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Our First Award!

Everyone here at Perfectly Spoken are extremely happy to share the news with you all that we were invited to submit an entry to the inaugural Digital Education Awards in the Language Learning Product of the Year category and last night we received news that we had won!

The Digital Education Awards

The Digital Education Awards is an organisation that was created to recognise “the best digital people, products and platforms” when it comes to delivering quality education and a lifetimes worth of learning that is available across the world. It creates the opportunity for those of us in the digital education market to highlight the value of what we offer to customers, students, and partners with formal recognition from a board of experts. The awards organisation themselves have an audience that is global and their approach is to embrace the future and digital learning by using online platforms rather than traditional ceremonies and methods.

There were hundreds of entries from more than 20 countries around the world, entries started in June and a huge range of applications were submitted for the potential awards. An esteemed panel of judges from Tech, Education, Finance and Consulting sectors were responsible for making the decision for all the awards. In 2020 more people than ever relied on learning online and therefore it was even more important that we provide an excellent online language learning platform. Our entry was in good company in one of the most popular categories and it highlights both the brilliant work our team has done in providing for our learners and of course, our proud we are of the learners themselves for supporting our platform and finding success with us.

Thank You

So, congratulations to us all and many thanks to you for your contributions and support in getting us to this stage! We look forward to what the future will bring for us all and we are hopeful for the 2021 Digital Education Awards.

David and the Perfectly Spoken team.

Benefits Of Corporate English

Learning a language through your employer is an excellent opportunity to develop a new skill and help reinforce your communication skills overall. Additionally, England is famous for using unusual terminology and slang that can be difficult for non-native speakers to understand straight away. These terms are frequently used around an office environment and in meetings (even video calls), so having a strong comprehension of the language will be a powerful tool, especially for those looking at career development and advancement in the UK. Being bilingual has shown to have an increase in pay of 5-20% compared to those who don’t speak a second language and it also increases your chances of being hired and promoted as well.

Employers Benefit From Bilingual Staff

There are obvious advantages for an employer to train or pay for the training of their non-English speaking employees to learn the language and studies show that there are more hidden benefits to having bilingual and multilingual members of staff. The obvious being stronger communication both internally within the team and externally with any clients and suppliers the employees may speak to. But some benefits that employers and maybe the employees themselves haven’t considered are; having more confidence speaking to clients and other professionals on an international landscape, being able to reach a more diverse audience for a customer base, bilingual people typically have stronger listening and communicating skills, and there is even evidence of bilingual employees being better at multi-tasking and having good mental health. So if you’re looking to talk to your employer about taking an English language course, these may be some useful points to research and present to them.

View Our Corporate English Training Here

Employee Advantages Of Speaking Corporate English

If you’re curious about improving your English language skill for the workplace, take a look at some of the advantages you’ll have by brushing up on those language skills:

  • Be more confident during meetings and business discussions
  • Using flawless tone and language in written communication and emailing
  • Use of additional English phrases applicable in everyday conversations
  • Increased chances for future job prospects and promotions
  • Displays your willingness to learn a new skill and go beyond the minimal requirements for your job

As well as the personal benefits of learning another language; it’s good for the mental health and brain, it increases the number of countries you can easily communicate in, and a generally impressive skill to have all together. Learning English for the workplace is not only a great opportunity in itself but will lead to further great opportunities for your career. Whether your employer is offering a scheme to learn through the company or it’s something you tackle outside of office hours, the investment you make in learning English will pay off in a number of ways.

In addition to personal career development, there is more you can bring to the table with having a command of the English language under your belt. In an increasingly global working environment, English is becoming known as the “international common language” with almost 70 countries speaking it as a first language and over 25 with it listed as a second language. Being confident in this arena will set you apart and build trust with both your internal teams and your clients that you may talk to from different countries, creating strong business relationships with them. There are a number of benefits to learning corporate English, both for personal improvement and professional development. In today’s global environment, it will really set you apart and strengthen your skillset and relationships in and out of the workplace.

It’s All About Online

For a company that offers online English courses, it won’t be a surprise we are very much behind the move to online services but Covid-19 has pushed this trend even faster than anyone predicted. There are lots of new ways people interact, new software tools, and even new vocabulary around the new online world so we thought we would look at it in a little more detail.

More Online Than Ever Before

We have been offering high-quality online English courses for a few years now and we know how popular they are. So learning online is certainly not a new thing. However, as we saw schools shut across Europe and many parts of the world people turned to online learning like never before. In many cases, it was school-age children trying to keep up with lessons they were missing. But many people stuck indoors during lockdown also had free time and wanted to do something constructive. So they turned to online learning, whether it was learning to sing, write, play an instrument or cook, for example, people starting to find online courses for everything. We saw a large increase in the number of people signing up to learn English online from all over the world as they decided to take the time to learn for work, family, or other reasons. But it’s not just learning, there has been a huge increase in the number of people shopping online, ordering food online, using streaming services, as well as subscription models for anything from beer to male grooming products and even gardening supplies. Online was big before…it’s even bigger now.

Common Online Tools

For many people, the idea of a video chat was not something they would normally think of before the pandemic. Now, chatting online to family and friends is normal. Programmes like Zoom have become totally normal. Skype is still very popular too. If you were not using WhatsApp before the pandemic then you probably are now and not just or chat, video too! Whatsapp groups have now become very popular. TikTok also seems to be a great way to communicate online by making fun videos, it certainly helped a lot of bored people during the lockdowns in various countries.

How We Communicate

It may seem like we talk in exactly the same way on a video call as we do in person but it really can be quite different. If you use Zoom calls for business meetings, for example, you may notice that it is harder to see if people are listening to you. What people now do is nod their head a lot more. When you are in a meeting with someone face to face you can see if they are engaged with you. On a screen with perhaps 6 faces, it is much harder. So we are all using exaggerated movements like waving and nodding to communicate. We are also not talking over each other as much, video calls do not work very well if everyone talks so people are becoming much more polite and waiting for others to finish speaking. Smiling, shaking our heads, and using our hands are all becoming more important as a way of showing we are involved in the conversation online.

Will we continue using online services as we are now? perhaps, with more and more people working from home and not wanting to use trains and buses online shopping, meetings and learning is certainly likely to stay popular well after Covid-19 is gone.

 

 

 

 

A Very British Summer – What is it Like?

Summertime in the UK is something British people look forward too. As a country, the UK gets a lot of rain during the Autumn, Winter, and Spring too so people get very excited about sunshine and warm weather. But, traditionally, it still rains quite often in the Summer too and British people do like to moan about the weather as well as enjoy it. This post is about what a British Summer is like and some of the vocabulary and common things that happen.

Wet Weekends

It is a very common joke and often something that really happens. People plan a weekend trip in the UK and the weather is bad. Rain is common in the UK even during the summer and British people are well known for camping in the rain or even trying to have a barbecue. It is something Brits talk about a lot and almost expect to happen if they plan to go camping or away. In reality, the summers can actually be very warm and dry but the British culture of bad weather will always be talked about. It is very common to make a joke before going on a trip about the fact it will probably rain all the time.

Sun Burn

British people are not used to the sun! Before skin cancer became something everyone was aware of it was very common for British people to go out in the sun on the first hot day of the summer and get sunburnt skin. Recently this is a lot less common but still plays a role in how British people think of summer, and they still make jokes about it.

Swimming in the Cold Sea and Stoney Beaches

The UK does have some sandy beaches, but they are not very common. Most beaches in the UK have stones that can be hard to walk on and even painful. The sea temperatures in the UK are also very low compared to many places in Europe and the rest of the world. Despite both of these things, Brits love to swim in the sea as soon as the weather gets warmer. It is very common for people to get in the sea for just a few minutes before they get cold and have to get out. British people love the beach but the beaches are covered in stones and the sea is very cold. Many people come from warmer countries and find it strange Brits enjoy the sea so much. It is part of a very traditional British summer to go to the beach and spend a day sitting on the stones and swimming in the cold sea.

Fish and Chips

If you haven’t heard of fish and chips then it is a very big tradition in the UK. Fish and Chips are eaten all year but are very popular in the summertime. People visit the seaside where there will often be many fish and chip shops to choose from. Fried fish with thick potatoes chips (fries) are eaten with tomato ketchup or something called tartare sauce. It is very common to have malt vinegar and salt on fish and chips too. If you order fish and chips you will be asked if you want salt and vinegar. You may also be asked if you want them “open” or “wrapped”. If you want to eat them straight away while walking around or sitting on a bench then open is the best option. If you want to walk somewhere or drive to eat them then having them wrapped will keep them warm.

While travelling may not be possible for many people right now a British summer holiday is a great way to experience British culture and to learn the language.

 

British Storms and their Names

It’s storm season in the UK and after an already very wet winter, Storm Ciara and Dennis have brought record rain levels and heavy flooding across the country. The British are well-known for talking about the weather and this year with such fierce storms already, there’s plenty to talk about.

And with the storms having human names, it sounds like we are talking about someone we know. The Met Office is the national meteorological service for the UK that provides weather services including short and longer term forecasts. Each year around September, it reveals a list of Christian or first names for the upcoming storms. There is one for most letters of the alphabet, with Q, U, X, Y and Z being excluded as it is hard to find names for these.

How are the storms named?

As the British love to think about the weather, the Met Office has invited people to suggest potential storms names – around 10,000 names were submitted last year. The Met Office puts together a final list and releases this in September ahead of the winter storm season. This year’s list started with Atiyah and Gerda, Piet and Willow could be ahead.

Why are the storms named?

It’s not just to help us talk about them. It is believed that naming the storms helps to make people more aware that severe weather could be coming and therefore more likely to be prepared.

When is a storm named?

The Met Office has a warning system to predict when a storm is likely to have an impact on the public. A storm is only given a name when the Met Office believes that it has potential for an amber or red warning.

What are the levels of storms?

The storms levels are represented by a traffic light system based on the likelihood of impact and disruption.

  • Yellow – low impact – daily life will mostly be able to continue as normal.
  • Amber – potential disruption to daily routines. You may need to consider your travel plans and protect yourself and your property.
  • Red – the highest warning level, and fortunately the rarest, but we’ve already had a red warning this year with storm Dennis. It means dangerous weather could lead to major disruption and damage, and even loss of life. This could include widespread flooding, ice and snow that can cut off areas or high winds that can damage property.

How do you know when there’s a weather warning?

The Met Office tries to give 5-7 days notice and have full details on their website. However, weather and particularly imminent storms are reported across all media channels – and of course by talking to each other.

 

 

Popular English Expressions

There are so many idioms and expressions embedded in the English language that it can be really difficult for a non-native speaker to get to grips with them all. But they are a regular and important part of everyday use, so it is good for learners to slowly build up their knowledge. Some expressions have origins that help them make sense, for others it is no longer clear where they came from.  Below are a few such popular expressions:

Bob’s your uncle – this is often compared to the French ‘Voila’. It’s an expression of something coming together, a bit like saying ‘there you have it’.

“I followed the instructions, put it all together, and Bob’s your uncle, I’ve got a new desk.

Taking the biscuit – when something or someone is being stupid or annoying or behaving badly. You strongly object to what is being done or happening.

“It’s bad enough that they want me to work Saturday, but now its Sunday too. That really takes the biscuit.”

Beat around the bush – to avoid or talk around something without getting to the main point.  This saying relates back to hunting, where hunters would beat the bush with a stick to try to get the prey to come out.

“Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want.”

Biting off more than you can chew – taking on more than you can manage. You can imagine this literally – perhaps a big piece of cake that you enthusiastically put in your mouth but can’t chew or move because of its size!

“I think with this new job, he’s bitten off more than he can chew.”

Barking up the wrong tree – to be mistaken in your understanding or pursuing actions that won’t lead to the desired result. On a literal level, think of a dog who is barking at a tree long after the squirrel has run away!

“The police were getting nowhere with the investigation. I think they were barking up the wrong tree.”

Not the sharpest tool in the box – a less direct way of saying someone is not very intelligent. Being ‘sharp’ is associated with quick wit and being smart. The word ‘tool’ can also be used to mean a fool.

He’s not exactly the smartest tool in the box is he?”

It’s all gone pear-shaped – when something goes badly wrong, or fails. The origins of this expression are not clear, but it is the sense of being misshapen or wrong.

“We were planning a lovely holiday, but it all went pear-shaped.”

Our online English lessons and courses are designed to help your speak English with confidence and also correctly. But we also know it is important to understand local sayings and customs in order to give your spoken English texture and for you to understand more about the culture of the UK and people from the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn’s Night – What you need to know

The United Kingdom is home to many quirky festivals and celebrations. Burns Night is one such Scottish event that can brighten the cold winter month of January with a wee dram (a shot of whisky). An institution in its homeland, many Scots in England, and indeed English people, enjoy marking this unique event with its unusual menu and traditions.

The Event

The event is held on the birthday of the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns in recognition of his work and importance. Celebrations range from formal, highly traditional affairs to informal gatherings of friends. It involves many foods that are traditionally Scottish, and not commonplace across England in everyday life.  A traditional menu includes:

  • A soup starter – cockaleekie (chicken and leeks) or cullen skint (haddock, potatoes and onion).
  • Haggis – made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs put in a sheep’s stomach, or sausage skin casing and mixed with spices, onion, oatmeal and suet. It can be a challenging meal for some!
  • This is often served with neeps and tatties (neeps being swede and tatties potato – these are mixed with butter and the like and sometimes also with turnips).
  • A traditional pudding might be Clootie Dumpling (a pudding made with dried fruit and spices often steamed in a linen cloth known as a ‘cloot’) or Typsy Laird (a Scottish sherry trifle).

At a formal celebration, a bagpiper will play to welcome guests and there will be chairman or host leading proceedings. The host will make a speech to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns and perhaps read some of his poetry. The haggis is the main dish of the night, and is often brought on a silver platter and everyone will raise a glass to it. There will be further traditional music, dancing with many men and women wearing Scottish kilts.

Different Ways to Celebrate

In less formal versions, people are just generally celebrating Scottish culture, perhaps playing some traditional music, enjoying a glass of whisky and a version of the menu. The evening ends singing one of Robert Burn’s most famous poems, Auld Lang Syne. This is also sung across the UK as the clock strikes midday on the 31st December, to mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

 

News Flash for English Learners

We are very proud to have launched a brand new service for our Student Plan and Pro Plan subscribers. News Flash is an amazing new learning aid that makes news for English learners even more useful and effective.

If you are learning English then you will know how useful news articles can be. They are an interesting way to learn new phrases and vocabulary, they are a great talking point around which you can practice your English with other students, friends and family, and they can be very useful for people learning English for business.

However, no matter how useful news articles can be it is often hard to find news specifically written for people learning English. Often news for English learners can be out of date and not very useful as news. Not with Perfectly Spoken! News Flash is a news service for English learners that is powered by news coming directly from Reuters so you know it is accurate, unbiased and up to date!

Real and Authentic

News is not only topical and a good learning aid it also helps English learners understand and use real and authentic phrases and words. Real news uses real words and the vocabulary people use in it are up to date and real. Real language is so important when learning English, it helps students understand the English native speakers use and good quality English news is a great place to get this kind of content. Not only is our news real it is also high quality from one of the best news agencies in the world.

So Much More than Just News!

Of course, you can expect the latest news articles, video and audio stories, but we are offering more than just a chance to learn about what is happening in the world. Our News Flash service also has special tasks carefully created for Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced English students. These tasks help you understand more, learn and comprehend new vocabulary and phrases and test yourself to see how well you did. We carefully select news stories and then create tasks for each learning level; this means no matter what English level you are you can understand and learn using our News Flash service.

A Few Minutes

We know most people do not have hours to read the news. We know that most people learning English online are doing so alongside working or studying. So our News Flash stories and short and direct. They only take a few minutes to read or watch and then you can take the test to see how much you have learned.

Find Out More

If you would like to find out more about News Flash – Powered by Reuters then please Click Here. This amazing new service is available to Student Plan and Pro Plan Subscribers along with hours of the best quality online English lessons available, tests, useful additional content and more.

 

 

Why News is So Important for English Learners

If you are learning English there are lots of different ways you can help support your English lessons and courses. Watching movies in English can be very useful and a great way to test yourself and be aware of different accents. Music can also be very helpful; trying to learn the words and practising English by singing but there is one more way you can use the media to help you and that’s by reading lots of online news. There are actually lots of reasons why reading the news can be useful so here is why!

Reason 1

News is a great way to read something interesting that will help your English. Reading phrases from courses and books can be helpful but it can also be quite boring. Keeping up to date with world news will help keep your mind engaged while you are also learning.

Reason 2

The news is a great thing to talk about and it is a great thing to practice talking English with. A good news topic can be perfect for people learning English to talk about together in English. If you are living in an English speaking country or working with English speaking people a news topic is a brilliant way to start a conversation and get some practice in.

Reason 3

Knowing what is going on in the world is very important. It is also very useful to be aware of news stories that affect the country you may be working or studying in. it can help you talk with friends, understand different cultures and it is also very useful if you are going for job interviews in English. Being able to discuss some basic news items in English can really make a great impression at an interview.

Reason 4

English learning experts all agree that news is a great way to learn and understand real and authentic terms and phrases. News is a great place to hear how native speakers really talk and it’s a great place to learn some of the differences and important language skills you may not learn using more traditional methods.

 

Not Always Easy

Even though the news is very useful and a great way to learn and practice English, we know it is not always easy. A lot of news websites have large articles with 1000s of words and this can be very hard to work through as an English learner. Even watching videos of news can be complicated if people speak very fast. But it is worth the effort and there are lots of different news outlets that have smaller articles that are easier to understand.

The important things to remember are

  • Read as much news as you can but make sure you take time to try to understand it
  • Make a list of words that you do not understand, look them up, learn them and then re-read the news article
  • Find a friend or someone at work who will talk about the news article with you. You could even send the article to a friend online and have a video or phone call to talk about it in English to practice.
  • Pick subjects and topics you find interesting or that are very important. Trying to learn from things you find boring will not be as useful or easy as something you are interested in.

Simple News for English Learners

We have launched a new news service for English learners called News Flash. This fantastic new service provides news straight from Reuters who are one of the largest news agencies in the world. News Flash not only gives you simple, interesting and useful stories to read about and learn from it also includes a vocabulary test so you can actually score your learning while catching up on important news stories.

 

 

 

The Summer is over and things are turning cold – Useful Winter English Vocabulary

If you are learning English and have any experience with British people you will know that they like to talk about the weather a lot. There are lots of jokes about how British and English people enjoy talking about the weather and moaning about it too! So we thought it would be a good time to write a blog post about some useful words British people use to talk about colder weather. While Summer in the UK is often not as long or hot as many other places in the world it is still something people look forward too and something people are often unhappy when it is over. It is now nearly October and Autumn is here and things are getting colder!

Chilly – This is a common word that simply means cold. It is used in many different situations and can be used in formal or informal settings. “It is very chilly today”  – Someone would say this to another person to say it is cold. Chilly is used to describe cold but not extreme cold. Chilly can also be used in a building or home to say it is a little bit cold.

Freezing  – “It’s freezing out there!” This term is used to describe a more intense cold. The word actually means when a liquid turns to a solid – water into ice, but as with many British words, this one is overstated to make a point. In many cases, it may not actually be “freezing” but people use the term to explain it is very cold. Someone may walk into a room and say “I’m frozen” – they do not mean they are literally turning to ice, but they are telling you they feel very cold.

Pouring – It often rains in the UK and there are a lot of different words for rain commonly used by people. “It’s pouring out there” is a very common way to talk about how much it is raining and can be used in any situation. This term is actually common in American English too. It can be used in conjunction with the word down “it’s pouring down” or just on its own. There is a traditional children’s rhyme that uses this term:

“it’s raining it’s pouring, the old man is snoring, he went to be and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning”

Chucking it down – This is a term more associated with friends and family. It is not a formal term but means it is raining a lot. Someone may walk into a pub and say “it’s chucking it down out there”. This would mean there is a lot of rain and not just a small amount.

Drizzle  – This is a very common word for light rain. Drizzle is light, fine, small droplets of rain and can get you quite wet if you stay out in it. People may use this to say it’s not raining very much Person A – “It’s pouring out there” Person B – “no it isn’t, its only drizzles” This could be a normal disagreement about how much it is raining.

Blowing a Gale – A gale is a strong wind over around 40 mph. If it feels very windy, people may say “It’s blowing a gale out there”. They may not know how fast the wind speed is but may just use this term to explain there is a strong wind.

If you are learning English for work, travel or to move to an English speaking country some of these words may be very useful, especially if you are planning to visit the UK!