Find a tandem partner direct from your phone

There’s now even an app you can use to find a tandem partner. It works on both Android and IOS so now you really have no excuse 🙂

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Tandem in Vienna

To find a tandem partner in Vienna try:

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Business English Writing: How to do a professional layout

If you want to know how a modern professional business letter/memo/fax should look like, click on the link below. Fully Blocked Style

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Presentations: Sales Revenue 2013

Can you describe the line chart here:

Sales Revenue 2013

Here’s a worksheet and ansakey that will help with the language you’ll need:

Describing Graphs & Gradients // Describing Graphs & Gradients Ansakey

And here’s one we did earlier:

line chart

You should also be clear on the difference between rise and raise. See a previous post of mine: rise / raise: what’s the difference?





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Meetings Mind Map

Here’s a mind map with verb collocations for ‘a meeting’ (e.g. open a meeting), three typical phrases for getting out of a meeting (= avoiding having to attend) and some meetings associated vocab.

Meeting mind map

And here’s a list of vocab and phrases that you can use at different stages.

Language for meetings


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Presentations: How to open proceedings

The pdf gives you a very clear overview with specific language for

The Host: how to greet people, welcome them, thank them for coming, refer to particular groups of people, introduce yourself, introduce the presenter, introduce the topic and hand over.

The Presenter: how to do all the same as above prior to beginning the actual presentation.

Presentations topic intro

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oldest / eldest : what’s the difference?

Adapted from

Both eldest and oldest refer to the greatest in age. The crucial difference, however, lies in the fact that eldest can only be used for related persons, while oldest can be used for any person, place or thing in a group of related or unrelated elements. Examples:

  • He is the eldest/oldest of the three children.
  • Mine is the eldest/oldest car on the block.
  • John is the eldest/oldest student in my class.
  • She is the eldest (less common)/oldest of my nieces.
  • ‘Is New York the eldest/oldest city in the US?’

And while eldest can be used for any group of related persons (as in the above example with the nieces) in reality, it is mostly only used in reference to siblings.

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Trauner: Men & Women keywords ansakey

09 Men & women keywords ansakey

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Somebody anybody nobody etc

It’s essential that you get this right. Mixing up anybody-nobody sounds terrible in English and all it takes is a bit of study and a bit of thought.

The basic rule is this:

Use nobody/no-one as the subject in statements. Note that the verb is in the positive form and takes third person e.g. Nobody likes homework.

Use anybody/anyone as the subject in questions. Note that the verb is in the positive form and takes third person e.g. Q: Does anybody here play chess?

Use anybody/anyone as the object in negative statements e.g. I don’t like anybody at work.

Use somebody/someone as both the subject and the object in affirmative statements. e.g. Someone has to do it. // She must have told someone!

However, there is a bit more to it than that.

Use somebody/someone etc for offers and requests e.g. Would you like somebody to pick you up? // Shall we send someone to pick you up? // Would you like something to drink?

Note: Would you like anything to drink? and Would you like something to drink? is NOT THE SAME. The first is a question. The second is an offer.

Anybody/anyone can also be the subject of a sentence when the meaning is ‘every single person in the whole world’ e.g. Anyone can learn to speak English. Note: we do NOT typically use ‘everyone’ here, we prefer ‘anyone’. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, it just is!

There is probably even more to it than that, but let’s leave it there for now. Feel free to post comments and suggestions that add more knowledge on the topic.

Here’s a little story that you often find stuck on someone’s wall in the office. It helps illustrate the usage of these words.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done

Here are some links for further reading and exercises you can do online.

BBC // Call this a party? // British Council // Autoenglish





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Language Hacking Tips

Here are some tips that have made a huge difference to the speed at which I learn languages:

Absolutely the fastest way to improve your language skills is to use the language as soon as possible. When I learnt German I started with: ” My name is Robert and I come from England”. In German of course. That’s all I could say, but I started talking to everyone I could! Here are some tips on how to do that:

– Find a tandem partner. This is someone you can practice speaking with. You speak together for, say, 30 minutes in your language and then 30 minutes in their language. You both learn from each other and help each other. If you can’t find someone to go for coffee or a drink with, then use Skype! See my previous post on how to find a Skype partner: Sites for Skype language exchange

– Find or start a language cafe. A language cafe is simply a group of people who meet to socialize in the target language. Most big cities around the world will already have several language cafes set up for different languages. Check sites like Facebook, couchsurfing, and InterNations.

– Socialize in your target language. If your target language is English, this is incredibly easy these days. Every major city and many smaller ones around the world have huge groups of expats who hang out and speak in English. You really have no excuse. Again, check out websites like: Facebook, couchsurfing, and InterNations. There is something for all tastes! After work drinks, dining, hiking, groups for mothers and kids, women’s groups, reading groups, cocktails, dancing, discussion groups. Go find something for you and do it in your target language!

– When you go shopping in big cities like Vienna or go out for lunch and dinner most people who work in the shops and the restaurants speak English. And they don’t know you speak their native language. So speak to them in English! Pretend you’re from some random other country 🙂

Listening is also a vital skill of course. So you will need to work on getting better. All those listening activities you do on a language course are all very well, but what you really need to do is listen to the language just like a native speaker. So that means: radio, TV and movies.

– These days everyone with a smartphone can listen to radio from all over the world. Download an app called Tune In and find radio stations from the UK and the USA.

– Most people these days also have cable or satellite TV. There you can find BBC World News, Aljazeera, CNN and Bloomberg. Watching the news for just 15 minutes a day will make a huge difference to your listening skills. The news is an excellent resource because the visuals will help you understand and the news presenters are professionals who speak directly to the camera, so you can also see their lips move, which helps a lot!! It will also help if you follow the same news stories in your own language, then you will find it easier to understand them in the target language.

– Most of us enjoy watching TV. TV series such as crime series, hospital dramas, thrillers, soap operas, sitcoms, etc are great for language learning – much better than movies in fact! The best thing to do is to pick one you like, and watch it in your target language from episode one of the first season all the way through to the last episode of the final season. If you don’t like hospital dramas, don’t watch them! You’ll get bored and demotivated. Watch something you would normally watch in your own language. For the first few episodes you’ll probably find it very difficult but over time it’ll get easier because you’ll get used to how the individual characters speak and the typical words and phrases that they repeatedly use. And of course, a TV series lasts a LOT longer than a film, so you have much more time to get used to the characters and how they speak 🙂

– These days you can even watch British or American TV via your computer by using something called VPN. Click VPN to see how this works.

Reading is also vital for your learning.

– Change the language on your smartphone.

– Change the language on your computer and on all the programs you use like Facebook, Google, Hotmail etc. Everything is in the same place, regardless of the language, so mostly this is super simple but will still help!

– Get a Kindle or a Kindle app and read everywhere! Use the in-built dictionary to look up words. Also works offline!

– You must read. Just like with TV, read what you like, what you would normally read in your own language. Newspapers, magazines, books. You can find an immense amount of material available freely online, especially if your target language is English. Try The Guardian, see what else is available – you DON’T need to spend money.

– Pick a story and follow it. Some news stories are over and done in a day, but most last several days and some last months and months (think Ukraine) or even years and years (think Israel-Palestine). This means that there is some new item of news about the story in the newspapers (and on TV) every day for days or weeks or months at a time. So pick one of these stories and follow it every day. Every day there will be a summary of the story so far. On the first day you will have to look up many new words but as the story runs and runs and these words are constantly repeated as they summarize again and again you will naturally remember the new vocabulary. Ta da! Easy learning!

– If do have a little money to spend, and if you prefer having a hard copy (i.e. a printed magazine) maybe try Spotlight (or one of their sister publications for German, French, Italian, Spanish) There’s a Business English version as well. When I first started learning German I signed up for a one-year subscription to the German version and read every issue cover to cover and found it a big help. Total cost? Only 60EUR.

– Use a dictionary. You don’t need to buy one, use PONS or Dict or Leo or see what else you can find. You must look words up, but don’t look up everything. At the beginning, focus on nouns and verbs. These are the most important words for understanding overall meaning.

Writing skills will be more or less important depending on what you think you will do with the language in the future. For example, as I’m a professional English trainer I know that I will only ever rarely need to write in German or Spanish. And even then it’s mostly just a short email or a text message. So think about your needs and focus on those.

– Add your target language to your smartphone and your computer keyboards so that you can easily toggle between languages. I have Spanish, German and Turkish on mine, as well as English! Now you can write SMS messages and emails to your friends and colleagues in the target language and the spell checker will help you!

– If, like me, you use a to-do list, write it in your target language. Same for your shopping list.

– Keep a list of handy phrases that you know you will use over and over again to hand. Then you can just do copy-paste when you need them.

– Learn the typical phrases that native speakers use in typical situations and just do copy-paste. No-one says writing has to be complicated!

– Just like when you learnt your native language as a child, your target language writing skills will improve the more you READ!! Your brain has a natural internal photocopier function that works in the background like a sponge without you even being aware of it. So read, read and read!

One final but very important tip: learn how to memorise and use your dead time:

I can memorise huge long lists of verbs and other vocab and how to conjugate verbs and how to talk about topics like time by using the simple act of repetition and visualising lists, diagrams, charts and characters like Snow White and Captain Hook interacting with new vocabulary. I use my dead time to do this. Dead time is all those moments you have during the day when you are not actively engaged in something that requires your attention. For example: on the toilet, in the shower, walking anywhere, waiting anywhere for anything, using public transport. Many people say they don’t have time to study. But that’s because those people think studying means sitting at a desk with a book. But you can study all day long just in your head (although it works better when you say things out loud). And in fact, that’s what super high achievers do and that’s one thing that marks the difference between people who succeed academically and people who don’t. Try some of the techniques you can find with this simple google search: how to memorise and/or become a master of memory by learning the techniques you can find here: master of memory especially the peg system and the Dominic System, both of which I use all the time, every day. And yes, EVERYONE can get better at memorising, even you!

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