How to Learn Professional English

How to Learn Professional English

English is the fastest growing language in human history.

Today, about 1.75 billion people around the world speak the language.

That’s almost 25% of the world’s population!

English is not just used in everyday situations — it is also used in businesses and professional settings all over the world. Learning English is not just a fun and interesting thing to do, it is an important career move!

If you are learning English with the purpose of advancing your career, you are probably taking professional English courses, classes or training programs. Getting professional help is an important step towards improving your English and learning language specific to the work setting.

But are these courses enough? To learn even faster and more effectively, you should be practicing your English outside of the classroom setting.

There are a number of things you can do in your daily life to make professional English a part of your routine. The more you practice, the better you will get—and the more opportunities you will have!

Reasons for Learning Professional English

There are many reasons for learning professional English, even if you are not looking for an English-speaking job right away:

  • You will have more job opportunities. Many large businesses now require that you speak English, especially if they deal with any international customers or partners. Knowing English will open doors for you to better careers and make you stand out as an applicant. Learning professional English is a great way to master English for advanced learners.
  • You will be able to communicate better. No matter where you are in the world, since so many people know at least a little bit of English, you can use the language to communicate.
  • You will have an easier time getting promotions. Even if you start at the bottom of a company where knowing English is not that important, you will have an easier time getting promoted if you know English. Many managers, executives and other important company members must know English.
  • You will have the chance to work abroad. If you’ve been hoping to move someplace that speaks English, getting a job there will be important. Knowing English will give you an important advantage when you are applying.

As you can see, learning professional English has many benefits!

The Difference Between Professional and Casual English

Do not worry if you’ve been learning “regular” English all this time—you need to know basic English reading, writing and speaking skills to learn business English well. The basics of English are the same whether you are talking about the great movie you saw yesterday or the important meeting you have coming up.

The differences are found in the vocabulary and topics of conversation. Professional English is focused on communicating clearly in a business setting, with co-workers, customers, your boss or anyone else related to work.

Knowing professional English really means knowing how to make phone callswrite reportsengage during meetings and be a part of the everyday office routine.

You will also need to know how to speak about the area of expertise of your company in English. In other words, if you work in a law company, you might need to speak about law in English.

There are ways to make professional English part of your everyday life, so you can be ready to apply your skills to your career.

Tips to Make Professional English Part of Your Everyday Routine

1. Focus on a profession.

“Professional” is a catch-all category. That means it is a very general term that includes many different professions.

Professional English classes and courses such as Creativa cover the basic ideas, topics and vocabulary that you will need to know in any business setting. In Creativa’s case, this includes business greetings and openings, the different parts of a business meeting, keeping the attention of your audience and talking about future plans and ideas over 10 video episodes.

In other words, they teach more general language that is useful for all the students taking the class.

However, depending on where you want to work, you are definitely going to need some specialized vocabulary in addition to your general business English.

To make sure that you can actually use your English skills in the real world, use your time outside classes to learn professional English that is relevant to your industry. The vocabulary you learn, the news you read and every other part of your learning should have your industry in mind. This will make you even more prepared for a job in the field!

2. Listen to the radio.

Wait, the radio still exists? Yes! Even in an age of computers, streaming services and TVs, the radio is still one of the best places to get your news and information on the go.

There are many news and talk shows on the radio, which you can listen to on the way to work or school or while you are doing other things around the house. Listening to news or industry talk shows can expose you to professional English, as well as to opinions and ideas about things that are happening in the business world.

The radio has also learned to work together with the internet to be heard anywhere you live! Many radio websites stream their current program. If you cannot access the station that way, you can use a service like Tunein, which lets you listen to radio stations from anywhere in the world.

Some great general business talk and news shows are the “Bloomberg Radio,” “The Larry Kudlow Show” and many others that you can find here.

3. Always be listening.

And while we’re on the subject of listening…always have your ears open!

If you already work in a place where people speak English, listen to the language they use. Listen during meetings or in lunch outings. Just listening to the language will help you learn it better. Pay close attention to the words they use, when they use them and how the use them. Listen to accents. Listen to jokes, slang, idioms, phrases and anything else that you hear people saying.

If you do not understand something, ask what it means. Do not feel shy!

If you do not work in an English-speaking environment, visit one! Find a place where people from your profession of industry go, and listen to them speaking. If it is a public place, you can even introduce yourself, explain that you are learning business English and ask them if they’d mind if you just sit and listen to them talk. You might make a connection that way, too!

4. Mix business English with regular English.

Even if you are learning professional English, you might still be learning regular English as well. The two do not have to be separate! You can easily learn both at the same time. Learn things in pairs, combining your casual English learning and vocabulary with the professional version of it.

For example, if you are learning words related to shopping, you can also learn words related to business expenses.

receipt is called an invoice in the business world. The store you just bought pants at is a retailer, which buys the pants in large numbers from a wholesaler. You wanted to buy more things, but you have a low balance in your bank account. If you were on a business-related shopping trip, you would have called your low balance a small budget.

Let the business and the casual worlds of English join together into one!

5. Go face to face.

Nothing beats real conversations and meeting people in person!

Talk to people who work in the business you are interested in, visit meetings or special events open to the public, and just get yourself out there! You will be getting practice, but you will also be networking—that is, meeting people who might be able to help you in your career one day in the future.

If you are nervous about your level of English, and it is preventing you from joining conversations, tell people that you are still learning. Most people will be happy to help, slow down, or explain things if they know you are learning.

Professional English learning does not have to happen only in the classroom. Now get out there and start learning!

Mastering Professional English with Confidence

As you learn professional English, gaining confidence is as important as knowing the words. Try different things like joining meetings, going to industry events, or talking with professionals. Use your language skills in the real world because learning never stops. Don’t be afraid to ask native speakers or experts for help; they can share things you won’t find in books. In the business communication world, combining what you learn in class with real-life experience makes a powerful mix for success. So, go out, talk to people, and make your professional English journey a mix of what you learn in class and what you learn by doing.

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

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

IT SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
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.

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF
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.

How to Use Sentence Stress to Speak English More Naturally

How to Use Sentence Stress to Speak English More Naturally

In this post, we’ll look at what sentence stress is all about, along with how to identify which words to stress in a sentence.

What is Sentence Stress?

Sentence stress simply means that when you speak English, you put more force or stress into specific words so they stand out. To stress a word, you say it more slowly and loudly, with a higher pitch. In contrast, unstressed words sound quieter and softer, as If you’re drawing attention away from them.

The rhythm of English is created by this shifting from stressed to unstressed words and then back again. In fact, English is a stress-timed language. The stressed words act as a consistent beat, with the unstressed words smushed together in between them.

In other words, the time between stressed words stays the same no matter how many unstressed words there are between them. Because of this, how long it takes you to say a sentence in English depends on the number of stressed words.

Here’s how this would work in a sentence:

  • Therewerealotof people atthe meeting today.

The bolded words are stressed, while the regular words are unstressed. Note that the unstressed words (“There were a lot of” and “at the”) are smushed together to keep the beat in the phrases.

This pattern of stressed and unstressed words gives English a distinct melody and rhythm. When you can match the sentence stress of standard English, your speech will be much easier to understand. For a more interactive guide to sentence stress, you can turn to the Creativa course on Mastering North American Pronunciation.  It has an entire video episode that dives deep into sentence stress, complete with plenty of effective yet uncommon tips and techniques.

All in all, the course delves into aspects of English pronunciation that learners tend to struggle with and yet are necessary for speaking English confidently. Curious about it? Check out this free video from the course.

How to Identify Sentence Stress

In standard English, the most important words in a sentence are the ones that you stress. This is actually pretty logical because it signals to the listener that you want them to focus on those words.

These words are called content words. They carry the meaning of the sentence. If you remove all of the other words and say only the content words, your speech will sound broken and your grammar incorrect, but the other person can still get a rough idea of what you’re trying to say.

For example:

  • I bought bottle of water from the store.

The content words are bolded here, so if you remove them, the sentence becomes: “bought bottle water store.” Even without half of the words in the sentence, you can still guess the meaning!

In this sentence, the other words are called function or grammar words, including “a,” “of,” “from,” and “the.” These words are the glue that holds the sentence together and makes it grammatically correct, but they can’t stand on their own.

When it comes to sentence stress, content words are usually stressed, while function words are unstressed. 

Content Words vs. Function Words

Let’s take a deeper look into what we can consider as content words or function words:

Content Words 

Content words are usually nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. 

Examples:

  • There isn’t anyone around here.
  • Do you need to use my laptop?
  • Rainy mornings can be cozy.
  • He’s scared about his exam results.
  • The company was doing well when I checked.

Function Words

Function words are usually articles, prepositionsconjunctions, pronouns, and be verbs. 

Examples:

  • We’re excited about watching this movie.
  • That’s his most important goal for the year.
  • Risk is inherent in everything.
  • The view from the mountains is beautiful.
  • It might have to be rescheduled.

A quick way to figure out whether a word is a content word or a function word is to ask: if I remove this word, does the sentence still retain its message?

Expressing Yourself with Sentence Stress 

Since sentence stress emphasizes the most important part of a sentence, it also gives you more room to be expressive when you speak English. The words that you stress can add a new level of meaning to the sentence.

Although English speakers generally stress content words and unstress function words, there are situations when this isn’t followed. Here’s what happens if we stress specific words compared to others in a sentence:

  • We’re excited about watching the movie. -> Focuses on who’s excited to watch the movie (we, not other people)
  • We’re excited about watching the movie. ->  Focuses on how we feel about watching the movie (excited, not uninterested or bored)
  • We’re excited about watching the movie. -> Focuses on the action that we’re excited about (watching the movie, not going hiking or eating outside)
  • We’re excited about watching the movie. -> Not as natural, but focuses on the fact that we’re excited about watching a specific movie, not a random movie 
  • We’re excited about watching the movie. -> Focuses on what we’re excited to watch (the movie, not a TV series or a basketball game)

It’s technically the same sentence, but there are different implications based on which words you emphasize the most! “We” as a subject and “the” usually aren’t stressed, but it’s possible to stress them if you want to make a point. This isn’t done as often, though, so until sentence stress becomes more intuitive for you, you can stick with generally stressing content words.   

Practice Sentences

We’ve compiled some sentences for you to practice on! Try reading these out loud while putting stress on the bolded words:

  1. I’m thirsty. Is there any water?
  2. The internet isn’t working.
  3. She passed me the book across the table.
  4. He didn’t make it to his job interview.
  5. They found it relaxing to live by the beach.
  6. There’s a gallery exhibit that features glass sculptures.
  7. We met at the festival.
  8. Everyone’s happy because their team won.
  9. sent you the document on our group chat.
  10. What’s your favorite spot in the city?

If your native language doesn’t have sentence stress the way English does, then you can get used to it by reading a diverse range of sentences out loud.

Conclusion

English might not seem like an especially musical language, but a key element of it is rhythm ­– and part of this comes from sentence stress. Aside from improving your speaking, becoming comfortable with sentence stress will also give you better listening comprehension. Ever get confused when someone speaks English fast? Knowing all about sentence stress can help you with that!

Pronunciation and vocabulary might be the building blocks of English, but beyond those, mastering higher-level concepts such as sentence stress will fine-tune your English communication – both in terms of speaking and listening.