“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader”. Margaret Fuller
This week’s lesson comes to you from France.
Trisha Traughber is a fellow English Language teacher based in France.
Trisha and I met on Facebook (where else!). We share a passion for English literature and books. Trisha has created a wonderful niche and business around her love of books called Vagabond English. Trisha’s goal is to help you enjoy reading, build your book habit and make English your own.
Her motto is “transform your English one book at a time”.
But hang on, you may ask yourself ( or me) how English literature and reading fiction is going to improve your business communication skills in English.
Well, in this week’s lesson, Trisha shares 5 ways an unforgettable English book of fiction can give you the confidence and joy to communicate in English for business. And it may just make you learn to love English literature!
My dear EWATers, I give you Trisha.
Listen to the Post
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Who doesn’t love a great book?
When you read, you dive (immerse) into a story, hear the ‘voice’ of your favorite character. You have the chance to live in English.
Are you working hard to do business in English? Does the language (and the culture) feel like it’s not quite ‘yours’ yet?
If you’re hard at work on your business English skills, reading books in English might seem more like a fun distraction to you–something you can put off (delay) until later.
But did you know that starting a book habit in English can help you add a new dimension to your English practice?
Reading books can help you make English your own.
Reading books in English isn’t just fun; it can help you:
- Expand your vocabulary and speak and write more like a native.
- Feel more like yourself in English.
- Feel more at ease when you do business with English-speaking colleagues.
- Overcome some of the difficulty you may have with small talk.
- Help you speak more easily about subjects beyond the topics of your normal work role.
Here are five ways reading a good book will help you with your business English skills:
#1 Books will teach you how to use idioms, expressions and phrasal verbs like a native.
Open a great book and you’ll get a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes.You will immerse yourself in their language as well.
The English language is rich with phrasal verbs, collocations and expressions that may leave you puzzled the first time you hear them in conversation.
Reading fiction is a great way to start exposing yourself to the way native speakers think and speak. It’s a way to see those expressions in action before you actually need to hear them in a conversation.
Tip: Want to be sure you recognize new expressions and ways of speaking in conversation? Want to make sure you can pronounce them correctly?
Try listening to the audiobook as you read.
#2 Books put the language into context.
One thing I love about Shanthi’s blog is that she reminds us of the importance of learning new expressions, idioms, phrasal verbs in context.
Because learning and memorising language from lists is not only boring, it’s ineffective.
You need strategies that work–and that make good use of your time. You need context! Books give you that.
- Books let you see how native speakers actually use new expressions–and in what situations they use them.
- When you learn new words and ways of speaking in an unforgettable book, the language becomes unforgettable as well.
Tip: Want to remember more idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs so you can actually use them again?
Keep a small notebook with new words in sentences from your book. Keep the words organized in scenes or stories from your reading, so that you can relive your book and your vocabulary later.
#3 Reading fiction immerses you in new cultures.
I was recently watching one of Shanthi’s videos: How to do business in Malaysia, and I was struck by the importance of understanding a culture and its people, not just its language.
I myself am originally from California but live and run my business in France, so I am constantly trying to fit in (feel that I belong)–even after nearly a decade of living in the country! I need to be at home in the language.
One of my favorite things about reading fiction is that it allows you to experience life from someone else’s perspective while you read–and to take something back with you.
I find that reading allows you to experience a culture as if you were a part of that culture. It teaches through that experience in a way a simple explanation or cultural note never can.
Tip: Choose books that take place in the countries and cultures where you want to do business.
#4 Reading books can help you with small talk.
As you have probably discovered, being competent in your profession and in business English doesn’t always prepare you for the small talk that is so essential in English speaking countries.
How can reading books help you with small talk?
- Books take you beyond the workplace and give you the vocabulary to speak on a variety of topics. You could choose fiction or nonfiction books that focus on your interests, so you can truly be yourself during small talk in English.
- Books can give you a common conversation topic. I love Shanthi’s advice of steering the conversation towards a topic you feel comfortable discussing. If you’re in the habit of reading books in English, you could even ask if someone has read any good books lately. Or if they’ve seen a film that was also a great book.
- Books and book discussion groups help you learn to ask the right questions. I often say that taking part in the discussion group is not about having all the answers, but about asking the right questions. As you’ve probably read in this post asking the right questions makes all the difference in small talk as well.
Tip: Join a book club! If you’re already doing business and living in an English speaking country you can join a discussion group to help you with small talk skills and to help you solidify new vocabulary through discussion. Don’t have a local group or don’t have the time to meet? Join us at the Vagabond English Book Club.
#5 Reading can help you think before you speak in English.
You may be one of those lucky people that is never afraid to speak up, who enjoys and even excels at expressing yourself spontaneously in English and your native language.
If so, I envy you!
But maybe you’re one of the many people who feels nervous about meetings, conferences, interviews or just small talk over a cup of coffee. If you’re like me, you may feel nervous about such conversations even in your native language!
If so having the chance to ‘think before you speak’ or giving yourself a chance to prepare for conversations can be your lifeline (help).
Reading is one way to observe and watch conversations taking place. It allows you to gather your thoughts on your own before you share them with others–for example in a book club or with a friend.
Keeping a reading journal is another way to give yourself the chance to ‘think before you speak.’
Tip: as you read fiction or nonfiction books, take 10-15 minutes each day to write down your thoughts and reactions to what you have read. Your writing doesn’t have to be long and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. In a few weeks, you’ll find that you will be able to use more of the words and expressions from your reading. You’ll be able to find your words much more easily when it’s time to express yourself.
How are you making English your own?
I wish you well in all your efforts to do business in English and to truly feel like yourself in the language.
I know something about that struggle!
If you’re already reading Shanthi’s blog and following her suggestions, I’m sure you’re on the right path.
Are you interested in starting a book habit?
Are you interested in adding a new dimension to your English practice and finally making English your own? Sign up for your free guide with tips for taking your first 5 steps toward reading books and making English yours.
Happy reading, indeed. Thank you so much, Trisha for these precious tips.
She runs a small business teaching English, raises two bilingual kids and hikes and reads whenever she can. She also spends quite a bit of time enjoying the conversations in the book club she run on Facebook for non-native speakers. If you want to know more about Trisha, do check out her website, Vagabond English.