Lesson Summary 

I've got 5 tips to help you sound more professional at work. You'll learn simple, but important speaking tips for Business English to help you communicate clearly and confidently in your job.

How do you ask for a task to be completed by a certain time in a polite way? Overall, how do you sound more professional when you speak english?

What are the words and sounds that SO many people use, but it can immediately make you sound unprofessional and uncertain? You’ll have to watch the video to find out 😉

🌎 I’ve worked at companies in other countries and I had to learn how to adapt to their culture in their workplace. I had to make slight adjustments to the way I addressed people, the way I spoke to them, and the way I accepted or declined invitations. Navigating new cultural landscapes is half the fun of living abroad!

Of course, you know how to sound professional in your native language, but there are likely some different rules and customs in English.

So I hope this video offers you more than just English speaking tips, but just how to sound more professional at work. How to feel confident, comfortable, and relaxed at work. This video will help you get your message across effectively and politely!

✍️ Let me in the comments, do you have any other tips to sound professional and polite?

Have you already noticed some differences in the way that business is done between English and your native language? What are they?

———- TIMESTAMPS ———-

0:00 Introduction
1:22 – Slow Down
2:30 – Make direct Statements
4:00 – Practise intonation
6:16 – Avoid filler words and sounds
8:13 – Avoid unhelpful phrases
9:48 – Conclusion

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

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Video Transcript
Section
Well hey there, I’m Emma from MmmEnglish. And this week, I’ve pulled together five tips on how to sound more professional in English.

If you’re surrounded by English speakers at work or if you’re planning on getting a job at a company where you have to speak English most of the time, then this lesson is gonna be perfect for you. I've got some tips that will help you to sound confident, impressive and professional.

If you do enjoy the video, make sure you give me a thumbs up you share it with a friend. It all helps. And to get my new lessons as soon as they arrive, make sure you're subscribed and you hit that notification bell.

 

Alright, let's get professional.

Working at a company where the language, the culture, and even the mannerisms are different to your native language must be really hard, even quite intimidating at times.

At work, you want to show your colleagues that you’re capable of doing a really good job, right? Well, the way that you communicate is a huge part of being effective and productive at work.

So today we'll practise communicating your message in a clear, professional and polite way.

 

Tip #1: Slow down

My first tip today is to slow down. If you speak English reasonably well, you may think that talking fast makes you sound smarter and more confident in your English.

It's probably what lots of YouTube English teachers have been saying to you: speak quickly, link words together, sound like a native speaker.

However, at work, it's a little different. It actually makes it much more difficult to understand someone if they're speaking quickly. It’s harder to follow along with what they're saying. And in a professional context, this is absolutely not ideal, is it?

We really need to communicate our message clearly in the workplace.

So when you slow your speech down a little, the people or the person that you’re talking to is gonna feel like they're having a conversation with you rather than you're just talking at them.

It’s much easier for them to understand, and you yourself will have time to think about what you're gonna say and think about how you're gonna say it. so that it comes out clearly and accurately.

 

Tip #2: Make direct statements

Now my next tip is to make direct statements.

  • Can you please hand this report in by Friday?

So this sentence is not as direct as it could be because it introduces the option that it's not done by Friday. Maybe that person's gonna think it's okay to get it to you first thing on Monday morning. They can work on it over the weekend, perhaps.

It's the way that we're asking it with the modal verb, can. We're asking is it possible?

Can does make the request really polite but it doesn't clearly set the expectation that it needs to be done by Friday. So to make it clearer, say:

  • Please hand in this report by Friday.

Now you're still being polite and you're being really assertive and clear. Assertive means that you're behaving or speaking in a really confident way, clearly expressing what you want or what you need.

And when you respond to a statement just like this, or a request like this, do not say:

  • I'll try my best.
  • I'll try.

It's so non-committal. It's like: Okay! I can’t promise anything but yeah, I'll try.

You also need to be direct with your answers.

  • Yes, I can get it done by Friday.
  • It’s going to be difficult for me to meet that deadline because I have a big meeting with the marketing team tomorrow afternoon.

 

Tip #3: Practise your intonation

My next tip is to practise your intonation. Intonation really helps you to express your mood, your feeling, your attitude and your meaning. And if you use the wrong intonation, your message can easily be misunderstood.

Now what’s really interesting is that each language has its own tone and intonation patterns. To English speakers, Russian or Cantonese can sound a little harsh when people are speaking but most often that's not the case at all.

It just sounds that way to English speakers because of what we understand about our own language which really does make me wonder what does English sound like to you?

Do you think that I sometimes sound way too excited? I'm curious. I guess it might sound a little different to what you're used to.

Let me know down in the comments! What does English sound like to you?

Okay, let's get back to intonation practice. In English, we use a rising intonation at the end of some statements and of course, some questions.

And that's when our voice goes upwards, the tone of our voice goes upwards at the end of a sentence. So of course, it can indicate a question and usually a question that requires a yes or no answer.

But it can also indicate an emotion like surprise or happiness and it can also indicate uncertainty or indecision. So there's actually a few different ways that you can interpret rising intonation in English.

So I want you to compare these two sentences.

  • I plan to join you at the meeting and then have we'll have lunch afterwards.
  • I plan to join you at the meeting and then… have lunch afterwards?

So that second example really showed indecision, uncertainty, doubt. And it's really not the type of message that you want to send in a professional context, in the workplace, right?

So use that rising intonation when you're asking questions and you're showing emotion, positive emotion but not when you're trying to be clear and direct.

 

Tip #4: Avoid filler words and sounds

Tip number four is to avoid using filler words and sounds. It's like totally annoying.

Words like: like, totally, literally, are all classic filler words, unnecessary words.

And sounds like ehhh, uhhh, ehmm – all of these are used to buy time as you're thinking of the right word or the right idea that you want to express.

When you use these words or these sounds at work, it can be really unprofessional. It can seem quite distracting. It may seem like you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Or perhaps it might even feel a little too informal especially if you’re speaking to people who you respect, who are higher up in the company than you or perhaps when you’re presenting to a group of people.

So what I really want to make clear here is that pause is okay. Instead of using these filler words and these sounds, pause and silence is okay between ideas.

Now I know that so many of you feel like it’s a really bad thing to pause like you shouldn't be thinking about what you have to say next, you should just instantly know it. And that's what happens with native speakers as well. Of course, it's not.

And at work, we're often facing challenges or really difficult situations that require us to consider different options and to discuss solutions.

Well, that pause allows you to really consider and it shows that you're considering your options and coming up with solutions that are well thought through. That pause helps you to sound more professional.

 

Tip #5: Avoid unhelpful phrases

Okay the last tip is to avoid really unhelpful phrases.

A really common phrase at work especially when you have to explain yourself is: I thought or I assumed.

You might use it when you’ve done something wrong and you want to try and explain what happened.

You say: I thought/I assumed we were including yellow in the website design.

This sounds like you weren’t sure about something and instead of asking the question to make sure you understood clearly, you just went ahead with it anyway.

A better way to explain yourself is to say:

  • My understanding was…

Now this reframes the problem as a simple misunderstanding and your colleague or your manager will probably respond more positively to that kind of thing.

  • My understanding was that we would use yellow as a bold colour for this design.

“I don’t know” is another really, really common phrase that you hear at work but it’s one that I suggest you avoid completely.

Why? Because it’s so unhelpful! And therefore, it's unprofessional.

It is much better to say:

  • I'll find out.

So this lets the person know that you’re committed to solving the problem, rather than just waiting to be told what to do about it or wait for someone else to do it instead.

Now this video up here is a great one to check out if you are looking for words and phrases that will help you to sound more professional at work.

 

So we’ve been through my five tips! Now I want to check that you've remembered them all. They were:

  • slow down;
  • make direct statements;
  • practise your intonation;
  • avoid filler words;
  • and avoid unhelpful phrases.

So we all know that you won't make these problems go away overnight. They're habits, aren't they? So we need to break them and build new habits.

But it's okay, now we need to know what we need to be looking out for. You can put a note on your wall, or next to your desk at work to help remind yourself about all of these different things that you need to keep in mind to keep improving your communication at work.

Here's a video that will help you to learn about some of the things you should never say at work.

And as for next week's video, you're absolutely gonna love it I can't wait to share it with you.

Hit that subscribe button and join me again next week. Bye for now!

 

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mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!