let Anyone Down – You are a professional. You take pride in your work. You enjoy interacting with students and creating and delivering effective, fun and useful lessons. You love to see the progress your students make. But Business English feels like a step too far. You can’t deliver anywhere near as effective lessons. You will let the students down and feel a failure. You want to do yourself justice, but feel you won’t be able to meet their expectations or your own. They might even go to the Director of Studies and…..complain!!!

OK. Stop. Breathe. Relax. 

Computer Says No?
Business English doesn’t need to draw a blank…

Business English is ….

FUN, INTERESTING, EXCITING, MOTIVATING, ENJOYABLE, USEFUL, SOMETHING EVERY TEACHER CAN TEACH, SOMETHING NOT TO BE AFRAID OF

There, I said it. Business English is an area of English Language teaching that is challenging, but can be approached in a practical way and can be as satisfying to your students and yourself as any other English lesson. Over the last 21 years teaching English to adults in a variety if professions and occupations, I have specialized in Business English. It is the one area that I feel most comfortable in. I have seen friends and colleagues go pale at the thought of teaching business and have coached and mentored them in how to approach Business English. Am I strange? No, not really. Everyone has their own preferred niche, but this should not preclude you from teaching any part of English, whether that is business, exam preparation, language for specific purposes such as medicine, law, engineering, aviation etc, any age group from young children to adults, etc. 

These are my top tips for teaching Business English.

  1. No one is an expert in everything – I have 6 years experience in management. However, this was a long time before I embarked on my career as a language teacher. Was I / Am I an expert in business? Absolutely not. I have experience that has supported me in teaching Business English and has been invaluable in classrooms, but I am no expert. What I have is an INTEREST in business, but moreover, an interest in my students and what they do. This forms the basis of many lessons, discussions and classroom activities . Remember that the students coming to learn Business English do not expect you to be an expert in their industry. Nor are they expecting you to teach them their job. They are looking to you to help them do their job better in English. Equipping them with better vocabulary and expressions, a more intuitive and fluent listening and speaking ability, an improved pronunciation that makes them understood more easily and the ‘English Toolbox’ to aid them deliver better presentations, meetings, negotiations. At the end of the day always remember that the student is the expert.
  2. Business English is Real Language – Business English is just English. With a specific application and relevance. The language of meetings is specific vocabulary used to do a number of functions; suggesting, offering, agreeing, disagreeing, interrupting, correcting, clarifying etc. And do we not do those things in everyday situations? It is true there are some words and phrases with unique use as Business English expressions (to table a proposal, to chair a meeting), but these are generally easy to understand from context.
  3. Use the Experience in the Classroom – People like to talk about themselves and are naturally curious. Let your Business students be a resource. Far too many teachers fall into the trap of believing every lesson has to be teacher led for 60 or 90 minutes. Business students love the opportunity to present in small groups, to discuss their own position and industry, but moreover are very interested in knowing about their fellow students and what they do. Small group sessions / discussions which can be filmed and played back will highlight key vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, direct / indirect language which can be used in the next part of the class. 
  4. Students Often Believe They Are Better Than They Really Are – Yes, you sometimes have students who know it all. Who think they have every part of this speaking English game cracked, they are perfect. Really? In my experience, every single student I have taught, even those who I would class as Advanced or Proficient make mistakes. Or fail to understand the nuances of the  language. Or have inappropriate intonation (The Russian students are often excellent, but speak with a low, flat monotone, that sounds bored, uninterested, unhappy and creates a negative response in the listener. Their vocabulary and grammar are excellent, but they don’t realise how poor they sound). While they are the experts in their job, you are the expert in English. 
  5. Even the Smallest Areas Can Trip Up the Best Students – Try this exercise. Spellings in English. Read out (or phone students) information for the students to write down. Email addresses, complicated addresses, foreign names, names including accents and umlauts. Even the most competent students struggle because it is not often practiced. But getting accurate information is crucial (especially if you spell an email address wrong….)
  6. Take An Interest in Business – Now you do not need to read the Financial Times back to back every day for a month. But listen to the business news on the radio, go online and read a couple of articles from online newspapers, watch the news, watch business programmes such as Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice. These are excellent sources of vocabulary and points of discussion. Dragon’s Den is great for negotiation language, using conditionals (what would you do?), selling, presentation language, body language, fast native speech, product design, entrepreneurship etc etc. The Apprentice introduces creative solution finding, strategic planning (or a lack of), delegation and management, decision making, conflict and conflict resolution. Business English is everywhere around us and there is so much beyond the textbooks that you can use in lesson planning; either as a lesson in itself or to supplement textbook exercises.
  7. Enjoy Business English – I have had some of the best fun classes teaching Business English. Your students are people. They are there to learn and to enjoy themselves while doing so. They are not always deadly serious and dull (in fact in 21 years of teaching Business English, 99% of my students have found the classroom environment invigorating, fun and enjoyable. Either in 1:1 or class situations, most students relish the chance to learn English, because they are NOT at work. It is a different thing to do. Many senior managers and business owners I have taught have the best sense of humour and are the most relaxed people I have taught. They want to learn, they want to enjoy the process, they don’t want to be bored, they have expectations, but they are easy to work with, they will also be proactive in telling you what they like and don’t like, and how they like to learn. 
  8. Be Relevant and Flexible – I always spend time with a new class or a new 1:1 student discussing learner expectations and do a needs analysis. I will then tailor my lessons to the needs of the student(s). I teach the students, and maintain a flexible approach, not what I want them to learn. I negotiate their priorities and design classes that fit these requests. Not everyone will have the same priorities, but doing a needs analysis will allow every student their input into the lesson content. Always have a back up plan. Always have a back up lesson or activity available. “We have done meetings, we don’t want to do financial language (Hurrah!), can we do a conversation lesson?” Be flexible.
Example of Needs Analysis for Business English Lessons

So, if you are dreading being asked to teach the Business English class, try to approach it in a different way. It is an English class, with highly motivated and intelligent, interesting people, who are interested in you, who want you and for them to succeed and above all, want to learn and to enjoy the process of doing so. I think of Business English the other way round. For me it is “English for Business”. My job is to provide the students with the English skills and language necessary to help them do their jobs better when required to use English. 

Good luck and have fun! Business does not have to be boring. But it does have to be interesting, relevant, useful, engaging and FUN!

If you would like to know more about teaching Business English please get in touch. I would love to hear from you. If you are a student interested in improving your Business English knowledge, let me know and I would be delighted to help you. Details of my Skype Online Lessons are on this website. 

Best wishes,

Tony

English, language, Learning & Education, Pronunciation

The Beauty of Accents

Gud afterrnuun. Wilcum to Norn Iron.

I come in PRAISE of accents, not to slate them.

Wait. Before you start shouting at me for vilifying the Northern Irish accent, let me state on record, that is one of my favourite accents in the British Isles. Together with Scouse and Geordie (for the uninitiated, people from Liverpool and Newcastle).

My wife and I recently visited Northern Ireland for the first time. The country was beautiful, the scenery breathtaking, the welcome warm and friendly, the people generous and kind. Everything I had heard and hoped would be the case. I was not disappointed. But to hear the Northern Irish accent, its rich tones and elongated vowels, its wonderful pitch from a lofty high to a guttural low, to hear the accent in situ, was magnificent. It made me want to just sit in Costa nursing a large cappuccino and listen to the soundscape around me, drowning in the mellifluous tones of that gorgeous accent.

You see, accent for me is an enhancement to place, a badge of identity and of belonging. A kinship and a sense of pride. The Northern Irish are a people with fierce pride in their homeland. Sadly, for a long period of history, a fierce pride that escalated to bloodshed, bombing, civil unrest and a very dark episode that left no one unaffected. Identity and belonging is an intrinsic part of the human make up. We all want to belong and we all want to be able to have and to share our identity. The people of Northern Ireland fought over sovereignty, over nationhood, whether to be part of a unified political state (Eire, Ireland, joining together politically with the south of Ireland) or to maintain its place within the United Kingdom, allied to Westminster and the government in London. But the one thing everyone in Northern Ireland maintained was their sense of identity and place. They were protestant or catholic, they were loyalist or republican, but they were all Northern Irish. Identifiable immediately from the deep brogue and pronunciation at odds with almost anywhere else in the UK (although perhaps closest to some Scottish dialects). And that accent, as with Scouse, Geordie, Brummie (Birmingham), Cornish, Welsh, Cockney (East London), Yorkshire, Lancashire, Glaswegian (Glasgow), East Anglian, Bristolian (Bristol), West Country or any other regional accent, are all things people are proud of.

Yet some people are embarrassed by their accent. Not because of where they were born, or where they grew up. Everyone around them would have had the same accent. It would have been the norm, nothing out of the ordinary. But branching out after leaving school or home to embark on a University education, a new job in a different part of the country, would bring them in contact with people who spoke with different accents. And who may perceive their accent as funny or odd-sounding, strange, difficult to understand, frustrating to listen to etc. Which is particularly unfair. Yet it is accepted that some accents are preferable and easier to listen to than others. The English ear has a tendency towards certain accents over others. Accents become stereotypes of personality and caricatures of the person, irrespective of qualification, personality or success. If I can summarize widely held opinions on some the major accents in the UK, the reactions to them tend to be;

  • Geordie – Newcastle = friendly, welcoming, open
  • Brummie – Birmingham = unintelligent, silly, comical
  • Scouse – Liverpool = friendly, funny, comical
  • Mancunian – Manchester = whiny, complaining, unfriendly
  • Received Pronunciation – standard English (BBC / Oxford) = posh, upper class, privileged
  • Bristolian – Bristol = unintelligent, not very clever, slow

These are very general stereotypes, and very unfair. Labelling people because of their accent is extremely unhelpful and can be a barrier to progress in careers and in being accepted socially. However, in a survey of the most attractive accents, Brummie, Scouse and Mancunian came out least attractive, while Welsh and Received Pronunciation came at the top. Interestingly, Geordie came in the middle, but many large companies have located customer call centres in Newcastle because the Geordie accent has such positive responses from the majority of people.

My own accent is neutral. I grew up in the south of England and speak without any strong accent. I have picked up some accent from living and working in Manchester and for the last 16 years in the West Midlands. But no one would accuse me of being from Manchester or Birmingham. As a result, I am fortunate that my teaching voice is easily followed and understood by my students. I deliberately pronounce with clarity and vary my speed and language dependent on the ability of the student. However, this is unrealistic in helping the student properly prepare for real interaction with native speakers beyond the classroom. It is therefore something I am always keen to focus on in lessons; making pronunciation a key element of their learning experience.

When you meet someone who has a strong accent, the difficulties as a language learner can be immense. Even the most accomplished learner with a high level, who learnt RP – received pronunciation or ‘Oxford English’, from the comfort and security of a classroom, will be shocked and surprised at how impenetrable some accents are. The words are the same. The sentences communicate the same meaning and intent. Yet, the words contain syllables and sounds that are variously mangled, squashed, stretched, swallowed, under or over emphasised, falling in tone or rising, soft, hard, guttural, stopped, trilled etc. Even for native English speakers, those who teach the subject, like myself, some accents can be very hard to decipher. A broad Glaswegian (from Glasgow), or Aberdonian (Aberdeen), will be a significant challenge to my listening ability. Add in certain vocabulary and expressions that are dialect and the result is confusion and frustration. Imagine what it must be like for a tourist stepping off the plane, arriving in Glasgow and trying to get directions to Sauchiehall Street, from a local Glaswegian with a strong accent;

“A’richt, yi”ll need tae tak’ this wynd fur 200 metres, cross ower tae th’ ither side ‘n’ caw left doon dalhousie wynd, a bawherr further ‘n’ ye’ll see it fernent ye”

Which translates as ….”OK, you need to take this street for 200 metres, cross over to the other side and turn left down Dalhousie Street, a bit further and you’ll see it in front of you.”

To understand accent, students need to be aware of the following points;

  1. The student can understand what is being said. Usually, they have a good grasp of the vocabulary and the grammar being used. The problem in understanding is specifically related to sounds, stresses and rhythm of pronunciation.
  2. To get used to an accent takes time. The longer you stay somewhere, the more exposure you have to it, the easier it becomes. My wife was in hospital in Liverpool for 5 months when our children were born very prematurely. She had real difficulties understanding the staff in the hospital. Scouse was impossible. One of the health care assistant even bought her a book called ‘Learn Yerself Scouse’. But after a few weeks, my wife started to pick out words and phrases and filter the pronunciation until she was comfortable and able to follow a conversation (My wife is from Indonesia).
  3. If you are going to move somewhere that has an accent, try to find examples of the accent being spoken on the internet, in films or on TV. For example, coming to Birmingham and being exposed to Brummie, try watching ‘Peaky blinders’ for a taste of the accent (although people will point out the accent is not Brummie, but ‘Black Country’ which is a few mile north west of Brimingham.)
  4. Even native speakers find some accents difficult. Be confident in asking for the other person to slow down and repeat if necessary. If you really can not understand, apologise that you find it difficult and ask if they would mind writing down what they are saying. Decent, polite people won’t mind. They will be aware of their accent. Some people may take offence, but as long as you are respectful, don’t worry.
  5. Accents can vary a lot within a small geographical area. Within 60 miles (100km) of where I live in the West Midlands the accent changes enormously, from Bristolian to the south, Herefordshire and Wales to the west, Brummie to the north and Oxford to the east / south east.
  6. Not everyone who lives in a particular city or region has an accent. We may grow up in one place and develop a strong accent from birth. But as adults, our careers and opportunities will often see us moving to other places. People migrate from other countries and will speak English in Eastern European accents, Chinese, Arabic, French or German or Italian. Although not native speakers, their accents will also be challenging to the learner. Some people develop hybrid accents, for example a Scottish-Pakistani accent (it is a wonderful thing to hear!) or a Welsh-Chinese.
  7. There is beauty in accent. If we were to all speak with a neutral accent, language would be dull and uninteresting. Accents are identity and personality. They should be appreciated, celebrated and welcomed.
  8. If you are a student learning English, don’t try to learn and speak in the accent where you are. Focus on learning correct English (ie received pronunciation). Get YOUR pronunciation right first, the correct stress in words and syllable, the correct intonation and rhythm. People will understand you better. If you live or move to somewhere with a strong local accent, and you stay for a long period of time, you may find you pick up the accent. I have taught nurses from the Philippines and India who have been in South Wales for 15 years. They sounded Welsh to me!
  9. If you have an accent, don;t be embarrassed by it. My job as an English teacher is to help students improve their pronunciation and minimize the impact of accents. Not to remove them. It is not possible to lose an accent and speak perfect Oxford English. But you can work on key areas that help you sound more natural.
  10. Finally, if you meet someone and they speak to you in a strong accent, show an interest. Ask them where they are from. Tell them their accent is really interesting. It will break the ice and help you communicate better with them. Don’t run away from a strong accent!

Don’t forget that via my website, , I am able to help anyone improve their English language skills, including understanding accents and fast speech, how to improve overall pronunciation and helping the student to sound more natural in English.

Get in touch.

Best wishes

Tony Frobisher

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
language, Politics & Social Comment

It’s Only Words – The Language of Brexit

Make no bones about it, yesterday (15th November 2018), was a momentous day in the political history of the United Kingdom. An embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, hellbent on delivering her deal for extricating the UK from the tangled web that is the European Union. Overnight, a seemingly unified Cabinet, supporting the deal as laid out in a 500 plus page document (pity the poor person who had to type it, a short blog takes me days sometimes), submitted to the befuddled and bored looking EU officials in Brussels.

“Hurrah!” They cheered, in French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latvian, Dutch and every other European language, sick to the back teeth of the whole protracted business.

“Progress!”, they thought, and some tentatively expressed. Yet, the doubt remained ingrained on their creased and furrowed brows.

Then, with an unseasonal warmth in the mid November morning air, everything went very cold, very quickly. The Brexit secretary, the man who negotiated the deal in the first place, the man who knew the minutiae of what had been discussed and agreed to, decided he didn’t like what he had agreed to and negotiated and resigned. Dominic Raab gone, following a path trodden by his predecessor David Davis, who also resigned his position as Brexit Secretary. The poisoned chalice has yet to be taken up as I write.

And the house of cards collapsed from within as resignation after resignation followed, a mammoth 3 hour PM Questions saw Mrs May batting away bouncers from her own party and everyone on the opposite side of the House of Commons (she loves a bit of cricket). She appeared stumped, but following a review on DRS remains not out, going into the second day of what is being politely called #brexitshambles on Twitter. And others in her own Conservative hurriedly put pen to paper to scratch a letter to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to state their lack of confidence in Mrs May and in an attempt to reach the 48 Conservative Members of Parliament required to trigger a leadership contest.

An utter mess. A shambles. A laughing stock among our European friends and the rest of the world, who look at the cradle of democracy and scratch their heads, utterly bewildered as to what the hell is going on.

And where on earth the arbiter of this mess is. David Cameron, still in hiding since his decision to allow an EU referendum spectacularly backfired on him, leaving him with egg all over his face, that he still hasn’t washed off.

And so to the language of Brexit. The events of yesterday and the state of confusion that pervades every discussion on Brexit and the immediate and near future of the country, inspired me to consider how Brexit is presented. What words and expressions have become so much part of our daily vocabulary, that were previously non existent or used in other contexts.

So here goes, my brief guide (and non exhaustive list) of Brexitisms….

Brexit

It has become a word in its own right. A bit like NATO or NASA. No one ever says, “A meeting at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters discussed further cooperation on space research with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration”.  And no one ever says, “What on earth is going to happen after the British Exit?”

A British Exit. It sounds about right though. Some of the language has been particularly trenchant, divisive and unpleasant. An exit for us Brits. The rest of the world can use their own exit.

Hard Brexit vs Soft Brexit

Some like it hard, others like it soft. Boiled for 6 minutes or boiled for 3. Either way you still have to crack a hell of a tough shell to get at the insides. And hard or soft Brexit is like a boiled egg. On the surface, they are the same. But once you crack it open, it is quite different. A hard Brexit. Good bye to the EU and all that. No more Single market or Customs Union. Shut the borders. Lock the gates and turn on the security cameras, don’t let ’em in. No we don’t want them. Stay out.

IMG_1561 - Copy.JPG

A voice chirps across the English Channel…”What about all the workers in the NHS, the Spanish, the French, the Italian doctors and nurses. The one’s who grow to love the rain and Little Chef, start developing an accent not out of place on Eastenders or Coronation Street and add their milk after the hot water and tea and know the exact time for dunking a Digestive biscuit? Hmm, what about them?”

Another voice with a lovely lilting soft Dublin brogue, shouts across the street to his Northern Irish neighbour, who replies with gusto in a wonderfully impenetrable mix of vowel sounds.

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“Excuse me Peter. Would ye be after popping over to mine for cuppa or a pint of Guinness?”

“I would really love to John, so I would. But I have get my passport out, wait by the customs border, have a strip search and an internal body check, come back tomorrow to get my visa stamp and pick it up, so I do. I have a better idea. Get the boats, I’ll meet you on the Isle of Man. So I will”

Hard Brexit. Closed borders, restrictions on movement, difficulties in moving goods and trading, panic ensuing in the business community, people flocking to Tesco to stock up on Knorr stock cubes and bog roll. And the peace that has settled on an Ireland with a fantastic flowing, open border, that encourages trade and friendship, tourism, harmony, development, under real risk again.

Soft Brexit. We are going to leave because we don’t like you and don’t want to have anything to do with you. By the way, can we just stay in the best bits, you know the difficult things we can’t find a solution to, you know, just stay in those parts….Single market, customs union, let the good folks of Ireland travel and trade between each other freely, you know, no border in reality.

No Deal. We were happy to kick a ball about with you, but now we can’t agree which end each team is playing from, we are taking the ball away, trying to play keepy-uppy by ourselves. Get your own ball and play amongst yourselves. We are going to have a kick about with our new trading partners. Kiribati, Easter Island and Guinea Bissau. We don’t need you. At all. And we invented football anyway.

No deal is the scenario many are very concerned about and feels a distinct possibility. No deal negotiated to the agreement of all sides. No effective compromises made. Nothing set and signed. We walk away from Europe, turn our backs and in the words of Monty Python ‘fart in the Eu’s general direction’. Then we wake up the next day and wonder what to do now, as the stocks of Coco Pops begin to dry up and people fight each other over the last Stella Artois in the off licence.

Remainers / Remoaners 

Those of you who wish to stay in the EU, say ‘Aye’! Ah, so that is 1,2,3,4,5,6….48% wanting to stay. And 52% wanting to leave. Now, hang on. Democracy in action. The majority won. Fair and square. 52 is larger than 48. So, apparently the good thing to do would be to shut up and say nothing. You had your chance. Live with the result.

Many people in that large minority of 48% are very disgruntled and given the complexities and confusion and the mess of Brexit, are calling for another vote on the deal presented to the EU. IF we ever get one.

And and do stop complaining. Please. Hence the ‘remoaner’ tag. But think of it like this. You are at a dinner party for 15 people. 8 people decide to have the chicken and 7 are vegetarian. The veggies are told, sorry, the majority have decided to have chicken. And that is what you have to have too. Like it or lump it. You have no say now. Eat it or go hungry.

You would not be happy either.

Leaver / Brexiteer

Those of you who wish to leave, say “Aye!” All for one and one for all, say the 52% Brexiteers (and damn the rest of you, and stop moaning.) But let’s be honest for a second. What many who wanted to leave the EU expected Brexit to be, is not a patch on what it actually looks like so far. It is so complicated and so confused, that many leavers are also extremely cheesed off with what has / hasn’t been negotiated. (As long as that cheese is a vintage mature Cheddar and not a stinking Camembert).

The People’s Vote

Briatin has decided to leave the EU. A referendum. A final decision. Let’s leave. Pack your bags, the taxi is waiting. A certain Mr. N. Farage as your driver. Come on hurry up, get in, he is getting impatient. We need to leave. Now. Why are you sitting down? What, you can’t refuse to leave. Oh, that’s it, is it? You want to have a say on where we are going. Skegness not exotic enough for you? Trust you to want to go to Benidorm.

The People’s Vote is a very vociferous campaign, backed by many well known people in politics, sport, entertainment and public life, to put the final EU deal to a vote. “Do you accept the deal or not.” What could go wrong with another vote eh?

Brexit Means Brexit

Mrs. May is good at banging drums with her language. All throughout her election campaign she talked about being ‘Strong and stable.’ Her critics called her ‘Weak and wobbly’. Despite being an advocate to remain in the Eu, as the leader of the country Mrs. May has had to champion the leave cause. Her mantra became ‘Brexit means Brexit’. In that, we will leave. Definitely. We will. I promise. Deal or no deal.

A Brexit deal today seems a long way off still. Mrs May has become Mrs Maybe.

Brexit mean Brexit means chaos means uncertainty mean confusion mean headaches means frustration means…..and so on.

Enough of this.

I had planned to write a list of Brexit terminology for the English student interested in learning how to understand Brexit and what is going on in our fantastic country (because despite everything and all our disagreements, it is still a fantastic country with wonderful people, of every nationality, religion and political persuasion.)

But as I was writing, I realised that any sensible student of English would be better off watching The X Factor than the BBC or ITN or Sky or Channel 4 or 5. It makes a lot more sense and they will learn a lot more than trying to follow the political machinations and politician-speak that pours out daily, like a stream of melted chocolate words. Initially interesting, but ultimately completely unappetizing.

I will leave you with my poem that I wrote to try and encapsulate Brexit.

I remain, while others wish to leave.

Tony

BREXIT – This Way

Goodbye
We’re leaving EU
An exit, really?
A way out of a mess
That was perceived, construed
Viewed through vitriol
And jingoistic pride
In a notion of a nation
That doesn’t exist
To think of a map
That we coloured pink
A pride in the desire
To assert our uniqueness
And to eschew difference

An exit. Really?
An utter mess
But there it is.
No exit, only a door
Locked and marked
‘Keep Out!’
Only Brexiteers
Shouts and jeers
Only Remainers
The I told you so, complainers
You said this, you said that
Everyone reaching for opinions
And donning tin hats.
A mass-debate
Intractable, endless
Argued and misconstrued
Misconceived and misunderstood, confused.

Because brexit
Is no exit
From the shit 
We find ourselves
Wallowing in
Up to our necks
Swimming against a tide
Of bile and hate and division ‘Close the gates we’re full’
Full of what?
A lack of empathy, compassion
Full of passion, yes
For a world painted in a hue
That which from the mirror
Looks just like me and you

Take back control
We’re strong and stable
Cut adrift in a leaking ship
In a permanent brexitstorm
With a captain and crew
Demonstrably unable to
Bail us out and hoping for rescue
Trying not to sink and being told
You scuppered and holed your own boat
And the lifeboats are full
Time to jump ship
Good luck everyone,

BREXIT – this way

More poems collected at frobipoetry.com

Brexit this way

 

20171008_152029

 

 

 

 

English, language, Learning & Education, Motivation and Change

Why should I learn English?

In a world where technology dominates, it may seem that today there is no need to learn a language. Let the power of Google Translate do the work. I even have a direct translate option on my website, so you can read everything in your own language.
However, there is still a real need for learning English.
Why?

Technology is good, true. But can it help in every situation you find yourself in? The business meeting with people from 6 different countries….presentations, discussions, reports, conferences, socialising over dinner….the Skype conference call…the phone call from your overseas HQ. You need English, the ability to listen, understand, communicate in English. Not a translation service on your phone, that has only 1% battery life left. HELP! Yes, English is your best help and best hope.

Travel anywhere in the world these days and unless you speak the language of the country you are in then you need a common language. And in 90% of countries that will be English. OK, OK…France and French speaking countries would no doubt prefer you to speak French. But, having been to France as a non French speaker, English is used widely. Similarly in Latin American countries. An ability to speak Spanish will go down very well. But…what, if like me, you are not a Spanish speaker. English again will get you out of a tricky situation.
Almost everywhere you go in the world you will find someone who can speak English, or who is learning English. There are currently around 1 billion learners of English worldwide and that is expected to double by 2020. Join the world’s biggest language club!

I have travelled in Iran, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Nepal, Turkey, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and many many countries throughout Europe and the world. Whenever I had problems, if I was lost, if I couldn’t find the correct bus, train or my hotel, I was always helped by someone who spoke English. This was 20 years ago. Before Google Translate.

Today so many people have the freedom to move abroad to study and to work. Studying at a university in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia requires an ability to speak good English. If you have a good education, combined with excellent English skills, your opportunities of a great career of your choice are increased dramatically. Companies I have worked with over the years would actively choose new graduate employees not just on their engineering or architectural or management skill. They demanded a high level of English.

People choose to relocate abroad and work in different countries for many reasons; economic improvement, career development, a change of lifestyle and culture. I have lived and worked in Indonesia and Malaysia. I learnt the language, but I found I spoke English a lot with friends and colleagues, with people I met who were learning or just interested to practice English. If you are a lawyer, a doctor, a nurse, an engineer, a management consultant, an accountant or an architect and wish to move overseas, English is a definite requirement.

Learning English is still a skill that opens doors – to education, to employment, to the world and to your personal development and success.

So, put down Google Translate and do something effective. Learn English with a teacher who knows how to help you improve your ability, maximize your confidence and achieve the best for you and your future.

Good luck!

Tony Frobisher

 

 

English, language

Things the English absolutely love!

It is an interesting question…what are the things the English absolutely love?
Perhaps an easier way for me to answer this is by looking at what I missed the most while I was living and working and travelling for 6 years from 1996 to 2002.

I did not experience an English winter for 6 years. Every winter I was sat sweating and hot, being buzzed by flies, bitten by mosquitoes and burnt by the tropical sun. Christmas on the beach in Sri Lanka or a remote island in the Maluku Islands in Indonesia is fantastic. But there were times when I just wanted to wake up to a frosty morning, hear the hammering of the rain on the windows and the howling of the wind. To leave for work in the dark and to come home in the dark. Did I miss the winter? Yes, sometimes. But it was more the thought of family and feeling cosy wrapped up in a big coat and hat on a long walk on a clear but chilly day I missed. Your breath in clouds as you puffed up a hill.

So what did I miss…and what do the English (and most British people) love?

Tea

Tea is part of the British way of life. We love tea. With milk (of course). And biscuits to dunk in the tea (Dunk – a great word…to ‘dip or place’ a biscuit (or doughnut / donut) into a (usually hot) drink. Dunkin’ Donuts?? Yes, the same idea).
The English / British always complain that whenever they travel, ‘the tea is never as good as back home’. I missed a really good cup of tea.

Chips

OK, ‘Fries’ to many people. But while made from potato, fries and chips are essentially different things. Like two different breeds of dog. French Fries – skinny, crispy. The whippet of the potato chip family. Chips – big, fat, chunky, hot, delicious covered in salt and vinegar. The British Bulldog of the potato chip family. Plenty of bite and it makes you salivate just thinking about them or smelling them.
Proper chips. Nothing less will do. Sorry McDonalds.

Queues

The humble queue. A line of people. Or in the case of the Brits even a line of one person. To queue is to show politeness, courtesy, respect for others, patience, restraint, tolerance, acceptance. Etc etc. Want to upset the English. Just push in front of a queue. Queue jumping is a crime. Well, to us it should be. So having experienced the world and its lack of queuing, it is always wonderful to return home to the land of queues.

Football & Cricket

Football. The nation’s game, the beautiful game, a game of two halves….There is something about the sight of 11 players on two sides, 22 people in total chasing a ball and trying to kick it in the back of a net that causes love, anger, devotion and passion like no other in the English. In Wales they love rugby, the Irish have hurling, the Scottish curling – yes Wales, Ireland and Scotland love their football too. But to an Englishman, football is by far their pride and passion. When your local team does well, you can feel a sense of happiness and optimism in the town or city. When your team is losing, the sense of sadness and despair in a town is very obvious. You can feel it, you can smell it in the air.
I used to sit and watch the English Premier League on a Saturday evening (Indonesian time)…I would sit sweating and being bitten by the mosquitoes (again) watching my team Newcastle United play Manchester United in the snow of a cold January day and wish I was back home.

As for cricket…I love cricket. I won’t try to explain it here. It would take a year. But to a cricket mad Englishman, 6 years of not watching any cricket was terrible. Whisper it, but that is why I really wanted to come home…not for work or anything important. I missed the cricket.

What else are we obsessed with?

In no particular order ….

  • the weather – it’s too hot, too cold, too sunny, too rainy, too windy, too cloudy
  • the television – when a programme grips a nation, everyone talks about it…from X Factor to the Great British Bake Off to Strictly Come Dancing (yes it is true, we are obsessed with a programme about a cake baking competition and a dancing competition with celebrities and professional dance partners)
  • music – we love music, going to gigs, concerts and festivals to watch it being played live, on the radio, in the car, music competitions (X Factor etc)
  • complaining about traffic jams, late trains, cancelled planes etc Start every conversation when you meet someone with ‘How was your journey?’ and you’ll probably hear about ‘The 10:30 train to Leeds was delayed an hour, the M25 had a huge traffic jam, the 08:15 flight to Bristol was cancelled at the last moment’ …awful
  • celebrities – they are everywhere. Famous and not so famous people. A list to Z list. And what do we do? Gossip…magazines, tv programmes, in the office, out with friends. Celebrities. We love them (but not me).
  • the pub – although many pubs have closed down due to the economic problems of the last 10 years, pubs are still an important part of town and cities throughout the UK. A meeting place, a place to eat, a place to socialise and to de-stress. For many villages, the pub is the heartbeat of the place. The central and focal point of village life.

There are so many other things we love and I hope one day you will be able to come and enjoy them yourself.

But join the queue first please.

Tony Frobisher