Working Abroad and Using English

Working Abroad and Using English

Living and working abroad would be really easy if everyone spoke the same way and behaved in the same way. But, as soon as you leave your own culture it quickly becomes clear that things are not the same. There are small and large differences between cultures. And how well you are able to deal with these differences will affect how good your experience will be working overseas.

  • What do you think the speaker meant when he talked about one’s career ‘shooting off’?
  • The speaker talked about a ‘geographic comfort zone’. Do you believe you are in a geographic comfort zone?
  • Do you agree with the speaker that the best way to compete and succeed in today’s economy is to move to other countries?


  • First impressions – the original feeling or thoughts you have about something
  • Foreign culture – a culture that is different to your own
  • Gap year – a year that some young people take after school and before university
  • Comfort zone – a situation where one feels safe or at ease.
  • Misunderstanding – a failure to understand something correctly
  • Stereotype – a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing
  • Custom – a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time

Conversation Questions

  • Have you ever worked in another country?
  • If yes, what was your experience like? What challenges did you face?
  • If you could choose, where would you like to work abroad? Why?
  • What factors do you think people need to consider when choosing a country to work in?
  • What are the main reasons people work abroad?
The Surge to Online Teaching

The Surge to Online Teaching

There is a mini-crisis looming in the world of English Language teaching. Most companies which play in this area are still operating on the traditional business model. They have very expensive training centres filled with very expensive teaching staff, delivering very expensively designed and created training courses – always run on a very expensive computer network and displayed on different sizes and shapes of displays, some small and basic, some large and interactive, but all pretty expensive.

As you will have surmised from the previous paragraph, the traditional face-to-face English Language Training Business model is very cost intensive – which explains, in part at least, why these companies charge such large sums for their English Language Training Courses, and are so intensely focused on maintaining their revenue stream.

The reasons behind this behaviour are clear. These are high throughput, high student-turnover organisations with very high monthly costs, operating within very tight margins in a very competitive market. The pressure is always on, and the first optional-extra costs which are thrown onto the ‘maybe-someday ’ pile are customer care and service quality assurance.

So the market is ripe for change, purely because of the threat posed to the existing high-cost model by the current migration trend to online training.

The Students

Surprisingly perhaps, the idea of remote learning has in fact been around for almost 70 years. Given Australia’s unique population distribution profile, where 95% of the population live within a few miles of the coast and everyone else lives in the middle of nowhere, it is not surprising that they came up with a way of educating those children who lived many miles from the nearest school.

The first School of the Air was started in Alice Springs in 1951, based on providing direct one-to-many teaching using HF radio communication with children on remote farms and cattle stations. The service is still in place today all over central Australia, still using radio where that is the only available way of talking to the students. Broadband provision is mostly non-existent in these remote areas, and satellite based internet systems run expensive.

Today, 98% plus of any population outside the jungles and deserts of Africa and South America will have a smart phone more-or-less cemented to their hand. They look to their phone to provide them with everything: information, social networking, money, entertainment, and even communication.

For them, the additional move to building education into their daily mobile schedule is a natural and un-contentious next-step, especially for younger students who have already seen the beginnings of this in school. (For many years schools fought against phones – attempting to lock them away in broom cupboards to try to get the kids to listen to the teacher. Today most schools recognise the futility of this kind of regimen, and build the mobile phone into their lesson planning and lesson management.)

So, for many students the idea of moving to an online teaching system seems natural; the logical next step. However life is never quite that simple. Almost all these students remember having an actual teacher in the class for their lessons at school and college. It felt natural, it seemed to be effective, and there seems to be an extra level of added-value and added-comfort which stems from the ability to go up and have a quiet word in the teacher’s ear, or have them come up and have a quiet word in yours.

The Schools

The very large language training companies with which we are all familiar, have only quite recently realised that the internet represents an existential threat to their operations. However the problem they face is quite simple and should have been obvious to them all along.

We are all now living in the Convenience Age. Everything – EVERYTHING! – is available to us through a few quick taps and swipes on our phone – and yet, for some reason, if we want to learn English we are expected to actually physically go to an office somewhere and watch and listen to a teacher play with their technology, as opposed to using our own technology and doing most of this stuff over WeChat, or Skype, or Zoom or Facebook.

The Final Nail

Real-time on-line video communication has been around for nearly forty years, but only recently have network capacity and video transport technologies been sufficiently well aligned to allow for at least reasonable on-screen performance with the likes of FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and WeChat – but bandwidth has always been the Achilles Heel of this kind of application: resulting in poor frame rates, poor synchronisation and link-loss.

All of this system friability will disappear in the next 18 months with the widespread introduction of 5G Technology – after which time the ability of any training organisation to deliver very high quality one-to-one or one-to-many video training links will have become, to all intents and purposes, free.

English Phrases: “It Speaks For Itself” & “Speak For Yourself”

English Phrases: “It Speaks For Itself” & “Speak For Yourself”

If something speaks for itself, that means it’s obvious, without needing any additional explanation.

So let’s say you tell your friend something and she gets an angry expression on her face. And later, when talking about that, you can say, “I know she was mad, even though she didn’t say anything, because the expression on her face spoke for itself.” In other words, the angry expression on your friend’s face made it clear and obvious that she was angry, even without words or without explanation.

Another example would be – let’s say you’re part of a hiring committee at your job. So you’re looking at candidates to hire for a job, and there’s one candidate who doesn’t have a college degree, but he has a lot of experience.
Someone else on the hiring committee is saying, “Well, I don’t think he’s qualified because he doesn’t have a degree…” and you could say, “But his experience speaks for itself.” In other words, his experience makes it very obvious that he has the skills, without needing any additional explanation.

That’s different from telling somebody “speak for yourself.”

If you tell someone, “Speak for yourself,” that means you disagree with their preference or their opinion. You’re saying, “that’s your opinion, but my opinion is different.”

You might say, “I love pineapple on my pizza” – and if I respond, “Speak for yourself,” that means YOU like pineapple on your pizza, but I don’t. I’m disagreeing, I’m saying that that your opinion or preference is not true for me.

This expression is rather informal, so it would be considered rude to use it in a professional situation. So if your co-worker says, “I think we should do plan A” and you prefer to do plan B, then don’t say, “speak for yourself.” It’s just too casual or a little too confrontational for the workplace.

But among friends we can use this expression, “speak for yourself” when disagreeing with someone, or saying that their preference or opinion is not the same as your preference or opinion.

Or if your friend dislikes a particular TV show that you enjoy, they might say “I can’t stand that show” and you could say “Speak for yourself!” meaning YOU don’t like it, but that’s not true for me – I have a different opinion, I do like it.

Business Vs. Busyness

Business Vs. Busyness

Business is two syllables, and busyness is three syllables:

business = BIZ – ness

busyness = BIZ – ee – ness

Business is a noun, quite a common one, meaning commerce, the activity of buying and selling products and services.

During a really hot day, if lots of customers come into an ice cream store, the owner could say “Business has been good today” because the shop has sold a lot.

Finally, a business is another word for a company – someone can start their own business, or work as a manager in a construction business, and so on.
The word busyness – three syllables –means the state of being busy, having a lot of things to do, lots of responsibilities and tasks and scheduled activities.

Busyness is not nearly as common of a word as business, but you’ll sometimes see it. You could say, “I took a vacation so I could have a break from the busyness of everyday life” – again, it’s the state of being busy.

Or a college student who has a very intense few weeks at the end of the semester, might not have much time to hang out with her friends during the busyness of final exams – she has a lot of things to do, big assignments and studying for all those exams.

One final example, think of a company that sells holiday decorations like Christmas lights – most of their sales are going to be made in December. So maybe in November, they start preparing for the busyness of the holiday season.

You could say that business (that company) is preparing for a season of busyness (having a lot of things to do).

Now you know how to pronounce and how to use business and busyness. Remember, I can help you speak English more confidently at work when you join my Business English Course. It’ll teach you what to say in lots of professional situations like interviews, meetings, phone calls, and much more.

First Conditional with Queen Latifah

First Conditional with Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah is a versatile entertainer. She is a singer-songwriter, rapper, model, comedienne and actress. Over her career, she has won countless awards, including a Grammy in 1995 for Best Rap Performance. In her track “U.N.I.T.Y.” she speaks out against the disrespect of women in society and condemns sexist language that is often pervasive in mainstream rap music.

Instinct leads me to another flow
Everytime I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho
Trying to make a sister feel low
You know all of that gots to go

In this verse, Queen Latifah is disgusted by the disrespectful treatment of women.

hit the bottom. There ain’t nowhere else to go but up
Bad days at work give you an attitude and you erupt
And take it out on me but that’s about enough
If you put your hands on me again, I’ll put your ass in handcuffs

In this verse, she opposes all violence against women. In other words, she says, “If you touch or hurt me again, I will call the police.”


This grammar is called the first conditional. Use the first conditional to talk about future events that will likely happen. You may not know the future, but you are certain that something will happen.

If + subject + simple present verb, subject + will + base verb

Subject + will + base verb + if + subject + simple present verb

Wh~ will + subject + base verb + if + subject + simple present verb?

Use a comma (,) when the if clause is first. Do not use a comma when the if clause is second.

  • If you practice English every day, you will improve. I am a teacher, and I meet many English learners. Hard-working students usually do well and improve. Lazy students will not be successful. 
  • You will lose weight if you exercise and eat healthy food. This is not a secret. If you are healthy, you will probably lose a few pounds or kilos. Magic pills usually do not work. 
  • What will happen if you drop the glass? It will probably break into small pieces if you drop the glass on the hard floor. 


  • hit the bottom (idiom) – to reach an extremely low level. When his father died, he hit the bottom. He has been depressed for a long time.
  • take it out on somebody (phrasal verb) – to treat a person badly because you are angry or upset, even if they have done nothing wrong. After he lost his job, he took it out on all his friends. 
  • can’t take something (idiom) – unable to handle an unpleasant or difficult situation. My boss keeps giving me extra work, but he gave his secretary a bonus. I can’t take it any more! I want to quit this job. 
  • fall in love (idiom) – to be very attracted to someone and begin to love them. My wife did not like me when we first met, but we quickly fell in love. Today, we are  happily married!
  • That’s enough! (phrase) – say this to tell a person to stop behaving badly. That’s enough! You are a very bad roommate, and I want you to stop playing loud music at midnight!