Category Archives: Everyday situations

complaining-in-english

Complaining in English

Complaining in English

Complaining in EnglishWhen you have a problem and you need to complain, there are ways of expressing yourself politely as you look for a solution. Being too direct is considered rude and will often lead to the staff in the shop being less willing to help.

Imagine you have just bought a new mobile phone, but when you get home and open the box the screen is cracked. When you go back to the shop, which of the sentences below is best to say?

A. This is broken. Give me a new one or a refund.

B. I hope you can help. I have just bought this phone, and the screen seems to be cracked. Would you be able to replace it or provide a refund?

Hopefully you would have selected the second sentence (B). There are a number of reasons why this is a better sentence, as explained below.

Tip 1: Avoid giving commands

‘Give me a new one’, ‘Fix it now’, ‘Give me my money back’ – these are all commands which are less likely to end well. It is much better to phrase your request as an indirect question. In the examples above, the command ‘Give me’ in Sentence A has changed to ‘Would you be able to…?’ in Sentence B.

Tip 2: Start in a friendly way

When complaining in English, it is common to start your sentence with a friendly expression like ‘I hope you can help’. In fact, it is even common for English speaking people to apologise before they start to complain! ‘Sorry, but this phone seems to be broken’. Here are some other expressions that are commonly used when complaining:

  • I’m sorry, but this doesn’t seem to be the correct change.
  • Excuse me, but I don’t think you gave me the correct change.
  • I’m afraid that there may have been a mistake with my change.
  • Sorry to bother you, but I don’t think you gave me the correct change.

Tip 3: Don’t be too dogmatic (too strong)

In our example sentences at the top of the page, the speaker is sentence A says ‘This is broken’, while the speaker in sentence B says ‘The screen seems to be cracked’. Clearly, the screen is either cracked or not – how can it be ‘seems to be cracked’? The reason is that when complaining in English, we tend to avoid being too dogmatic, softening the sentence with words like:

  • The screen seems to be cracked.
  • The screen appears to be cracked.
  • It looks as though the screen has cracked.
  • I think the screen may have cracked.

So what happens if you have politely expressed your point of view and you still don’t get a suitable response? For example:

Customer: I hope you can help. I have just bought this phone, and the screen seems to be cracked. Would you be able to replace it or provide a refund?

Shop assistant: It’s your fault. It’s not my problem.

At this point, it’s important not to start aggressively arguing. You need to state your case calmly and clearly. For example:

Customer: Actually, I didn’t open the box until I got home, and it was in this condition before I even touched it. I understand that I have the right to request a replacement or a refund. If you are unable to help, I would like to talk to your your manager or supervisor.

 

 

at_the_bank

At the bank

At the bank

at_the_bankHere is some useful vocabulary that you can use when you are at the bank:

An account: this is where you would take your money from or put your money into at the bank.

Account number: the number the bank gives you for your account

Interest: the extra money the bank will pay you if you have money in your account

Deposit: to put money into your account at the bank

Withdraw: to take money out of your account at the bank

Exchange: when you want to change money from one country into money from another country

Bank card: the card that you can use in shops to pay for items and also in machines to withdraw money

Bank teller: the person who works behind the counter at the bank

Bank manager: the person that runs the bank

ATM (also called ‘cash machine’): a machine where you can withdraw money from your account using your bank card

ID (also ‘identification’): a document or card with your name and other details printed on it. Your passport or driving licence is often used as ID.

PIN number: Your pin number is the number (normally 4 digits) that you use when you want to withdraw money from an ATM.

Currency: Anything used to buy or sell something is currency. For example, The United States dollar is a currency; the British pound is a currency.

At the bank – example conversation #1

Teller: Good morning. Can I help you?

Customer: Yes please – I would like to open an account here.

Teller. OK. Do you have any ID?

Customer: I have my driving licence – is that enough?

Teller: Well, we need two forms of ID and something with your home address.

Customer: OK, well I also have an electric bill with my name and address on it.

Teller: That’s fine – just give me a few minutes to open your new account.

At the bank – example conversation #2

Teller: Hello. Can I help you?

Customer: Yes please. I’d like to deposit this cheque into my account.

Teller: Certainly. Do you have your account number?

Customer: No, but I do have my bank card – is that enough?

Teller: Yes, that’s fine….OK, that’s all done!

Customer: Thanks!

introducing-yourself

Introducing yourself in English

Introducing yourself in English

Read the conversation below and practise introducing yourself in English.

introducing-yourself-in-English

John: Hello.
Sarah: Hi. How are you?
John: I’m fine thanks and you?
Sarah: I’m very well. My name is Sarah.
John: My name is John.
Sarah: I’m Sarah. Nice to meet you.
John: Nice to meet you too.

 

Introducing other people

Read the conversation below and practise introducing other people in English.

Sarah: John, this is my friend Helen.
John: Hello Helen. Pleasure to meet you. My name is John.
Helen: Hi John, my name’s Helen. Nice to meet you too.

 

Now practice introducing yourself – what are the missing words from this conversation?

Complete the gaps in the introducing yourself exercise below.

Susan: Hello. _____________ Susan.

David: Hello Susan. I’m David. _____________ meet you.

Susan: And you.

Click here to see the full conversation.

Susan: Hello. My name is Susan.

David: Hello Susan. I’m David. Pleased / Nice meet you.

Susan: And you.

 


Now practice introducing other people – what are the missing words from this conversation?

Complete the introductions below.

David: Helen, _____________ Susan.

Helen: Hello Susan. Lovely to meet you. _____________ Helen.

Susan: Pleasure to meet you, Helen.

Click here to see the full conversation.

David: Helen, this is Susan.

Helen: Hello Susan. Lovely to meet you. My name is Helen.

Susan: Pleasure to meet you, Helen.

 

english-for-interviews

English for job interviews

English for job interviews

Thanks to Agus for suggesting this post!

English for job interviewsIt is very important to create a good impression during a job interview, but this can be especially hard when you have to speak in a different language. This post will help you use some common vocabulary and phrases in English that will help you get the job you are being interviewed for.

First of all, keep in mind that for most job interviews, you should be presenting yourself formally, using an academic rather than conversational level of English. Take a look at the table below to see how some common words can be upgraded to more formal alternatives.

Talking about your previous roles

In my last job In my previous position / role
People I worked with Colleagues
I worked with Mr X I coordinated with Mr X
I gave people jobs to do I allocated tasks / I delegated tasks
I made the shift schedules I designed the shift schedule
I helped with staff training sessions I facilitated staff training sessions
I told customers what they could do I advised customers regarding their options

Talking about your skills and abilities

I like to make sure a job is finished well I am conscientious
I can fit in to different jobs I am adaptable depending on the role
I get things done quickly and well I am efficient
I always think of new ideas I am innovative
I do things step by step I am methodical
I can work without a manger telling me what to do I am able to work independently
I know how to keep a secret I am discreet

Common interview questions

Of course, every interview is going to be a little different, but there are some questions that you are generally always asked when being interview. Read the question then the two responses that follow. Why is the response in blue better than the response in red?

Interviewer: So tell us a little about yourself.

Candidate: Well, I’m from ABC city in Shanghai. I also went to university there, and when I graduated I worked overseas for a few years for a British multinational company. My role there was to provide support for the IT team, ensuring that all staff were able to access the company intranet and send emails. I was also responsible for conducting training sessions for new employees so they were able to use the company’s computer system.

Candidate: Well, I’m from ABC city in Shanghai. I also went to university there, and when I graduated I worked overseas for a few years. I enjoy travelling, and in my free time I read a lot of travel books. I also enjoy keeping fit, mostly running.

Why is the answer in blue better? Click here to find out.In the first response, the candidate has focused specifically on a role they had. Although this will undoubtedly be something you refer to later in the interview, the question is asking about you as a person, so don’t go into too much detail about specific jobs.

 

Interviewer: What type of position are you interested in?

Candidate: I’m looking for a management position very similar to the role I had with my previous company. I would like to have a small team working under me so that I can meet deadlines.

Candidate: Ideally, I’m looking for a management position where I can utilise the experience I have gained from my previous roles, but I am also interested in expanding my experience into new areas.

Why is the answer in blue better? Click here to find out.In the first response, the candidate is very specific about the role they want. This means that if the company interviewing you have slightly different plans for the role they are looking to fill, you won’t be suitable. The second response is more open, while at the same time has still expressed a preference.

 

Interviewer: What would you say are your strengths?

Candidate: Well, I like to think that most of the time I can work well regardless of the pressure. Even if a deadline  is very close and there is still work to do, I will try to persevere in the hope of getting the project completed on time or as soon as possible.

Candidate: I work well under pressure and am able to meet project deadlines.

Why is the answer in blue better? Click here to find out.It is important to be direct when answering this question. Using language that suggests doubt / lack of certainty is not ideal. Of course, this needs to be balanced with not being too egotistical (thinking too highly of yourself).

Tip 1: Your pronunciation during the interview

One of the most common errors I have experienced when preparing non-English speaking candidates for an English interview is not so much what they say, but how they say it. Accept the fact that you may make a few mistakes, but make sure you are speaking clearly, using an interested and enthusiastic tone of voice. In the majority of interviews, the people interviewing you are looking for your ability to communicate effectively, so you need to make sure you’re heard.

Tip 2: Avoid negative language

The interviewer might ask you what experience you have in a particular area – but what happens if you haven’t really got the experience you think they might be looking for? For example

Interviewer: So do you have any experience in working with different departments on a projects?

You: No, I don’t.

You: Only a little.

You: Well, I have worked with different departments in previous positions, and I have had the opportunity to work on larger projects.

Keep in mind that short answer that focus on negative points will not give a good impression.

 

Some final vocabulary

Here are some words that may come up in an interview – make sure you know what they mean!

A CV (also called a resume [rez-you-may]) – a description of your education and work experience

A reference – a letter or comment from previous employers about your work

Your background – your personal history (where you grew up, hobbies, interests etc)

Salary – the money you make from a job per year (compared to wage, which is often by the hour, day or week)

Made redundant – when the position you had is no longer required by the company or the company ha no more work for you

Fired – when you are forced to leave your job often because of poor performance or causing problems in the workplace

Resign – to leave your job voluntarily