Orchid English Blog

How to help your colleagues learn English

Posted on October 30, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


Normally our blog posts are aimed at professionals learning English who work at companies in London. This post comes from a different perspective – for native or fluent English speakers who want to help their colleagues on their path to learning English.


Believe your colleagues when they say they want you to correct their English. Especially when it comes to grammar, it won’t help your colleagues learn English efficiently if you listen without correcting their mistakes. They will only ingrain bad habits. If they say “I have worked here since 5 years” they will not realise this is incorrect unless you say so, or unless they have English classes.


Be patient. Don’t interrupt or finish their sentences for them! It is very distracting and they may not have wanted to say what you thought.


When you speak to a colleague who has not yet reached an advanced level in English, take care to enunciate and separate your words more than you might when speaking to a native English speaker. It can be difficult for people learning languages to know where one word ends and another begins.


Offer corrections at a quiet and positive moment in private. People are generally more receptive to learning in a calm environment and this will really help your colleagues learn English.


Keep a mental note of English mistakes that your colleagues keep making. When you can spot a trend, like a grammatical tense that they misuse, this is a valuable point to correct.


  • “Hey, when you use the present continuous tense it’s for something happening right now. So you can’t say “I’m drinking coffee every day”. It’s a habit so you say “I drink coffee every day”.
  • “By the way, the “p” in “receipt” is silent”.
  • “I noticed you called a woman “lady” before. A lady is a respectful way to describe a woman, but you can’t address a female customer as “Lady”.


If you’ve never heard this particular mistake, rest assured they mean “Madam”! It could even lead to an interesting conversation about the diverse origins of English words.


Finally, if you want your colleage to improve their English and you speak their language, try not to use it unless you really have to. It’s more useful when learning a language to have an explanation in the target language rather than a translation.


Are you in the opposite position? Do you want your people to help you with your English but find they are reluctant to do so? Read how to get them to do it here.

When do we use “so” and “such”?

Posted on September 13, 2018

You’re so busy, we know. But you’re not such a busy person that you don’t have time to read this.

So when do we use “so” and “such” in English? This is a mistake that we hear even at high levels of English but it can be “cured” easily.


Here are the rules:

So + adjective

So + adverb

Such + adjective + noun


Some examples in sentences:


So + adjective

Emily, you love drinking tea, you are so British


So + adverb

He asked me so nicely that I didn’t mind doing the extra work


Such + adjective + noun

I landed on my feet in this job; I have such a good manager


Confident of the rules for “so” and “such” now? Not so confident? Post some examples in the comments and we will tell you if you’re right!


Learn about how to use “too much” here.

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When do we say “Work” or “Works” in English?

Posted on July 11, 2018


By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


So firstly we can work as a verb. We work, she works. OK. The verb form is easy and regular.


The confusion for many of our students comes with nouns.  Is the noun “work” countable or uncountable? It’s not quite that simple, and we hear this mistake regularly. Let’s look at when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar.


General Business: Work as an uncountable noun

In an office, work is usually uncountable. We can have a lot of work or not much work. If you want to count one task, you could say “a piece of work”.

She finished all her work

There is so much work to do before the conference


You will see below why we can’t say in a general business sense:

She finished all the works

There are so many works to do before the conference


Construction: Work or works as a noun

In construction, we can use the word “work” as a uncountable or a plural. Both of these sentences are fine:

We are carrying out some building works on the main road

We are carrying out some building work on the main road


Art: Work or works as a noun

Similarly to construction, we can talk about art work or art works. You could say:

I really love the work of Picasso and

I really love the works of Picasso

These sentences are almost identical but work implies all of it, and works implies that you have some particular pieces in mind.


To return to our previous example sentences:

“She finished all the works” is OK only if she is a construction worker or artist


“There are so many works to do before the conference” is OK only if there are so many works of art to do, or so many construction works to complete before the conference.


Now we know when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar, you can get back to work! Review countable and uncountable nouns with a good quiz here.



5 Football Phrases in English

Posted on July 6, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


Have you been enjoying the football this summer? I’m not usually much of a football fan but I do like watching the World Cup. We’ve put together 5 football phrases in English to improve your conversations about football. The best thing? All of these phrases could also be used at work as business English idioms.


To be on the ball
Football English: To focus on the ball without getting distracted.
Business English: To keep yourself informed about what’s happening in your industry, your colleagues and competitors.
Usage: TV reporters need to be really on the ball because the stories could change at any time.


To move the goalposts
Football English: To change the rules to suit one team or player.
Business English: To change the rules to suit particular people, or an industry.
Usage: The sales target for the other team was 100 cars but we have to sell 150. That’s really moving the goalposts!


To score an own goal
Football English: To score a goal in your own team’s goal.
Business English: To do something that really damages yourself and benefits your competitors.
Usage: Why on earth did you recommend our competitor? That was an own goal.


To take sides (negative nuance)
Football English: Of a referee, for example, to treat one team better than the other.
Business English: To unfairly favour one colleague or department over another in a dispute.
Usage: Look, I don’t want to take sides. I can see that both of you have a fair point.


Take your eye off the ball
Football English: To look away at a crucial point when you should have been concentrating on the ball.
Business English: To get distracted and miss an important event.
Usage: The regulation totally changed and I didn’t notice! I mustn’t take my eye off the ball next time.


Which of these football phrases in English do you like the best? Do you have some interesting football idioms in your language?


How to Learn English: 4 Myths

Posted on June 21, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


Do you speak English as a foreign language? Do you live in London? You must be improving your English then, right? We explore some common myths about learning English.


    1. Learn English just by living in an English speaking country

      Before I went to Japan, a monolingual friend assured me that I would learn Japanese in a month or two talking to people in shops. Others assured me that because I would be living in Japan, it would be fast and straightforward to learn Japanese. Full of optimism, I pictured myself chatting away in Japanese, sounding extremely cool, after a short time with little effort. Disappointingly this didn’t happen! Being able to hear the language around you in the street only has limited value.

      Likewise, it’s perfectly possible to live in London and stick to your language comfort zone. Many people associate primarily with people who speak the same first language and this slows their English, as well as cultural understanding. If you can read this I’m sure you have no problem speaking English to people in shops, and this is quite limited.

    2. Learn English just chatting with native speakers

      Talking to native English speakers will certainly improve your fluency and is the best way to learn English. Currently I am taking Spanish classes and when I was an absolute beginner I started off asking Spanish people to speak to me in Spanish. I lacked any sort of grammatical structure so I couldn’t work out whether people were talking about the future or the past, speaking hypothetically and so on. I highly recommend this speaking immersion method but if you want to speak accurately you should do it in combination with classes.

      Hold on, hold on, I hear you say. You learned English after being born in England and grew up speaking to native speakers. So what’s the problem? Our adult brains don’t process new languages in the same way that children’s brains do. Children can work out things that we can’t. However, we adults may be better at learning languages than we think we are, as this article on child versus adult language learning points out.

    3. Learn English first and practice with native speakers later

      Another English teacher in Japan told us about this theory during teacher training. One of his students was shy and insisted she would learn English first by herself and then practice speaking with native English speakers. The problem with this approach is that you will forget things quickly without practice. If you practice with native speakers you will keep what you have newly learned fresh.

    4. Learn English just from reading books

      When I first saw the TV show Lost, I was horrified that the Korean character Sun appeared to have learned very good English just from reading a book. Later in the series it turned out that she had been having English classes in secret. If you learn English only from books you will go some way, but speaking and listening skills are key too. With English it’s particularly important to listen because our writing system often doesn’t show you how to pronounce the word correctly.



    The key to improving your English is to balance study, practice and integration. It will improve your English to live in an English speaking country, chat with native speakers, build on your English from school and read books in English, just not in isolation.


    What other myths about learning English have you heard? Let us know in the comments.


    Read about how your comfort zone is limiting your language development here.


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