Author Archives: Blythe

How to Learn English Without a Teacher

Let me tell you a secret. You can learn English without a textbook or a teacher! You can learn from the English that is around you every day. All you need to do is look for it.

Learn English Without a Teacher
Think about all of the “teachers” you have:

People you can talk to: friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, waiters and waitresses, cashiers, taxi and bus drivers, flight attendants, sales people, landlords, hair stylists, the person sitting next to you at a party

Things you see every day: supermarket signs, traffic signs, maps, social media posts, brochures, newspapers, advertisements, billboards, email, junk mail, books, magazines, websites, blogs, food packaging, menus, instruction manuals

Sounds you hear every day: radio, TV, announcements, music, podcasts, the noisy people sitting next to you at a cafe

These are your teachers, and they’re (mostly) free to interact with!
If you interact with the people and things around you, your English will improve naturally. "Interaction" means thinking about what you hear and read, replying to people who speak to you, and writing down notes about things you notice.

  • Read the paper, and look up words you don’t know.
  • Listen to how cashiers and flight attendants talk to you.
  • Listen for different styles of language.
  • Read the back of your cereal box.
  • Watch TV sitcoms to learn slang.
  • Pay attention to signs more often.

Write your observations in a notebook, and if you are taking an English class, ask your teacher questions about what you saw or heard.

Let the English that is around you be your teacher. (If you’re not living in an English-speaking community, you’ll have to try a little harder and be more creative, but it’s possible to find many of these things if you have access to the Internet.)

Go on, look. English is all around you!

A Presentation Is a Story – #20078

A Presentation Is a StoryDo you get nervous when you think about giving a presentation? Most of us do. Do you get nervous when telling a story to a friend? Most of us think this isn’t so difficult. Giving a presentation can be as easy as telling a story.

When you tell a story, you typically have the following elements: an introduction (or “hook”), background information, a sequence of events, a climax, and a resolution or conclusion.

Here’s how you might tell a story:

Get their attention: Guess what happened to me yesterday? or I have a funny story to tell you.

Give some background information: Last weekend, I went on a business trip to Vancouver.

Explain the sequence of events: Before my trip, I…. Then I…. When I got to the meeting….

Reveal the most important point or climax of the story: I was greeted by the CEO and immediately realized that he was my old college roommate!

Explain the conclusion or next steps: I invited him to visit me in California.

Your story might be funny, surprising or sad, but in any case, you’ll probably follow this pattern. Now, think about a presentation that you have given. Did you tell a story, or did you simply read a bunch of unemotional information? People remember stories. If you give a presentation in a story form, your audience will be more interested in what you have to say, and more importantly, they’ll remember your presentation long after you’ve finished.

Here is an example of how you can use the elements of a good story when giving a presentation:

Get their attention: What if I told you that you could complete your work in half the time it takes you now?

Give some background information: Our company has created a software product that can save you time and money.

Explain the sequence of events: All you have to do is download this software, and then….

Reveal the most important point or climax of the story: This software costs only $99 per year.

Explain the conclusion or next steps: If you purchase it today, you’ll get the first two months free.

As you plan for your next presentation, structure your information as a story. You will find it is much easier to create and explain your information as a story, and your audience will be more likely to remember it.

Which is better for learning English: group classes or one-to-one lessons?

Classes or One-to-One Lessons

The answer depends on what you want to learn and what motivates you.

Ask yourself these two questions:

1. What do you want to learn?

If you want to learn how to speak up in meetings, get comfortable with small talk, improve listening, practice negotiating, learn to debate, or gain confidence in public speaking, consider a group class.

If you want to focus on your individual pronunciation problems, learn how to speak in 1-to-1 settings, improve writing, learn industry-related vocabulary, practice interviewing, or have all of your errors analyzed and corrected, consider a private, 1-to-1 lesson.

2. What motivates you?

If you are a social person and enjoy talking with others, then a class might motivate you more. On the days when you are tired and don't want to go to class, knowing that there are other people who will be there without you could be just enough motivation to get you to class. If you like to work with a team, and you are inspired by other people, a class will be more motivating than a one-to-one lesson.

If you don't like to work in groups and want the full attention of the instructor, then a one-to-one class might be better for you. If you are easily distracted, a personal instructor who will keep you on task will be beneficial.

Bottom Line: In order to improve, you need to believe that the environment is right for you.

Other Factors

Of course, cost and time will also influence which option you choose. Classes are usually much less expensive than 1-to-1 for obvious reasons, but if you want to have a flexible lesson schedule, then 1-to-1 would be better. As you can see, the answer is not simple!

Don't forget to ask your instructor what he/she prefers. Instructors have different opinions based on their personal strengths and experience. Don't insist on taking a one-to-one lesson from someone who is a stronger group instructor.

Here are some additional points to consider when thinking about taking a class or private lesson:

Benefits of Classes (or Small Groups)

  • Interacting with your classmates is highly effective for your language development.

  • Mixed-level classes can help everyone learn more. The lower-level learners will be pushed more than if they were alone, and the higher-level learners can solidify their knowledge by helping others.

  • The questions and additional information from the other learners in class can add extra information that the instructor didn't plan on teaching.

  • Learning in a group can take the pressure off of you.

  • You can make friends and business connections.

Benefits of Private Lessons (1-to-1)

  • The lessons can be personalized and reflect exactly what you want or need.

  • Instructors can give you individualized attention and feedback.

  • Your lesson time and location can be scheduled around your life and work.

  • You can work on sensitive work-related material that you don’t want to share with a class.

In summary, you need to consider your needs, learning-style, and motivation. You also need to consider your instructor’s needs, teaching-style, and strengths. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there is likely a perfect fit for your situation.

How to Choose Articles (A, An, The) – #20076

Although these three little words seem so simple, they are actually some of the hardest English words to master! Read these rules, and then test yourself to see if you can choose the correct word for each blank.

business englishRules for THE

Articles A An The
Use “the” before a noun when…

1. The listener knows the exact thing you are talking about.
The speech was really long. (The listener heard the speech, too.)

The car was speeding. (The listener knows what car you are describing.)

2. There is only one in the world.
The Internet has made my life easier. (There is only one Internet.)

The moon is bright. (We have only one moon!)

3. The noun represents a place in a community that everyone knows or shares.
I went to the bank. (Even if you don’t go to the same bank, you should still use “the.”)

We use articles with these community places: library / gym / doctor / bank / gas station

4. The noun represents a public service or system.
I called the fire department.

I took the bus.

Other examples: the police, the ambulance, the paramedics, the train, the subway (However, we don't say I took the taxi. or I called the 911.)

Don't “the” before a noun when…

1. The noun is a proper noun (a name, city, company).
She works for Google.

I live in California.

*However, we DO use “the” when referring to “the United States" and other countries with states, union, or republic in their names. We also use "the" with countries that end is "s" like "the Philippines."

2. The noun is a concept or idea like love or an area of study like history.
They wanted more independence from their manager.

I studied English in school.

business englishRules for A & AN

Use “a” or “an” before a noun when…

1. The noun is general (not a specific one.)
I saw an interesting website today. (The listener doesn't know which website yet.)
However, when you talk about this website again, you will say, The website was interactive.

2. The noun is one of many; the listener does not know exactly which one you are talking about.
I ate an apple for lunch. (There are many apples, and you ate one.)

*Using AN*
Use “an” when the noun that follows it starts with a pronounced vowel: We say, “an underachiever” but “a university.” The u in underachiever is pronounced as a vowel, but the u in university is pronounced with the consonant "y" sound.

A note about plural nouns

Do not use "a" or "an" with plural nouns, You CAN use "the".
Universities are getting more an more expensive these days.

All the companies I applied to are in California.

english grammar practiceARTICLE QUIZ

Article Quiz
Select the correct article in each sentence. Select "x" if no article is needed. Write your answer in the box and click "check answers" at the bottom.

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Nouns to Verbs – #30034

Learn how to change common business nouns into verbs. Take the quiz at the end of the page to test your knowledge.

Nouns to Verbs

business englishNOUNS TO VERBS




give feedback ("Feedback" is NOT a verb!)

english grammar practiceQUIZ

Noun and Verb Form Quiz
A noun or verb is given to you. If it's a noun, write the matching verb form. If it's a verb, write the matching noun form. Click on "check answers" to see your results.

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More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Verbs for Your Self-Introduction
Common Verbs With and Without To

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Canceling and Rescheduling Meetings Lesson – #40003

Rescheduling MeetingsThis is a lesson plan for practicing canceling and rescheduling meetings. First, read the key phrases and tips. Practice saying them aloud.

Then, read the two dialogs and decide which one is better.

Next, practice on your own with the situations listed.

Finally, discuss your answers to the questions with a friend, teacher, or with the MyOvient community by writing a comment.

business englishKEY PHRASES


    I am very sorry, but I am running late. I hope to be there in about 30 minutes.
    I’m afraid I will not make it to our meeting due to a problem that just came up at work.
    Unfortunately, an issue just came up at work, and I cannot make it to our meeting this afternoon.
    I apologize for the inconvenience, but I am not going to be able to make it to the meeting tomorrow.
    Due to (problem), I will not be able to make it to the meeting.
    I need to reschedule our meeting because (problem).
    I will need to postpone our meeting. (Explain problem.)


    Could we meet tomorrow at the same time?
    Are you available on Friday at 2 PM?
    Next week is completely open for me. Please let me know the best time for you.

meeting tips communication snacks

business englishTIPS

canceling a meetingIf you are going to be late to a meeting, you should send an email, text, or call to let the others know when you'll arrive. If you have to leave a message, you should, but it’s a good idea to try to talk to someone who can pass along your message. (This could be an administrative assistant or someone else attending the meeting.)

You do not have to tell the other person why you are going to be late, but it will help if you say that it is out of your control. If it is your fault, apologize and tell them you will be there soon. If you need to reschedule the meeting, tell the other person why you need to reschedule and offer another date and time.

If your reason for canceling is personal, you don't have to explain the details. For example, you can say, "I have a family conflict, and I need to reschedule the meeting."

business englishDIALOGS

Which dialog is better? Why?

Dialog 1

Ashley: Sue! It’s Ashley. I’m stuck in traffic. I was on the highway and there’s a huge wreck. I tried to exit at Wolfe, but the exit is blocked. I’m going to try another route. It is raining very hard and I don’t know what to do.

Sue: Okay, Ashley, calm down. Just drive slowly and be careful.

Ashley: Okay, I will. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the meeting on time.

Sue: That’s okay. What would you like to do?

Ashley: I guess you can hold it without me and talk about the things I was going to discuss.

Sue: Well, I don’t know if I’m very comfortable covering your topics because I don’t know them very well.

Ashley: What else can I do?

Sue: Did you talk to Eric?

Ashley: I couldn’t get hold of him.

Sue: Did you ask to speak to his admin?

Ashley: No, I’ll try that. I’ll call you back.

Dialog 2

Ashley: Hello, Sue. This is Ashley. Unfortunately, there has been a wreck on the interstate due to the weather, and I am stuck in traffic.

Sue: OK. Thanks for calling. We were just about to head into the conference room for the meeting.

Ashley: I’m glad I caught you then. I’m afraid it looks like I won’t be able to make it to the meeting. Do you think we can postpone it for about an hour?

Sue: I don’t have a problem with that but did you speak to Eric? I know he really wants to present his work today.

Ashley: I left a message on his voicemail. Sue, would you mind letting Eric know the situation? If he would like to hold the meeting without me, I completely understand. Otherwise, I should make it to the office in about 30 minutes and would be happy to meet then.

Sue: Sure. Let me talk to him and I will call you right back.

Ashley: Thank you, Sue. I really appreciate your help, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

business englishPRACTICE

If you have a teacher or study partner, practice these activities and ask for feedback.

SITUATION A: Pretend that there is bad weather and the roads from your house are flooded. You will not make it on time to a meeting and you to need to call and reschedule the meeting. What would you say. Practice saying it.

SITUATION B: Your are scheduled to attend a meeting at 9:00 am with Eric and Sue. It is 8:45 and because of a bad accident on the highway, you are running very late and will not make it on time. You attempt to call Eric’s cell phone to let him know you will be late, but he doesn’t answer. What would you say on his voicemail. Practice saying it.

SITUATION C: You double-booked appointments for 8:00 am with your attorney and your accountant. Your accountant charges a fee for cancellations, so you needs to contact your attorney to reschedule. Write an email that you would send to your attorney, asking to reschedule.

SITUATION D: You have a lunch meeting at 12:00 pm with a customer, but you have a very bad toothache and are going to see a dentist at 11:30 am. You need to call your customer and ask him to move the meeting to a different time. What would you say? Practice saying it.

MyOvient Members: Write your opinions of these two dialogs in the comments below.

business englishDISCUSSION

If you have a tutor or study partner, discuss your opinions to these questions.

  • Have you ever been late to a meeting due to bad weather or traffic?
  • Do you think you should call (or text) someone if you are only going to be 5 minutes late?
  • What do you think are good reasons to cancel a meeting?
  • How do you feel when other people cancel a meeting on you?

MyOvient members: write your answers to these questions in the comments section below. (To become a member, click here.)

Business Email Writing Prompts – #20073

Improve your business emails by practicing writing emails with the prompts on this page. First, read the example email for each prompt. Next, write your reply. Finally, show your email to a teacher to get feedback. If you are a MyOvient Member, you can write your email below in the comment section!

business email writingWRITING PROMPTS FOR BANKERS

Prompt #1: Loan Request

I would like to know if it is possible to get a loan for a used car that I'd like to buy. The car is being sold for $13,000, and I'm interested in getting a $10,000 loan. I'm buying the car from a private party, not a dealer. Please advise.

Thank you,
Ben Cross

How would you respond?

Prompt #2: Checks Not Received

I ordered checks three weeks ago, but have not received them yet. Have you sent the checks? If you have not sent them yet, is there a way I can pick them up at a local branch so that I can get them immediately?

Thank you,
Veronica Glass

How would you respond?


Prompt #1: Membership Request

I am interested in joining your the University health club, but I do not attend or work at the university. Is there still a way for me to join?


How would you respond?

Prompt #2: Payment Discrepancy

Your last invoice to me, I was billed for 30 hours of conference room use in the office park. I believe this number is incorrect. According to my records, I used only 25 hours. Could you please send me your list of the hours that I used so that I can check it against my records?

Kind regards,

How would you respond?

How to Use a Thesaurus to Become a Better Writer – #20072

Do you struggle to come up with the perfect vocabulary word to describe your thoughts? Read the lesson below to learn how using a thesaurus can help you become a better writer.

what is a thesaurusDEFINITION OF A THESAURUS

Roget's ThesaurusA thesaurus is a reference tool that is used to locate synonyms (words that are similar in meaning to a particular word.) Thesauri (the plural of thesaurus) are traditionally published in print form, but are more conveniently available—and more easily searchable—online.

Thesauri can be used to clarify the meaning of an unfamiliar word when its definition in a dictionary can’t be understood. This can be particularly useful for a nonnative speaker, because the range of synonyms offered by a thesaurus might include at least one word that he or she already knows. These synonyms could provide the necessary clues for the nonnative speaker to figure out what the original word actually means.

Here are a few popular online thesaurus options:

why use a thesaurusWHY A THESAURUS IS HELPFUL

The most common use of a thesaurus is to avoid word repetition, the potentially monotonous overuse of a term in writing or speech. Similarly, a thesaurus is used to identify replacements for words that seem too common or dull, e.g., “see” might be replaced by “view.” The alternate vocabulary suggested by a thesaurus can be used to create texts that are more interesting because of the richer language that is used.

To illustrate how helpful this can be, consider the following example of a monotonous sentence; note how the vocabulary suggested by a thesaurus makes the subsequent revised version more interesting:

Original sentence:
A thesaurus is used to find words that are interesting to use in place of other words and is used to make texts that are more interesting.

Revised with a thesaurus:
A thesaurus is used to identify vocabulary that is interesting to utilize in place of other words and is employed to create texts that are more engaging.

why use a thesaurusHOW TO USE A THESAURUS

Synonyms of AskIf you want to substitute a new word for one that you have used too much, simply look the word up in a thesaurus and find alternatives.

If you are using an online thesaurus, type your original word (or phrase) in the site’s search box. The results will include a list of alternative words with similar meanings. (You will also see the word’s part(s) of speech and, in some cases, its definition and pronunciation. If the word has more than one part of speech, synonyms will be given for each of its functions. These synonyms are the alternatives that can be substituted in place of your original word or phrase.

Be careful! Sometimes the synonyms do not contain the same feeling or nuance as the original word. In order to make sure you are not using a word with a different feeling, do a "cross check" of the new word by checking its own definition to make sure it matches the feeling you want.

Whether you keep a printed copy on your desk, bookmark a website, or download an app to your smartphone, your writing will improve with frequent use of a thesaurus. In addition, you will learn new vocabulary in the process of looking up synonyms!

why use a thesaurusPRACTICE

Use a thesaurus to find an alternative word to the one that is listed. If you click on the "reveal answers" you will find one example. (There are more possible answers.) Click on the link after each word to see more answers from

Find alternatives to the word "speak."
Find alternatives to the word "try."
Find alternatives to the word "give."
Find alternatives to the word "choose."
Find alternatives to the word "look."

If you are a MyOvient PLUS or PRO member, you can ask questions or leave comments about this page. Click here to learn more about MyOvient Membership.

Improve Your Reading and Current Event Knowledge – #20071

Reading Skills Current EventsThis page is a reading comprehension exercise that guides you as you study a news story about a current event.

A series of questions will help you analyze your news article and identify any unfamiliar words or grammar. You will be invited to relate the story to your own context by thinking about ways the story might connect with your cultural background or experience.


1. Find a Website that reports on local news. (If you don't live in the USA, choose any area that interests you.)

2. Choose one article to read. (Length doesn’t matter.)

3. Answer the questions below.

4. Discuss your answers with your teacher, study partner, or friend.

5. Feel great about understanding local culture and news!

current eventsFIND A STORY

If you need some help finding a story to read about local news in the USA, here are some suggested sites:
San Jose Mercury News Local News
Chicago Tribune Local News
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Local News
New York Times Local News


Answering these questions will help you analyze the story and relate it to your own experiences.

1. What was the headline?

2. On what news site did you find the story?

3. Were there any photos? Did the photos help give you more details about the story?

4. Was this article about a new or old story?

5. Answer the “5 Ws and one H.”

6. Describe the story in one sentence.

7. What is your opinion of the story?

8. Could this happen in your home country? Why or why not?

9. Do you have any questions about the story that you would ask a local?

10. Were there any words or grammar constructions that you did not understand?

current eventsSHARE YOUR ANSWERS

If you work with a study partner or teacher, discuss the story with them. If you are a MyOvient PLUS or PRO member, please share your answers with us in the comments section below.

More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
News Vocabulary Quiz
Sequencing Events at a Meeting
Copyright Listening Quiz

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3 Ways to Make a Strong First Impression – #20070

Make a strong first impression

If you want to make a strong first impression, you need to look confident even if you don't feel it! This lesson will teach you three tips for looking confident, as well as give you ideas on how to practice by yourself and then in public.

If you spend time practicing and using these tips, you will make a great first impression. After a short time you will begin to FEEL confident, too.

make a strong first impressionTIP #1: SPEED

People who are nervous tend to speak too fast. Nervous people do not look confident, and their listeners may not trust them. By maintaining a relaxed speed, you will look calm, confident, and trustworthy. Plus, you will have time to think about what you want to say. In order to speak at the right speed, add pauses between your thoughts and sentences. Pauses add authority.

Do people tell you that you speak too quickly? Do people sometimes say that you don’t finish your words or sentences? Make sure you give yourself time to finish your thoughts before skipping to your next idea. If people ask you, "what?" after you speak, you may be talking too quickly.

Practice introducing yourself and adding pauses between your phrases and sentences. Do this in the mirror without talking to anyone. Add a pause between your first and last name. You should feel like you are talking slowly.

The next time you are speaking, remind yourself to breathe and take your time.

make a strong first impressionTIP #2: MOUTH

The way you move your mouth affects your pronunciation. English sounds require large mouth movements. You cannot make a strong impression on someone if your listeners cannot hear your words clearly.

Look in a mirror and talk to yourself. Do you open your mouth when you speak? Are you using your whole mouth to speak? Are you using your lips, teeth, and tongue when forming words?

Open a book or magazine and read aloud for 2 minutes. Practice opening your mouth much larger than usual as you speak. Feel yourself saying every word clearly. Do this every day until you feel that you can do it while speaking. Does your mouth feel tired? It should!

The next time you are speaking, remind yourself to open your mouth more. If your listener does not ask you to repeat yourself, you have succeeded!

make a strong first impressionTIP #3: EYES

In English-speaking countries, eye contact is important for making a strong impression. If you don’t make eye contact with someone, he might think you do know what you are talking about, you do not have self-confidence, or you are lying. It is okay to look away at times, but remember to keep coming back to the eyes of the person you are speaking to.

Do you feel comfortable looking into the eyes of the person you are talking to?

Practice introducing yourself in the mirror, and keep eye contact with yourself.

Now try it with the next person you talk to. How did it feel? If you have a hard time looking at people’s eyes, try it for just a few seconds at a time. If you get uncomfortable, shift your eyes for one second or look at one eye only.

Remember SME (SPEED / MOUTH / EYES) the next time you are trying to make a strong first impression.

More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Look at Your Audience
Oral Presentation Skills and Voice Gestures
Hand Gestures While Presenting

MyOvient Plus & Pro Members can write comments or ask questions below.(Click here to learn more about becoming a MyOvient Member.)

Business Elevator Pitch – #20069

Elevator PitchAn elevator pitch is a quick introduction about your business.

The term "elevator pitch" refers to a quick speech that you give while riding in an elevator with an investor or executive. Since you would need to get off at a lower floor than the investor or executive (who is probably riding to the top), you have about 20 to 30 seconds to make your pitch before exiting.

Of course, this kind of speech does not require you to be in an elevator, but you do need to do it quickly.

elevator pitch patternsELEVATOR PITCH PATTERNS

Elevator pitches need to be short, simple, and descriptive. Use active verbs that describe what your company does (e.g., create, provide, enable, assist, develop, or produce). Your purpose is NOT to explain your entire company but to make people want to learn more about it!

[COMPANY] + [ACTION VERB] + [NOUN] + for [CUSTOMER] + to/so they can [VERB].


elevator pitch examplesELEVATOR PITCH EXAMPLES

The following elevator pitches follow the patterns above. Can you guess what companies these pitches are describing?

1. We provide a social networking platform for people of all ages to connect with their friends.

2. Our company designs and manufactures well-designed computers and phones for creative people to enhance their lives.

3. Our website provides a simple platform for amateur film makers to upload their videos to the web.


Now, you try! Write your own elevator pitch using the patterns above. Write a few different examples, and practice giving them to your friends or teacher. Once you have created a strong pitch, memorize it. You should be able to give it at a moment's notice.

If you are a MyOvient Member, please write your elevator pitch in the comments section below. We will give you feedback!
(Click here to learn more about becoming a MyOvient member.)

More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Cold Call Phone Scripts
Cold Call Voicemail Scripts
Personal Self-Introductions

Personal Self-Introductions – #20068

Personal Self-IntroductionThis lesson presents scripts for two different styles that can be used when you introduce yourself and/or your company. The style that you use will depend on the context you are in: whether you are giving a formal speech or talking with someone informally. Be prepared for both of these situations by creating in advance your own self-introductions following the examples on this page.


In some business situations, like at the beginning of a meeting or presentation, you will need to give a quick self-introduction in front of a group of people. We call this kind of self-introduction a "speech style" introduction because it is similar to giving a quick speech. As you talk, people will probably not interrupt or ask questions, so you need to keep talking for about 60 seconds. In this situation, you should add the following information:

+ Your Name
+ Where you work
+ How long you have worked there
+ What you do in your job
+ Any information relevant to the meeting or presentation

For example:

My name is Dan Liu. I work at University Credit Union and have been working there for 5 years. I am a loan officer, and so I work directly with the students, helping them find and apply for suitable loans. In some cases, I even help them find grants or scholarships that they do not have to pay back. I really enjoy helping students find ways to pay for school.

MyOvient Plus & Pro Members: Write your own speech style introduction in the "comments" section below.
(Click here to learn more about becoming a MyOvient Member.)


Sometimes you need to introduce yourself to people while in a one-to-one conversation. Unlike the speech style above, you do NOT want to give all of your information at one time. In a conversation style introduction, you should give a little information, and then wait for the other person to give some information. This should be like a tennis match, you "hit" the ball to your opponent, and he "hits" it back to you. Don't dominate the conversation. Ask questions, and give the other person a chance to speak. Read this example:

A) Hi, I'm Dan Liu. (Shakes hand)

B) Nice to meet you. I’m Tony Hall. What do you do?

A) I’m a student loan officer at University Credit Union. How about you?

B) I'm an accountant. How long have you been at UCU? I worked there about ten years ago.

A) Really? I've been with them for just five years, but I'm sure we know some of the same people.

Practice this kind of conversation the next time you meet someone new.

More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Elevator Pitches
Introduction (Cold) Email Template
Cold Call Phone Scripts

Gift Giving in America – #20067

Gift Giving in America

In many cultures, there is a well-defined structure for giving and receiving gifts. There are rules for when a gift is appropriate, what the gift might be, and what is said when the gift is given or received. Although traditions are less rigid in the U.S., there are things that are helpful to know.

When to give a gift in AmericaWhen to Give a Gift

1. Visiting: If you are visiting for the first time, invited for a special meal, or will be staying overnight, arriving with a gift would be especially appropriate. Though always appreciated, gifts are not expected every time you visit someone in their home.

2. Significant events in a person’s life: A gift is expected for the person or persons being honored at such events as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, baptisms, christening, and retirements.

3. Christmas: Because Christmas is a holiday with a particular emphasis on gift giving, friends and those in significant relationships often give each other Christmas presents. Additionally, you will be expected to give a gift to your hosts when invited to celebrate Christmas with them,; you will likely receive one as well. Giving Christmas gifts at the office can be tricky; ask a coworker what the tradition is at your company. Often the tradition of “drawing names’ is used. The names of individuals are written on slips of paper and put into a container; everyone “draws” (takes out) a name and is to buy a gift for that person only. A price limit is usually specified. Friends and those in significant relationships often give each other Christmas gifts.

4. Showers: A shower is a gift party for a couple who is getting married for who are expecting a baby. The whole purpose of the event is to prepare the couple for their new situation with appropriate gift items to begin their new phase in life. Usually gift possibilities are “registered” (selected and listed) at various stores and websites, making gift purchasing easy. Information about these “gift registries” is usually included with the shower invitation.

Safe Gifts to GiveSafe Gifts to Give

1. Items representing your home country. Americans, being geographically isolated, are enamored with foreign cultures and would appreciate a gift of any kind from your home country.

2. Food. Whether it be a box of chocolates or a gift basket of cheeses, food is nearly always appropriate with a couple of considerations: make sure your recipient drinks alcohol before giving wine, and make sure he/she is not vegetarian before bring sausage!

3. Flowers. These, too, are almost universally appropriate gifts. To make it easy for a host, you can choose to have them sent in advance of your arrival.

4. Registered Gifts. If there is a shower, you will most likely be able to select a gift from a store registry list.

How to give a gift in AmericaHow to Give a Gift in America

When visiting someone, present the wrapped gift (if not flowers or wine) when you are first invited in and are greeting each other. Smile, look your host in the eye and say something like: “Thank your inviting me; this gift/these flowers/ this bottle of wine are/is for you” and hand them your gift. They will likely smile and thank you as they take the gift. If attending a party in someone’s honor, there may be a designated table where you can leave your gift.

How to receive a gift in AmericaHow to Receive a Gift in America

If someone gives you a gift, smile and look them in the eye as you say something like, “How kind of you to think of me.” If it is wrapped, and it is not an event where you would be expected to unwrap gifts later, you may ask, “Should I unwrap this now?” They may say, “Yes,, please” or otherwise, something like, “You can wait until later.” If you do open the gift, make a positive comment, e.g. “I always wanted one of these,” or “What a beautiful color!”

Prepositions for Your Self-Introduction – #20066

Learn how to use prepositions correctly as you introduce yourself to others. Take the quiz at the end of the page to test your knowledge.

business englishPREPOSITIONS

The most commonly used prepositions in introduction are: at, for, with, on, in, from, and since:

at / for A-Tech (specific company)
in the R&D division (specific division or department)
with George Smith (person/company)
on the 2nd floor (floor, street, level)
in San Jose (city, state, or country)
from 8 AM to 5 PM (time period with a beginning and end)
since 2005 (one date)
for 5 years (complete time period)

english grammar practicePREPOSITION QUIZ

Verb Tense Quiz
Select the correct preposition in each sentence. Two choices have been given to you. Write your answer in the box and click "check answers" at the bottom.

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More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Verbs for Your Self-Introduction
Prepositions: In, On, At
Introduction (Cold) Email Template

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Verbs for Your Self-Introduction – #20065

Learn how to use verb tenses correctly as you introduce yourself to others. Take the quiz at the end of the page to test your knowledge.


When introducing yourself you can utilize one of three verb tenses: the Present, Present Perfect, or Past. Your choice of verb tense will depend on if you are talking about information that is either currently or always true (use the Present Tense), whether you are describing the information as an ongoing process (use the Present Perfect tense), or whether you are talking about information the describes something that happened in the past (use the Past Tense). The following examples illustrate how each verb tense is used in the context of self-introductions:

business englishVERBS

Present Tense Verbs
My name is Dan Liu.
I work at University Credit Union.
Our company provides financial services for employees of the University.

Present Perfect Tense Verbs
I have worked for the credit union for 5 years.
I have lived in San Jose since 1995.
My wife has never met my coworkers.

Past Tense Verbs
I graduated from SJSU.
I moved to the US when I was 20.
I used to live in Seattle.

english grammar practiceVERB TENSE QUIZ

Select the correct verb tense in each sentence. Two choices have been given to you. Write your answer in the box and click "check answers" at the bottom.

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More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Prepositions for Your Self-Introduction
Introduction (Cold) Email Template
Cold Call Phone Scripts
Cold Call Voicemail Scripts

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Business English Learning Opportunities – #20062

In order to continue to improve your English, you must use English regularly. This following is a suggested list of activities for practicing your listening, reading, and speaking skills in contexts that are interesting and fun:

business englishPractice Activities

Watch videos, listen to audio files and take quizzes on
Watch videos: TED, CNET TV, and TechCrunch.
Listen to podcasts in English about your favorite topics.
Watch business-related TV shows in English. (Sharktank, The Apprentice, and CNN)

Reading, Writing and Vocabulary
Read stories on Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and Forbes.
Read tech and business blogs in English and post comments in English.
Join LinkedIn and participate in discussions.

Speaking and Listening
Join a business-related Meetup group in your area.
Go to expos and conferences and practice speaking to the people at the booths.
Talk to international employees in your company.
Volunteer to talk with customers who speak English.

More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Learning English On Your Own
Fluent English

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Ovient TV Episode 1: Leigh’s Favorite Books

Ovient TV is a series of interviews with business people. Watch this video to improve your listening and business vocabulary. Below the video, you will find vocabulary definitions, a listening quiz, and a full transcript of the video.

An independent bookstore is a bookstore that is owned by an individual owner, and the owner is typically a local resident of the area. It is not a national or regional chain. Many large and medium-sized American cities have at least one or two independently-owned bookstores. These bookstores usually sell new and used books as well as other small gift items such as greeting cards, notebooks, toys, and games. Although they have competition from large national bookstores and online sellers, small locally-owned bookstores often carry products that reflect the local culture and often host events such as book club meetings and lectures by authors. Leigh’s Favorite Books is an independently-owned bookstore in Sunnyvale, CA.





Watch the video, and type the missing words into the boxes. Click on "check answers" to check your answers. The numbers before the word mark the place in the video where you can hear the sentence.
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english pronunciation practiceLISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS

Watch the video again, and try to answer these questions. The answers are below the vocabulary section.
1. Where is Leigh’s Favorite Bookstore located?
2. Who owns Leigh’s Favorite Books?
3. What does Leigh do during the day?
4. What do customers get when they trade in their used books?
5. What kind of books does Leigh sell?
6. What are the names of the two large book distributors that Leigh mentions?
7. Does the store carry books that have been self-published?
9. How does the bookstore compete with ebooks and online stores?

english pronunciation practiceKEY BUSINESS VOCABULARY

The numbers before the word mark the place in the video where the word is used.

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english pronunciation practiceLISTENING COMPREHENSION ANSWERS

These are the answers to the listening comprehension questions above.

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english pronunciation practiceTRANSCRIPT

Hi. I’m Blythe with Ovient TV, and today we’re in downtown Sunnyvale, on beautiful Murphy Street. We’re here today to talk to Leigh Odum, the owner of Leigh’s Favorite Books.

Today we’re going to talk to Leigh about her process of buying books and what it’s like to run and operate her own bookstore.

What do bookstore owners do all day?

Most people think that bookstore owners sit around and read all day, and as much as I love books, we’re usually busy organizing them, filing them, helping customers find books, so we don’t get a lot of time to sit around and read.

What is your process for buying used books?

Customers come in with their books that they’ve read already and they come in and trade them in. I go through and look, look and pick out the ones I think we can use in the store. The ones we can’t use I give back to them, but the ones I think will sell in our store I give them store credit for and they can buy a new book with that credit.

How do you know what books to sell in your store?

It’s, it’s always hard to predict what people are going to, want to going to buy, but, um, I try to pick books that reflect the interest of our customers. We are here in Silicon Valley; a lot of people have backgrounds in the sciences, so I always try to carry the latest science writing. (Um) Also novels are always very popular. Sometimes I think about specific customers and I try to think “What would, what would this customer like?” and I buy for them.

How do you determine the number of books to order?

I, I check to see how many books we’ve sold of this author in the past, and I gauge my ordering based on that. (Um) Sometimes it’s just a gamble.

Who do you buy your books from?

There’s, there are few large book distributors and they distribute most of the books, even to large chains, actually. (Um) There, one of them is called Ingram and the other is called Baker and Taylor. It makes, I guess, ordering through them allows us to order one book here and there from different publishers so you don’t have to order in bulk from one particular publisher. Sometimes, we do order directly from writers if they have self-published a books, though, yeah.

Do you carry books by local authors?

I try to carry books by local authors. If someone, if a customer comes in and says that they’ve published a book and they live in Sunnyvale, my belief is that if you live in Sunnyvale, you should have your book carried in the local bookstore.

What goes on behind the scenes at a bookstore?

Well, there’s a lot of inventory management. We spend a lot of time stocking our shelves, making sure our physical inventory matches our, our inventory in our database.

How have ebooks affected your business?

We’re constantly aware of the fact that people can go out and buy a book as a, as an ebook. We do try to add value. We have helpful, helpful employees in the store. We try to create a really nice place to browse for books. We, um, we also sell products that aren’t books. We sell gifts and we sell greeting cards, so if we do lose some sales to ebooks, we also gain, we’ve also gained sales from, from greeting cards and gifts.

Has showrooming affected your business?

Yes, showrooming is a problem. My hopes are that if someone comes into my store, and they get helpful customer service, they might see something that they really just can’t live without that moment and they’ll buy something from us.

Why is it important to sell items that are not books?

Well, we wanted to improve the retail experience in our store. Customers would come into our store after having a nice dinner on Murphy Street and some of them aren’t necessarily readers; they might just come in just to browse and, and look, browse through the books and we started carrying things other than books for those customers.

Naming Traditions Listening Practice and Quiz- #20058

english pronunciation practiceLISTEN

Listening Comprehension
Listen to the audio and answer the questions below.

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Finish the sentences by entering one correct word.

English Listening PracticeTRANSCRIPT
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Traffic Report Listening Practice and Quiz- #20057

English Listening PracticeLISTEN

Listening Comprehension
Listen to the audio and answer the questions below.

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Finish the sentences by entering one correct word.

English Listening PracticeTRANSCRIPT
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Conversation Starters for Networking – #20061

Conversation StartersWhen you attend a networking event such as a conference, trade show, panel discussion, or lecture, do you feel uncomfortable starting conversations with the strangers around you? It's not an easy thing to do, but talking to people is an important business skill. Meeting new people and making connections helps you grow your personal and professional network. A bigger network means more business opportunities.

Below are four examples of conversation starters from REAL conversations at a recent networking event. The conversations weren't long, but they were meaningful. Each conversation ended with an exchange of business cards and hopes of a continued business relationship.

Conversation Starter 1: Ask to share a table

Walk up to someone sitting at a table and ask if you can sit next to him or her. This works every time--unless the seat is being saved. If the seat is not available, just find another table. You might say: Do you mind if I join you? (If they answer no, that means you CAN sit there. They mean, No, I don't mind.)

Conversation Starter 2: Ask if it's the person's first time at the event

When you're standing near someone and he isn't talking to anyone, ask him if he's ever been to this kind of event, if he's ever heard the speaker, or if he's ever been to the event space before. You might say: Have you been to this conference before?

Conversation Starter 3: Ask if the person is a member of the organization

If you find out that you are both members of the organization, you will have found something that you have in common. You can talk about past events. If the person you are talking to is a member and you are not, you can ask about the benefits of being a member. You might say: Are you a member of (name of organization)?

Conversation Starter 4: Comment on the food or drink

Walk up to someone near the food or drink line and make a comment. At a recent event, one person said, I don't think I should drink coffee at 9 PM. The other person replied, It's good coffee. You should try the decaf. This small talk led to an interesting conversation about staying awake at night, reading, and then about books and authors. You might say: This food looks really great.

The goal of conversation starters is to "break the ice" by creating a reason or opportunity to have a conversation. Use the situation creatively, and try to find a non-threatening way to start the conversation.

starting conversations at networking eventsPRACTICE

Here is a list of more conversation starters you can try:

  • The food looks really great.
  • Wow, it’s really raining out there.
  • What a nice day!
  • Have you ever seen this man speak before? (Start a conversation with the person you’re standing or sitting next to.)
  • Have you been to this trade show before? (Ask for advice if you’ve never been to the show.)
  • The speaker is really good, isn’t he? (Comment on an experience that you are sharing.)
  • I’ll move these for you. (If you’re sitting at an empty table, give someone a reason to sit next to you.)
  • Can I help you with that? (Offer to help someone struggling with a chair, door, etc. and then begin a conversation.)
  • Do you know what time the keynote starts? (Ask about event details.)
  • How's the coffee? (Ask about the coffee when standing near the refreshment area and speaking to someone already drinking a cup.)

Do you have other suggestions for starting conversations at networking events? Post a comment below.

Listen to the End of the Phrase Quiz – #20060

english pronunciation practiceLISTEN

One important listening strategy is to listen all the way to the end of a phrase or sentence. Many people stop listening when they hear an unknown word, but that prevents you from hearing everything the speaker said. If you focus on listening "all the way to the end" you will understand more. Listen to the audio recording below and fill in the blanks with the missing words. Check your answers by clicking the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the page. If you want to see the correct answers, click "Reveal Answers." To try again, click "Reset Quiz."

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Prepositions: In, On, At – #20063

Prepositions in on atThe prepositions in, on, and at can be confusing! If you make mistakes and use the wrong preposition, you will probably be understood, but if you want to make sure you speak and write like a professional, you should use these correctly.

We will meet at the office in San Jose on Monday.



Watch the video below to find out how to use the idea of a "target" to help you remember which preposition to use.

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english vocabulary practiceQUIZ

Take this quiz to check your understanding. Choose in, on, or at.

Do you have any questions? Do you want to have your sentences checked by a MyOvient instructor? Please write your questions or examples in the comment section below! Click here to become a MyOvient PLUS member and access the comment section!

Silent Letters in English

Have you ever been surprised by a word's spelling in English? It probably happens all of the time. You either see a word first and try to pronounce it by saying all the letters, only to be misunderstood. Or, you learn a word's correct pronunciation but then spell it wrong. Don't worry! Everyone has to memorize these rules, including native English speakers.

Here is a list of silent letters and the words you will find them hiding inside:

  • Silent "b" : debt / plumber / doubt
  • Silent "c" : muscle / scene / scissors / Connecticut (The middle "c" is silent.)
  • Silent "ch" : yacht
  • Silent "d" : Wednesday / handkerchief
  • Silent "g" : sign / foreign
  • Silent "h" : herb / hour
  • Silent "k" : knowledge / know / knack / knock / knife
  • Silent "l" : talk / walk / half / folk / could / should / would
  • Silent "n" : column / condemn
  • Silent "p" : receipt / psychology / cupboard / Campbell
  • Silent "s" : isle / island
  • Silent "t" : listen / mortgage / fasten / Christmas
  • Silent "z" : rendezvous

Silent Letters in English

You cannot trust English spelling. Here are a few reasons why English spelling does not always "match" its pronunciation:

  1. English borrows a lot of words from other languages, and sometimes we keep the pronunciation of the original word. The word "hour" comes from French. French speakers do not pronounce the "h" at the beginning of words, and so when we borrowed this word from French, we also borrowed their pronunciation. However, we DO pronounce other "h" sounds in borrowed words such as "hospital" and "hungry."

  2. Sometimes a word is made from a combination of two words. When this happens, one of the letters in the middle of the new word is often silent. For example, the the "h" in "shepherd" is silent, but the reason we spell it with an "h" is because it is a blend of "sheep" and "herdsman". This also happens with the letter "t" in "Christmas," which is a blend of "Christ" and "mass."

  3. The passage of time also influences how we pronounce a word. Words beginning with "k" come from Old English, and before the 17th century, English speakers pronounced the "k" at the beginning of words like "knee" (k-nee). As English evolved, the pronunciation changed but the spelling did not.

You can learn more about silent letters from this great video by Joanne Rudling at How To Spell.

Silence of the Letters

I wanted to title this blog post "Silence of the Letters." Would you have understood my reference to this famous American movie? The movie title also has a silent letter. Can you find it?

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Listening for Prepositions of Location Fill-in-the-Blank Quiz- #20059

english pronunciation practiceLISTEN

Listen to the audio recording below and fill in the blanks with the missing prepositions of location. Then check your answers.

PLUS and PRO Members can download this file! Click here to join.

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Embrace the Changes in English, Update your Language

The website Mental Floss recently published a blog post about four changes to the English language. The post received some passionate responses in the comments section. In a nutshell, the article explained these four changes to English:

1. The "ing" is becoming more common than the infinitive form. ("They started walking" instead of "They started to walk.")

2. The use of "progressive" verbs is increasing. ("They were speaking" instead of "They spoke.")

3. The words "going to," "have to," "need to," and "want to" are being used more than other modal verbs (ought to, will, should).

4. The verb "get" is being used more and more with the passive voice. ("They got robbed" instead of "They were robbed.")

Many people wrote comments at the end of the article and stated how they "hate" or "can't stand" these changes. However, change in English is natural. It has been happening ever since the beginning of the language itself. See examples of Old English here. See examples of Middle English here.Update your language

These changes can be frustrating when they happen in our lifetime. However, it is important that we learn about and accept changes to English so that we can communicate with one another clearly. Here are some examples of other changes to the English language.

Traditional Rule:
Their should refer to plural nouns only.

Most writers prior to the 18th century used "their" to refer to singular nouns, as in "Everyone has their own idea." However, during the 18th and 19th centuries most grammarians decided that "their" should only be used to refer to plural nouns. As a result, the rules were changed.

Modern Usage:
Most grammar books and style guides today continue to instruct writers to use "their" with plural nouns. Even so, you will hear this rule being broken in casual speech because it gives us an easy way to create a genderless pronoun. (We don't like to say, "Everyone has his own idea.")

Traditional Rule:
Don't end your sentences with prepositions.

Where does this rule come from? (Or should I say, from where does this rule come?) According to the OxfordWords Blog, this rule originated in the 17th century when John Dryden criticized a piece of writing by Ben Jonson.

Modern Usage:
This rule is broken daily by most speakers, but people still seem to want to follow this rule when writing. Most grammarians agree that it is no longer necessary to follow this Latin-based rule because English is NOT Latin and should not have to follow its rules. This article does a nice job of explaining four reasons not to follow this rule.

Traditional Rule:
The pronunciation of "ask" is /ask/ not /aks/.

In the 1300s, English speakers actually pronounced "ask" with the "k" first, as in "ax."

Modern Usage:
Today, the standard pronunciation of this word is "ask", but there are regions of the US where the standard is still "ax". It is common for regions within the US to pronounce words differently, and sometimes certain areas retain the sounds that are more historically "correct." Here is another example which shows how our pronunciation of vowels has shifted over time.

Language is power, and those who follow the established rules of English feel powerful for following the rules. The changes that occur over time are often caused by outside influences such as population shifts and technology. When people resist change, they are resisting the loss of power that comes with the change. It is understandable. However, some change is necessary if you wish to communicate effectively.

Think of language as software. In order to read this blog post, you are using computer software that has been programmed to communicate with the internet. If you do not regularly update your computer, tablet, or phone software, you will have problems connecting to the internet or running programs in the future. To continue to communicate in English, you occasionally need to update your language. The beauty of English is that it is flexible. This is one reason why it has become a world language.

For some fun, watch this video about the history of English. You'll see how much it has changed over time. You can find the source content for the video here.

How Americans Celebrate Major US Holidays

Americans celebrate a variety of holidays, many reflecting our position as a melting pot of cultural and religious backgrounds. The following list of holidays is not intended to include each and every American holiday, but rather to provide a list of those holidays that have long-established traditions linked to their celebrations:

December 31st/January 1st – New Year’s Eve/New Year's DayHappy New Year
For celebrating new beginnings.
On December the 31st (New Year’s Eve) the last day of the year is celebrated with boisterous parties involving food, noisemakers, and champagne. The New Year is greeted at midnight with shouts of “Happy New Year!” Sometimes people hug and kiss whoever is standing next to them. On New Year’s Day itself, friends and family typically gather in an informal celebration of eating, drinking, and watching American football. Offices are closed on this day. Some restaurants and shops have limited hours.

February 14th – Valentine’s Day
For celebrating love and friendship.
Couples and family members give or send each other Valentine cards, flowers, and/or candy. Couples also typically go out for a romantic meal. School children bring Valentine cards to give to each child in their class. Office workers sometimes bring chocolate to share with each other, but there is no requirement to do this. People also like to wear red. You may hear people say, "Happy Valentine's Day" to one another. Offices are open on this day. Restaurants are often very busy on this night, so it is a good idea to make reservations.

July 4th July fourthJuly 4th – Independence Day
For celebrating the birthday of America.
More frequently referred to as “the Fourth of July,” the date in 1776 when the “Declaration of Independence” was signed. Families and friends gather for food, typically an informal barbeque or picnic. Communities often have parades, and the day’s celebrations end with a fireworks display. You may hear people say to one another, "Happy 4th." or "Happy 4th of July." Many offices are closed on this day, and retail shops, and restaurants often close early.

October 31st – Halloween
For having scary fun.
Traditionally a religious day for remembering the dead, Halloween is now a popular cultural holiday for attending (in costume) parties with a “scary” theme involving ghosts, witches, and “jack-o’-lanterns” (candle-lit pumpkins that are carved with faces). Children in costumes roam from house to house during the evening, expecting candy in response to their shouts of “Trick or Treat!” You may hear people say, "Happy Halloween" to you. Offices, shops, and restaurants are open on this day.

November (the third Thursday of the month) – Thanksgiving
For being thankful with family and friends.
The main attraction of a Thanksgiving celebration is its elaborate feast, that traditionally includes roasted turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, green bean casserole, and pies (usually pumpkin, pecan, and/or apple). The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade is often playing in the background on TV as preparations are made, and football games are often watched later in the day. It is common for family and friends to gather around a large table to eat this dinner. People will say, "Happy Thanksgiving" to each other. The day before Thanksgiving is often said to be the busiest travel day of the year. Offices are closed on this day, and many retail stores and restaurants close early. (Grocery stores usually have limited hours.)

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is the start of the Christmas shopping season. Most retail stores open very early in the morning and advertise big sales. It is common for people to wait in line the night before the store opens to get the best deals. Many offices are closed on this day, but all retail shops are open.

December 25th – ChristmasMerry Christmas
For Christians, celebrating the birth of Christ.
Celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike, Christmas is a huge cultural celebration involving elaborate decorations, special treats, and festive music. “Holiday parties” (the secular way to include people of all beliefs) take place in a variety of settings, e.g. at work or school, throughout the month of December. On either Christmas Day or on Christmas Eve (depending on the family) gifts are exchanged and an elaborate feast is served. During the month of December people say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to one another. Offices, shops, and restaurants are closed on this day. (Grocery stores usually have limited hours.)

Look at Your Audience #20056

This video explains how to connect with the people in your audience, hold their interest, and maintain control by simply keeping your eyes focused on them. You will observe in this video how the speaker’s connection with us, his audience, is interrupted when he looks at his screen for an extended period of time. You will then see how our attention is retained when he keeps his eyes focused primarily on us, after only a brief glance towards the screen.



Key Points: When you give business presentations, you need to make sure you look at your audience when you are talking about your slides. If you look at the screen while you are talking about your slides, your audience may lose interest. Worst case, they may stop listening to you. Keep control of your audience's attention by looking at them!

More Practice
Once you have practiced this page, you may also want to try these related pages:
Hand Gestures While Presenting
Oral Presentation Skills and Voice Gestures

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Oral Presentation Skills and Voice Gestures #20055

In this oral presentation skills video, you will learn to use intonation to underscore what you have to say. Think of intonation as “gestures” for your voice. You will learn how adding vocal gestures to your speech creates a more audibly interesting presentation that will capture and retain audience attention. This lesson focuses on the three pitch levels used in speech; you will learn to use them strategically to emphasize points and to communicate confidence. Watch the video a few times, then practice speaking some of Marc's example sentences. Imitate as closely as you can the pitch levels he uses for each example.



Main Points

  1. Use 3 levels of intonation when you present.
  2. Use level 3 to emphasize key words.
  3. Use level 2 when you start your sentence.
  4. Use level 1 when you end your sentence.

More Practice
Once you have watched this video, you may also want try these related pages:
Hand Gestures While Presenting
Look at Your Audience

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New “How To” Pages on MyOvient

How to order coffee at StarbucksDid you know that making mistakes while speaking will help you become a more fluent English speaker?

Did you know that you should give the size first when ordering coffee at Starbucks? ("I would like a tall white chocolate mocha.")

You can learn more tips like these by reading our new "How To" pages. Currently, we have posted two "how to" articles. These are How to Speak Fluent English and How to Order Coffee at Starbucks.

Keep checking back because we plan on adding more pages such as how to give directions and how to write thank you notes. You can get to this new section by clicking on the "How To" tab at the top of this page.

Fluent English

Fluent English in 5 Steps

Being fluent in English doesn’t mean speaking fast. You are already fluent in your native language, right? Do you always speak your native language fast? Probably not. Fluency in any language is more about speaking with the correct rhythm and pronunciation and less about speaking fast.

Tip 1: If you want to become a more fluent speaker, ignore grammar mistakes. Focus on speaking without stopping instead.

Fluent English means making mistakes

Being fluent does not mean being perfect. Are you fluent in your native language? Yes. Do you ever make mistakes? Yes, of course you do. Everyone does. If you start to say something, and you realize you have made a mistake, keep talking. You do not have to correct your grammar unless you think it will be confusing.

For example, a native speaker will often say, “There’s five people waiting in the lobby” instead of the correct sentence, “There’re five people waiting in the lobby.” If you correct yourself and say, “There’s five, I mean, there are five...” It will sound less fluent than if you ignore your mistake and keep talking.

To practice this skill, speak for two minutes about any topic, and try to ignore your mistakes. Do not start your sentence all over again if you make a mistake. Keep talking without stopping.

Tip 2: To become a fluent English speaker, you need to connect sounds within and between words.

Speak Fluent English by Connecting

This effect makes the language sound smooth and flow like a wave. While there are rules for connecting sounds, the best way to learn is to extend the ends of your words and let them connect with the next word naturally.

Make connections inside words: Do not stop your voice in the middle of a word. For example, do not say “co - nect,” instead say, “connect.” Make connections between words: Do not read these three words alone: “middle of a.” Instead, say, “midelova.” This will make you sound more fluent. Delete sounds: Fluent speakers also combine words by deleting letters. In informal situations, it is better to say, “I don’t wanna go” instead of “I do not want to go.”

Click on the links below to get started with connecting:

Connected Speech/Linking Video
Connected Speech/Linking Practice
Deleted Sounds Practice

View all of our connecting and linking pronunciation pages:

Connecting and Linking Resource Page
Accent Diet Connecting Resource Page
Accent Diet Connecting Rules Resource Page

Tip 3: A fluent speaker stresses the important words in a sentence.

Fluent English with Stress

If you want to speak in fluent English, you have to stress the correct words in your sentence. Your listener will expect to hear more emphasis (stress) on the key words. If your listener hears stress on the wrong words, at best he will think your speech sounds strange, and at worst, he will not understand your meaning.

For example, do not say, “THERE are problems WITH the site.” (Stressing “there” and “with” is not typical.) Instead, you should say, “There are PROBLEMS with the SITE.” (Stress the words “problems” and “site.”)

Word Stress Video
Word Stress Practice

View all of our word stress pages:

Word Stress Resource Page
Accent Diet Word Stress Resource Page

Tip 4: To sound fluent, your voice should rise and fall when you speak. Most English statements have an “up – down” pattern.

Speak in Fluent English using Intonation

Use intonation to help your listeners distinguish between your questions and statements. Intonation also helps your listeners understand your true feelings—even when you do not say what you mean.

To reach this level of fluency, you need to spend time listening to native speakers in various situations. Listen to people asking questions, negotiating, persuading, describing, and so on. If you listen to a recording, repeat their intonation patterns along with the recording. To practice your own intonation, stand up and speak. Move up onto your toes when you say a keyword and move your voice up as your heels go up. This movement should help you “feel” the intonation.

Intonation Video
Intonation Practice

View all of our intonation pages:

Intonation Resource Page
Accent Diet Intonation Resource Page

Tip 5: Pausing is an important part of English and will help you to sound fluent. Let silence be part of your speech.

Speaking English Fluently Does Not Mean Speaking Quickly

Many people wrongly think that pausing is bad for fluency, but it is NOT! Pausing in the correct place will help you sound more fluent. Do not pause between every word, but do pause for about a half a second between phrases and before or after you say something really important. Be careful! Do not pause for more than 1 second. Doing this will not help your fluency. If you pause too long, you will be interrupted.

To practice pausing, squeeze your hand into a fist under the table when you are talking. This will serve as a physical reminder to pause. Also, listen to the radio and TV and pay attention to the pauses that speakers make. You will see that fluent speakers do pause!

Pausing Video
Pausing Practice

View all of our pausing pages:

Accent Diet Pausing Resource Page

I hope you found this page helpful. If you have questions, please leave a comment below, and we will be sure to respond!

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