Useful tips on how to handle a conference call — January 10, 2019

Useful tips on how to handle a conference call

Are you frightened of speaking English in a conference call just because you might not understand?

Speaking English is challenging, but during a conference call and in front of your colleagues, your boss and other business partners can be really stressful!

It can get easier if you follow some tips:

 Prepare Ahead

  • Think about the vocabulary and expressions you would like to use

Greetings

  • Keep it simple with: Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon

Have some Paper and a Pen

  • You might need to take notes

Show you’re listening

Use expressions such as:

  • Oh, I see
  • Right
  • Exactly

Repeat Important Details

Never be afraid to repeat relevant information to make sure it’s correct.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, repetition, or to slow down!

What we need is CLEAR COMMUNICATION!

 

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Is there a way to say Befana in English? — January 5, 2019

Is there a way to say Befana in English?

Unfortunately there is not a word for it in English. It simply does not exist in the English tradition.

So, what does the Festivity of Befana match with in the English calendar?

It is the festival of Epiphany, which stems from Greek and stands for manifestation. The Church celebrates this day as the moment when the three Wise Men (also called kings) came to visit the Holy Child in Bethlehem and when the Baby Christ was manifested to the whole world. Their names were Gaspar (India), Melchior (Persia) and Balthasar (Arabia).

This explains why the word Epiphany in English can also stand for a moment of enlightenment, of deep understanding. The Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season and, in the past you were supposed to take down all Christmas decorations on this day.

Having said that, the Italian Befana resembles the ordinary English witch riding a broom. Yet, it is different to the witches of English descent. Operating a tight flight schedule, the Italian sibling, though old and ugly-looking, delivers gifts to children and never casts spells or any such evil things on individuals or congregations. She brings stockings with candies if you behaved in the year. If you did not, she delivers a stocking with edible sweet charcoal reminding you of your misdeeds.

 

la-befana

What are your New Year’s resolutions? — December 28, 2018
How to translate correctly and fearlessly — November 27, 2018

How to translate correctly and fearlessly

English students very often need translations for themselves and for friends as well. The funniest part of it all is when you need to translate from your language into English. It can drive you nuts, but please, don’t lose heart. Here is some advice for you.

Remember that what you want to translate will be subjected to English readers. So, bear in mind that it has to sound English, and, what sometimes has sense in Italian can sound a conundrum or senseless in English. However, let’s see some common or less common mistakes.

Settimana bianca

In English you cannot possibly say white week as it would be considered as opposed to black week, which does not exist so far. So, you might like to translate this expression as a skiing holiday, which English people will find perfectly understandable.

Faccio il ponte

You would not hopefully like to translate this expression as I’m making a bridge. Think if you were a chef in a restaurant, for example. But you can say instead I’m having a long weekend. In other words, your usual customers would be deprived of your specialities for two-three days but then you would be back and delight them with your dishes once again, rather than challenging them of facing the perils of crossing a bridge that you have built during your short absence.

Sotto la pioggia; Sotto la luna; sotto i riflettori

The cat is under the table, say kids. It wouldn’t ’be possible for you to say under the rain. But you can well say I was out in the rain and I’m drenched now. If this sounds difficult, try to remember the song Dancing in the rain.

Under the moon would not be possible either, as it suggests that you are exactly under that gorgeous planet, not an inch more to the left or to the right. So, to begin with, try to analyse what the original expression in Italian stands for. Does it not mean, perhaps, that you are enjoying the moonlight and Romeo or Juliet have long gone green with envy?

In fact, you can translate this expression as in the moonlight.

Though a big fan of the Italian singer Zucchero, the lyrics in English in his song Baila Morena, I fear, should have been in the moonlight / sotto luna piena (not: under the moonlight).

The same goes for sotto i riflettori. In English it matches in the spotlight.

 

translate blog

 

How to make the right impression on a prospective employer and get the job of your dreams? Part II — September 24, 2018

How to make the right impression on a prospective employer and get the job of your dreams? Part II

During the interview:

In part one of this series, we examined some useful, I hope, tips to effectively prepare for a job interview.  Now, let’s focus on what to expect during the interview itself and how to deal with those tricky questions….

Yes, probably the prospective employer will ask some tricky questions.  For example, they will certainly ask what your biggest defect is.  Don’t say “I’m often late for meetings” or  “I just can’t seem to get on with my colleagues.” Do all you can to turn a weakness into a strength for the employer.  For example, don’t say “I’m very demanding with others and consequently they avoid working with me.”  Rather say “I’m rather demanding with myself and thrive on diversity.”

Moreover, they will probably ask you to define yourself with three, maximum four adjectives.  Again, don’t be generic.  Be specific.  Think carefully and try to come up with specific adjectives that clearly identify you.  Your prospective employer must, to some extent, see you reflected in those adjectives.

And lastly, they will ask why they should hire you.  Tell them you have the right skills and competencies to make a difference in the company.  Be careful, though.  Don’t sound overconfident.  Simply let them know that you have ideas you would like to share with them.  Ideas you believe can be developed by the company.

To sum up then.  Think of your biggest defect and turn it into an opportunity.  Define yourself using specific adjectives and give them a good reason to take you on board.

After the interview, thank the interviewer and leave as soon as possible.

What should I do now?  We’ll consider this question in part three of this series.

Back to work – back to decent English — September 4, 2018

Back to work – back to decent English

So, how are you doing? Is the post-holiday period over? Are you still wrestling with the idea that you must work now?

However, for some English students, the real issue seems to be that of switching from Span-Port-Germ-French – English into standard English.

What we might suggest you do is to slowly try to get back into track. For example,  start watching a movie in English (your favourite sit-com, if you have one, would be fine too). Then, you might try to read out loud one or two dialogues in English. This will help you for a more correct pronunciation as well as recall the sound of genuine English  phonemes.

In three or four days from now you will have fully recovered from the funny language-mixing disease, hoping that the memories of the relaxing holidays will outlast the pressure inevitably brought on you by the everyday routine.

 

backt to work blog

Taking off from the Intermediate Plateau — June 26, 2018

Taking off from the Intermediate Plateau

On Monday June 18th the Living Language Institute was invited by the Pearson Academy to a special event held at the British Council in Rome, featuring the release of the new Speakout Intermediate Plus and Advanced Plus Student’s book with DVD-ROM. Speakers included Antonia Clare, Andrew Howarth and Donatella Fitzgerald.

Antonia, in particular, shared with us some useful insights on how to motivate intermediate students to, so to say, take off from the intermediate level and soar to higher levels of lexical and grammatical accuracy. The idea is to boost the student’s confidence empowering them to go beyond the comfort zone.

The speaker underlined that the above can be achieved through specific individual and/or group tailor-made activities which she demonstrated abundantly during her presentation.

It was a truly pleasant meeting and we are grateful to the Pearson Academy for the opportunity extended to us and we are eager to put to good use the valuable information.

foto libri Pearson

Culture hidden in vocabularies — June 8, 2018

Culture hidden in vocabularies

Every language belongs to a certain culture. This is an indisputable fact which we can notice studying a new language. Sometimes we may feel surprised by the number of words the mother tongues use in different countries to name apparently the same concept.

A common example which shows the situation when the language mirrors the culture is the one of Inuits. They are the native inhabitants of the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Researchers have studied the language of this ethnic group and have discovered that their vocabulary is distinguished from others by the use of terms meaning “snow”. In fact, Inuits keep the notion of snow straight in their minds and name it in plentiful ways. As they live where the snow doesn’t lack, they are used to it and they notice the differences between its kinds, its way of melting, and other phenomena related to it. The research on the language has shown that the Inuit glossary contains more than 400 expressions while English, and other languages, presents a significantly lower number.

The way snow is comprehended by some cultures illustrates how languages work, which means how they adapt to the reality they belong to. Every culture has its own view of the world and it can be easily seen in language. The point is that if a society meets something on the everyday basis, it gives the concept many names making a distinction between its multiple sorts. At the same time, if the same notion doesn’t occur or is a rarity in other societies, the names for it are few. That is why, Hawaiians have 65 terms for fishing nets, 108 for sweet potato, 42 for sugarcane and 47 for bananas. Similarly, Scots describes rainy weather, Somalis camels and the Baniwa tribe living in Brazil uses 29 words to name ants.

As we have seen, languages are inherent to cultures. By studying a new language, you assume a new perspective and you get to know things you were unaware of. Obviously, more the culture is distant from yours, more surprises wait for you.

snow

By Kaja Brąz

La giornata dei bambini — June 1, 2018

La giornata dei bambini

In alcuni paesi del mondo si festeggia la giornata dei bambini. La data varia a seconda del paese: ad esempio in Gran Bretagna i ragazzi hanno festeggiato pochi giorni fa, il 13 maggio, in Polonia invece le celebrazioni hanno luogo oggi, cioè come ogni anno il 1° giugno.

Ma perché si dedica un giorno ai bambini, perché oggi più che mai la Giornata dei bambini è ancor più significativa e infine chi ha il “diritto” di festeggiare questo giorno speciale?

La risposta è molto semplice: dedichiamo un giorno all’anno alle mamme, ai papà, ai nonni, affinché si sentano amati, considerati, importanti, afinchè possano sentire la vicinanza di chi vuol bene loro, perché non fare la stessa cosa con i bambini? Certo ai piccini come ai grandi, piacciono le coccole indipendentemente da un giorno speciale. Ma quando questo giorno speciale arriva, oltre alle coccole ci sono tante sorprese: regali dei genitori e tante attività dedicate alla crescita e al divertimento dei bambini. Nelle scuole si fanno gare dove i ragazzi affrontano delle sfide sportive, nei teatri si rappresentano  spettacoli per i più piccoli e nelle piazze si organizzano diversi giochi e attività ludiche.

Occorre soffermarsi sulle origini della Giornata dei Bambini, come mai la festeggiamo?

Le Nazioni Unite l’hanno creata più di sessant’anni fa come una giornata per trasmettere solidarietà ai bambini di tutto il mondo. Infatti a parte la gioia delle celebrazioni, la Giornata dei Bambini serve a rendere noti i problemi dei ragazzi nei paesi per esempio in cui manca la pace o domina la povertà.

Un’altra ragione che ha spinto verso la celebrazione di questa giornata è la sensibilizzazione dei bambini più fortunati riguardo le condizioni, a volte terribili, in cui alcuni loro coetanei versano e l’incoraggiamento ad apprezzare il benessere nel quale vivono: un piccolo passo per cambiare il mondo.

Non dimentichiamo poi che tutti noi, qualsiasi sia la nostra età, una volta siamo stati bambini. Se ce ne ricorderemo manterremo vivo il nostro entusiasmo per tutto ciò che ci circonda e resteremo giovani per sempre e potremo continuare a scoprire la meraviglia anche nelle piccole, ordinarie cose quotidiane.

By Kaja Brąz

La vita quotidiana della metafora — May 17, 2018

La vita quotidiana della metafora

Di solito si pensa la metafora come strumento dei poeti, la si concepisce come qualcosa di raffinato, ricercato, assente nel linguaggio comune, in realtà le metafore non si trovano soltanto in poesia infatti, anche se inconsapevolmente, le usiamo ogni giorno e non solo per colorire il nostro vocabolario ma anche e soprattutto per rendere i concetti che desideriamo esprimere più chiari e comprensibili.

Per esempio prendiamo la nozione di “tempo”: non di rado diciamo che lo abbiamo perso o che lo abbiamo risparmiato, che qualcosa ci costa un’ora o impegna il nostro tempo. A volte persino diciamo che lo sprechiamo.

Osservando il concetto di “tempo” in queste espressioni, possiamo vedere come sia insito nella nostro pensiero il parallelo fra tempo e denaro. Il tempo esprime un vero e proprio valore in termini economici infatti come sia la mancanza di denaro sia la mancanza di tempo fanno pensare alla povertà.

Ci sono poi altre locuzioni che contengono in sé la parola “tempo” e ci conducono in altri ambiti: il tempo scorre, passa, sfugge, vola o arriva. In questi casi attribuiamo al tempo qualità come lentezza o velocità, trasformandolo in qualcosa in movimento.

Ed è così che spontaneamente creiamo le metafore: descriviamo qualcosa attraverso qualcos’altro più semplice da comprendere perché esistente nel mondo fisico.
Facciamo qualche altro esempio, osservando le seguenti espressioni: essere all’apice della salute o al culmine della forma, levarsi dalla tomba, cadere ammalato, andare giù con l’influenza, possiamo notare che tutte hanno un punto in comune: appartengono ai concetti salute e vita sono su, malattia e morte giù.

Per descrivere un buono stato della nostra salute o il suo miglioramento, scegliamo parole associate con l’altezza. Per la malattia e il suo peggioramento invece scegliamo parole associate al basso, a qualcosa che ci diminuisce fisicamente.

Probabilmente la ragione di tutto questo sta nel fatto che quando siamo malati stiamo distesi in posizione orizzontale e altrettanto avviene con la morte.

Il linguaggio figurato, dunque, è qualcosa che ci riguarda molto anche se non siamo poeti o letterati, tutti noi lo usiamo abitualmente, parlando di idee, sentimenti, pensieri o concetti astratti. Alcune locuzioni sono fisse, altre invece le inventiamo esprimendo tutta la nostra creatività a seconda delle situazioni e della nostra personalità.

post kaja metafore ok

By Kaja Brąz