Emotional Response – The Grammar of Socialising

November 24, 2012 Leave a comment


This is a business English lesson plan to help learners socialise more effectively.

It helps learners to develop their confidence to respond in a conversation, which is a critical part of any social situation.


 Stage 1 – Discussion

At the beginning of class, engage learners in conversation about what they’ve been doing recently.

During the conversation, record any language that you think could be developed / improved

Don’t focus on grammar and vocabulary errors here but language that sounds strange in a social conversation.


–  The meal last night was very interesting

–  My stay in London was not bad

– A: I had a very good time last night



Stage 2 – Vocabulary

Write the word simpatico on the board and ask learners if they know what it means and if they have a similar word in their language.

Ask learners how they feel if they are simpatico with someone

Give learners the following words:

  • Empathic
  • Sympathetic
  • Have rapport with
  • Get on (well) with

Elicit have rapport with and get on with and ask learners what the other words mean


Stage 3 – Discussion

Lead a discussion on techniques learners use to build rapport with people

Variation – collocations with rapport

  1. Introduce these verbs – have, build, establish, develop, make, get
  2. Ask learners to discuss which verbs are common partners with rapport
  3. Answers – have, build, establish, develop

Stage 4 – Conversational Skills – Emotional Responses

  1. Record the following conversation using a Digital voice recorder or Audacity or give learners the transcript:

A: How are you?

B: Tired, doing a lot of overtime.

A: OK. That’s bad.

B: What about you?

A: Going on holiday next week.

B: Right, that will be nice

  1. Ask learners to discuss whether the speakers have rapport with each or are taking an interest in each other
  2. Give learners a copy of the transcript and this word list:
  • Great
  • Amazing
  • Awful
  • Really
  • Terrible

Ask learners to change words in the text to make the speakers sound more interested in each other.

Suggested Answer:

A: How are you?

B: Tired, doing a lot of overtime.

A: Really? That’s awful.

B: What about you?

A: Going on holiday next week.

B: Great, that will be amazing


Stage 5 – Pronunciation

Model the stress and intonation of some of the improved responses.

Great, that will be amazing


Follow Up

Practicing social English in an organised way is very difficult so my advice is the next time you’re chatting to your learners listen to how they respond and tell them if they respond inappropriately.

Then try to get them to remodel their language using a more empathic/extreme option


Cultural Point

Views on socialising and responding are closely linked to national cultures and some learners may be resistant to this language.

This is a fair viewpoint as, although this language is very common, it’s also very Anglo Saxon.

However, even if learners don’t adopt these techniques, introducing this language is an amazing way to get learners thinking about rapport building and will challenge them to think about how they socialise and how they may be perceived by people from other cultures.


A Business English Lesson Plan for the Present Perfect

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment

This business English lesson plan helps learners use the present perfect to report progress and performance.

Stage 1 – Vocabulary

1. Give learners the following words on cards/a handout:

  • Bonus
  • Performance Related Pay
  • Commission
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Target
  • Deadline

Elicit/teach the meaning of these terms and lead a discussion on the pay policy in the learners’ companies

2. Introduce verbs that collocate with the terms above and practice using them


  • receive a bonus
  • earn commission
  • miss a KPI
  • reach a KPI
  • meet a deadline


Stage 2 – Language Focus



Write two sentences on the board:

  1. We’ve performed really well over the quarter
  2. We’ve had several issues during this quarter

Ask learners which is the opening sentence in a positive situation (the department achieved it’s target) [sentence 1] and a negative situation (the department missed it’s target) [sentence 2]

Explain that the quarter finishes today and highlight the use of the present perfect:

  1. We’ve performed really well over the quarter
  2. We’ve had several issues during this quarter

Elicit why the speaker uses this form: to show that the situation started in the past and finishes now


Controlled Practice

Ask learners to write some other sentences they could use to introduce positive and negative results

Example: We haven’t met the target this time


Stage 3 – Giving Good & Bad News

Give learners a handout with the following phrases and elicit which are used to introduce good and bad news:

  • Unfortunately…
  • So I’m pleased to say that…
  • So, I’m sorry to say…
  • Happily…


Then ask learners to match the phrases with these sentence tails:

  • bonus’ won’t be paid this period
  • everyone will receive a full bonus
  • there won’t be pay rises this quarter
  • we’ll all be getting a pay rise


Stage 4 – Free Practice

Give each learner a card with the following information:

  • exceeded target, big bonuses
  • just missed target no bonus
  • missed target dramatically, no bonus
  • met target, small bonus


Learners then stand up and present their message to the group:

Example: I sorry to say that we haven’t met our target for this period. So, unfortunately there won’t be a bonus paid this quarter.

Provide feedback and error correction


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The Passive in Business

September 22, 2012 5 comments

Any good manager is familiar with the phrase criticise the behaviour, not the person. However, they often have difficulty using language that focuses on behaviour.

To focus on behaviour, I guess we all know that there’s no better form than the passive

For example, why say:

You have missed your performance targets

when you could say:

Your performance targets weren’t achieved

Lesson Idea – Giving Discipline

A common business scenario when the passive is needed is a disciplinary meeting.

Begin the lesson with a simple vocabulary exercise:

Vocabulary – Disciplinary procedure

Give learners the standard disiplinary stages below on cards:

  1. informal conversation
  2. verbal warning
  3. written warning
  4. final written warning
  5. dismissal

Ask learners to put the stages in order and discuss if they have similar disciplinary procedures.

You can develop this section by brainstorming formal and informal synonyms of dismissal or by introducing the phrase dismissed without notice and eliciting meaning.


Introduce a simple scenario where a disciplinary meeting is necessary.

For example:

  • an employee is always late
  • an employee spend lots of office time on facebook/personal calls
  • an employee has missed targets over the last three months
  1. Ask learners to discuss the situation and what level of discipline is necessary
  2. Learners role play the scenario in pairs


Introduce some example sentences for the scenario.

For example:

  • You have missed your targets
  • Your targets were missed
  • You are often late
  • Your punctuality has not been good recently
  1. Get learners to discuss the likely affect of each sentence on the attitude of the employee
  2. Elicit use of passive to focus on behaviour and avoid criticising employees directly
  3. Demonstrate the form of the passive and to to express passive sentences in different tenses
  4. Ask learners to write some more critical sentences in the passive using the previous scenario


Choose another scenario and ask learners to repeat the role play.

Comment on language usage and level of criticism.

You could combine this lesson with the present perfect to show that behaviour is ongoing.

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