Blog Archives

English Phrases For Restaurant Staff: What You Need To Know

Posted on July 13, 2022

In this post we’ll explore the English phrases for restaurant staff that you need to know. So the first question is: what kind of restaurant do you work in?

If you work in a casual restaurant then you should use more casual English to speak to customers. In a pub restaurant for example customers expect a more relaxed atmosphere.

The following are some useful English phrases for restaurant staff that can be used in both casual and luxury restaurants. We focus on front of house restaurant staff in this post.

English Phrases For Restaurant Staff When The Customers Arrive

Here’s how you can greet customers to your restaurant in a natural way.

  • Do you have a reservation?
  • I’m afraid we won’t have a table for about 20 minutes.
  • Would you like to wait at the bar?
  • Come this way!

At The Table

English phrases for restaurant staff: waiters and waitresses

Some typical phrases you can use once your guests are seated.

  • The specials are rump steak and Dover sole.
  • Are you ready to order?
  • What would you like to drink?
  • Would you like any sides?

During The Meal

Go back to check on your guests to make sure they’re happy.

  • How is everything?
  • Can I get you any more drinks?

If There’s A Problem

It’s tempting to try to avoid the situation. But the sooner you can address problems, the less they will escalate.

  • I’m sorry to hear that.
  • What would you like me to do?
  • Let me get the manager.

Finishing Up

  • Would you like to see the dessert menu?
  • Any tea or coffee?
  • Can I take your plate?
  • Are you paying by cash or card?

Common Mistakes When Using English Phrases For Restaurant Staff

“Do You Want…”

This is rather casual for a situation where you’re talking to a customer. Unless you work in an extremely casual place, it’s best to avoid it.

Above all, you should not say “What do you want?” Yes, you can say this in other languages such as French, and it’s fine. But it sounds rude in English in this context.

Calling A Woman “Lady” Or “Missus”

The correct way to address a woman is “madam”. However, this is very formal so it’s only appropriate in an upscale restaurant.

Not Saying “Thank You” When Your Customers Leave

In the UK we use “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” a lot more than in other cultures. And when people don’t use these it often sounds inappropriate.

So you should really say “thank you” after your customers pay. This is true whether or not they have left you a tip. You are the face of the restaurant and it seems strange not to thank your customers for coming.

When staff don’t say “thank you” or “thanks”, customers leave with a very bad impression.

Get In Touch For English Phrases For Restaurant Staff In Action!

Our great teachers give engaging and fun English speaking classes at restaurants all over London. Does this sound like something you’d like at your restaurant?

We’d love to hear from you on 020 8150 7239, or you can send us a message here.


How To Learn English In Fun Ways

Posted on March 9, 2022

It can be boring to study English by yourself. And you may be wondering how to learn English in fun ways. Luckily, Orchid English teachers have years of experience creating fun classes. And when you’re having fun, you tend to focus for longer.

Not only that, but we remember more easily when we find things interesting. So let’s take a look at how to learn English the fast and fun way.

Visit Buildings That Are Usually Secret

It’s called an “Open House”. What it means is that you can visit buildings that are usually closed to the public. Open House days are fascinating, especially if you love history and architecture.

What is there to see? Well, the programe changes every year. But you can expect to see beautiful architecture like the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, museums and opera houses.

It’s all free, although you might need to book in advance to get in to some of the places. Read more about Open House events here.

Install The Woodpecker App For Interesting Videos

What kind of YouTube videos do you watch in your language? Sports? Cooking? TED talks? Lots of people struggle knowing where to find interesting videos in English.

With the free Woodpecker app, it’s all in one place. And they’re real, authentic videos for native speakers of that language. It’s like a library of interesting YouTube videos in English.

Additionally, Woodpecker asks you your native language. So you can use the app in your language and find cool English videos. It’s easy because there are subtitles in your language and you can click on words to define them.

Go To Public Social Events

Let’s face it, the world’s your oyster for socialising if you’re in London. And free Meetup events let you meet people who have the same things in common as you.

The most well-known events are based on hobbies like photography. But there are a ton of interesting personal and professional development groups too.

GGI, or Girl Gone International is a fun way for women to meet other women. How does it work?GGI run regular social events in big cities like London. So you can meet international, or simply internationally minded women.

Read Award Winning Blogs In English

Restaurants, politics, travel – there’s a blogger writing for you. Plus, you can learn more about UK culture while you’re at it. Here is a selection of some of the best blogs from the UK.

Follow Facebook Groups for English Learners

Of course, you already follow Orchid English on Facebook right? We love English Global for fun idioms and general vocab building. You can learn English the fast and fun way just by scrolling through Facebook.

Learn English With People You Work With

So now you have lots of ideas how you can learn English in a fun way. Have you considered learning with your colleagues? The best way to learn English the fast and fun way is to get English classes with Orchid English. The classes can be face to face in London, or online.

And we have another tip for your English classes. Tell your teacher your interests so that he or she knows what you find fun. Then your teacher can pick fun activities. 

Give us a call on 020 8150 7239 or send us a quick message here! It will only take a minute to arrange your free demo English class.

 

 


Why English is Hard to Learn

Posted on March 3, 2022

People wonder why English is hard to learn. For this reason we have put together a list of some of the main reasons for the difficulties.

Our top 3: Why English is hard to learn

Spelling to pronunciation rules

As a native speaker I started learning English spelling rules as a young child. I never thought much about it as an adult until one day when I found my old exercise books. Suddenly I realised how much time my poor teacher spent correcting almost every spelling in my creative writing.

I love spelling because it shows us the history and richness of our language. However, its low correspondence with pronunciation makes it difficult for foreign learners and native speaker children. There is no “l” pronounced in “calm”, nor does “heart” rhyme with “beard”. What’s more, different words can have the same spelling with different meanings. Consider:

  • Close the door – shut the door
  • We are close friends – we are good friends

Phrasal verbs

Often, you can’t guess the meaning of the phrasal verb from its components, or alternatively they may have double meanings.

  • I need to put off (postpone) our meeting until tomorrow, because I’m so busy.
  • He was put off (discouraged) from applying for the job because of the lack of work life balance.

Stress patterns

See how the bold text shows stress falling in different places:

A linguistic feature of English is that every word has a primary stress. Importantly, if the word is three syllables or more, it has secondary stress as well. Additionally, there is sentence stress, which can entirely change the meaning of the sentence:

  • You can’t phone her – Someone else should phone her
  • You can’t phone her – Emphasis, or contradiction
  • You can’t phone her – You have to use another method of communication
  • You can’t phone her – You should phone someone else

5 additional reasons why English is hard to learn

Several standard forms

English is spoken natively in several countries, and this means that there is no one form of “standard English”. Consider these casual ways to say “a lot”, which are all correct:

  • Loads of people – UK
  • A bunch of people – US
  • A heap of people – Australia

Fast evolution

English changes quickly. My colleagues and I have all taught adults who learned some English at school and are restarting as adults. These adults frequently say things like “It’s a fine day” and “My boss scolded me”. Both these phrases are technically correct but due to the passing of time they sound old fashioned. Better to say “It’s a lovely day” and “my boss told me off”.

Collocations

Collocations are words that sound natural when put together, and there are tons of these in English. If you put words that don’t “collocate” together, like “do a mess” or “sleep a nap” it sounds unnatural. You should say “make a mess” and “have a nap” (or take a nap, in the US).

Read more about collocations in this English Club article. 

Polite forms

There is no way to change verbs to speak politely, as in some other languages. In order to sound polite, native English speakers often speak in a more indirect way, using longer phrases with more formal grammar and vocabulary.

Word order for adjectives

In a list of adjectives you need to put them in a particular order like this:

  • A really useful, large, flat, modern, white, Japanese interactive whiteboard.

Learn more about adjective order in our previous blog post. 

If you would like to read more about this topic, have a look at our previous post, Is English the Hardest Language to Learn? Another great article is What is the Hardest Language to Learn? by Tomedes.

Conclusion: Why English is hard to learn

Well, now you know some of the main reasons why English is hard to learn. However, don’t despair! If you can read this you are doing well on your journey to learning English. No language is easy to learn, and with this in mind we must keep motivated to reach a good level.

Orchid English provide excellent, reasonably priced English classes to adults in London and we come to you at your company at your convenience. Contact us today to set up a free demo class to try us out.

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English


How to Speak Business English Fluently

Posted on February 23, 2022

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English

At Orchid English we specialise in training international professionals to speak business English fluently. If you already live in London you have made a huge step in improving your English. Here are our top 5 tips for how to speak business English fluently.

5. Watch the business news

Watching TV is a stress-free way to learn, and if you have breakfast by yourself it can be a nice way to start your day. You can hear real business English in use and listen to clear, native pronunciation of business terms.

4. Read the Financial Times, or business journals from your field

Likewise, sitting quietly with some good quality reading material related to your job can expose you to new phrases and ways of explaining current business topics. Reading at your own pace allows you to highlight or make a note of new words and phrases that you may not have time to do in a real work situation.

3. Ask British colleagues to correct your English

Most of your British colleagues will assume you’d like to improve your English while in London. However your British colleagues won’t always know the best way to help you.

There is a common misconception that adults can learn English like young children, and figure out the patterns for themselves. Coupled with the typical hesitancy of British people to correct a foreigner’s English, you should insist that your work friends correct you at a quiet moment.

Read more about how to get British people to correct your English.

2. Take every opportunity to speak English at work

This means in meetings, on the phone and, if appropriate in your job, making presentations. It’s not the end of the world if the person you’re speaking to has to ask you to repeat yourself. After all, most of the people in the meeting and calling you are probably aware of your level of English.

1. Take English classes one on one or in a group with colleagues

Classes with Orchid English focus on what you want to improve. We have years of experience teaching business English. We use up to date materials such as the excellent Market Leader series of textbooks, which uses authentic articles and modern international business English language.

Are you ready to take your English to the next level? Get in touch today and set up your free demo English class at your company in London.


How To Do Face To Face English Training In Covid

Posted on February 17, 2022

We all want to keep our staff safe as we return to normality. So how should we best go about face to face English training in London?

Of course, you can always opt for online English classes, with a 0% infection risk.

But some people just prefer face to face English training. It’s fun and a good way for employees to develop rapport. And when it’s at your company it’s convenient too.

What Do We Do In Class Now?

What we used to find fun were activities where everyone writes on the board or on one sheet of paper. But no more. Face to face English training in London had to evolve for the COVID-19 world.

Our teachers can still do collaborative tasks but with more of a focus on spoken contributions.

So where participants would write on one sheet together they can do the task orally. Where they drew slips out of a hat they can think of a number and get assigned a task that way.

Rather than writing on the board they can write on their own sheets and hold them up. Instead of mixing up pairs frequently the teacher can keep the pairs stable.

Before COVID-19, everyone would sign in on the same register. Whereas now, the teacher marks everyone present.

Some Practical Ways We Organise English Classes Now

Here are some of the ways we work with clients to deliver English classes safely.

Switching A Teacher With Symptoms

Thankfully this has never happened. But should a teacher present COVID-19 symptoms we would switch him or her immediately.

Using Screens

In our English classes we want to get the students talking as much as possible. But it’s good to have supplementary materials. Where possible, teachers and students can use screens for:

  • PowerPoint slides
  • PDF information
  • Photos
  • Short quizzes

No Sharing!

We know, we know. This flies in the face of everything we were taught to do as kids.

Consider The Clique

Maybe your company has several branches. In that case, consider organising staff from one site all together in one English class. They can deepen their team spirit and practise the English they’ve learned on each other at work.

Nice Big Rooms

Pre-COVID-19, sometimes we would hold classes in cosy little training rooms. Now we’re requesting larger rooms so that we can socially distance. We’ve conducted successful face to face English training in rooms that were previously not used for training, such as restaurants.

Ventilation

Likewise, we’ll always request a well-ventilated room, especially for large groups. Leaving doors open is also a good move.

Careful Coffees

If classes are 2 hours, or it’s a workshop, employees often benefit from a short break. We’ll plan out how best to stagger this and keep a distance if the coffee area is small.

Virtual Homework

After the class, the teacher may email the employees some light homework. Something like a quiz reinforcing what they’ve learned.

Get Face To Face English Training At Your Company In London

In-person English training can still be safe, and with a little creativity, classes are adjusted so they are equally as engaging as before.
Get in touch with our friendly team and start to improve your employees’ English. Write us a quick note here or simply call 020 8150 7239.

 


How To Retain International Staff In London in 2022

Posted on December 23, 2021

It’s no secret that the retention of international staff in London is much harder now. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, and Brexit meant a lot of international staff left the UK too. A lot of businesses are suffering low staff retention as a result.

Did you know that in 2021, an extraordinary 30% of UK workers said they hadn’t had any formal workplace training in 5 years? That’s pretty poor! However it isn’t entirely unsurprising for those of us that work in corporate training.

As we are in the business of English training, this post focuses on retention of international staff where the staff speak English as a foreign language. Here’s your staff retention action plan.

Support Their Administrative Needs

Many of us barely remember getting our national insurance numbers because it was so long ago. But for international workers it can be tough. Having to make phone calls in English and navigating a new system can be challenging. Someone to do this for them or answer questions can be a great help.

And how about visas? This is even more overwhelming in terms of unfamiliar paperwork. You don’t want staff leaving because it’s too much of a hassle.

Create Social Events

The pub is the most obvious one, and it’s a good start provided everyone is a drinker.

However it may not suit non-drinkers or shift workers. So get creative. Spoken English classes suitable for their level? Team sports? One large London hotel we know has a staff choir which is very popular.

Support The Families Of International Staff Too

Contrary to popular belief, people don’t pick up much English from simply being in London and going to the shops, figuring out public transport and so on. So spouses of international workers in London can struggle with English language skills, especially if they don’t work.

International staff retention can be low when spouses don’t feel at home and then the family decide to move back.

How about international schools for their children? Or tutors for when the kids need more help? If you have several members of staff from the same country you can pool information about this.

Pay Employees For Training Time

Staff retention and development to hand in hand. And staff always say that they want more training. But then when they get it, sometimes they don’t seem very motivated. If they’re off the clock they may resent having to stick around.

Clear Job Expectations

Imagine really wanting to get a job, when you don’t understand 100% of what’s being said to you in the interview, or in your training. Research shows that there is a high drop out rate for staff whose job expectations differed from the reality of the job.

We all want to attract good staff. But it’s important to tell them about the lows as well as the highs of the role. And make sure they understand it. Then they can make an educated decision.

Two Way Feedback

Do you know if your staff are satisfied? When employees aren’t happy, they’ll often start looking elsewhere.

So it’s vital to give them feedback, and to let them know you are open to receiving it too. The last part is the rare part.

Also, make it clear that employees can ask for clarification if they don’t understand something. It’s too easy for them to sit in silence and then ask a colleague who speaks better English to translate in private. If they get a couple of impatient reactions, it’s often enough to stop an employee communicating when they don’t understand.

Boost The Retention Of International Staff At Your Company

Online or face to face English language classes with Orchid English will help staff feel more at home in the UK. And better English skills will empower them to do whatever they want to do in their professional and personal lives.

Get in touch for your no-obligation free trial English class for groups or individuals. Give us a ring on 020 8150 7239 or write to us here.


Writing A Good Email In English: Our Advice

Posted on December 6, 2021

Effective email writing is more important than ever these days. So how can we write a good email?

Is Email Even The Best Way?

First things first. When you write a good email, your recipient knows exactly what you want. Aim to email with one request or about one topic.

Is it really complicated, though?

Then consider phoning instead of emailing. Likewise if it’s urgent.

Write A Good Email Subject Line

OK so we’re writing an email.

When you write a good email subject line, you have a much better chance of a positive response. Say you’re writing to a manager who gets a lot of emails. An email subject line like “Question”, “Catch up”, or “Bits and bobs” won’t help them manage their inbox.

Are you starting a new topic of conversation? So start a new email thread. Otherwise it will make your conversation hard to search through in the future.

Use An Appropriate Form Of Address

Contrary to popular belief, British people are not super super formal. So normally we start emails to colleagues and clients with “Hi” and their first name like this:

Hi Kelly,

But what if it’s someone you’ve never met, like someone you’re interviewing?

Dear Kelly,

You can also switch it up with “Hello” which is somewhere in the middle in terms of formality.

Add A Social Pleasantry

“I hope you’ve been well since we last spoke.”

“Great to hear you’ve opened another branch in West London.”

And so on.

Make Your Request Easy For Your Recipient

You probably have contacts who are busy and won’t always reply. So make it easy for them.

Suppose you want to change the supplier for office equipment. If you write “Can we start using a new supplier?” and you don’t get a reply, you’re stuck.

But consider this. If you write “I’d like to change the supplier for office equipment. I found another company with a wider range of things we need. Unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll do this on Monday”.

This way, the person you’re writing to doesn’t even need to reply.

Use Nice Short Sentences

This is one of the things we see a lot in our English language classes in London. And that’s people writing sentences which are too long. English speakers have a general preference for short, concise sentences.

Proofread Before Sending

You probably run a spellcheck anyway. But we’re talking about that pesky autocorrect function.

Sometimes autocorrect is a friend.

But sometimes it’s a fiend.

So just make sure “Best regards” doesn’t turn into “Beat regards”.

Do You Want To Improve Your English Writing Skills?

You’re in the right place. Online or face to face classes at Orchid English focus on the skills you want to improve.

Learn how to write a good email whether it’s to a client, a colleague or a friend.

Contact us on 020 8150 7239 or write to us here.


What’s The Best Online English Test?

Posted on November 22, 2021

Looking for a quick and effective online English test? Orchid English run English classes in London companies and online. So first we need to sort the students into the appropriate groups for their level.

That way we can run a beginners group, an intermediates group and so on.

HR and L&D managers often ask us how to test the English level of the staff before the course. So we spent a long time trying out various English level tests. What we wanted was a quick and effective online English test without registration.

How To Choose An Online Level Test

First things first. If you want a quick online English level test you’d better know more or less the level you’re testing.

There’s no point testing beginners on the finer points of third conditional grammar. It would just demoralise them, and all the beginners would get a similar result anyway.

What Are The Different Levels In English?

Below is the common European framework for languages (CEFR) which is a scale from levels A1 – C2. Here’s what it means:

A1 total beginner 
A2 pre-intermediate (someone who can hold a very simple conversation)
B1 intermediate 
B2 upper intermediate
C1 advanced
C2 very advanced

Which English Test Should I Do?

That depends. Approximately what English level are your employees? Or what English level are you, if you want to test yourself? We use two online English tests that we really like.

On both tests, you can get your answers immediately. And there’s no messing around signing up to anything. What’s more, you can check your results and go back over any wrong answers.

#1 Online English Test For Total Beginners To Intermediates

The Using English test here covers basic vocabulary and grammar. It’s just one page of 50 short questions.

#2 Online English Test For Intermediate To Advanced Levels

The British Council test here has 25 harder questions on vocabulary and grammar, and takes about 10 minutes.

We liked the British Council test for natural English because it includes some “collocations”. These are words commonly used together, which makes English sound more natural.

OK Let’s Get Started

You need to do the test without looking at a dictionary or Googling. The tests aren’t timed so there’s no stress. And they’re convenient because you don’t have to log in or submit an email address.

You get your results as soon as you finish.

How To Test English Proficiency More Accurately

It’s important to remember that these online English tests are just a guide. The real proof of your English ability is how you speak and understand others, and how you write.

The best English level assessment is one done by a qualified English as a foreign language teacher. And these can be for groups as well as individuals. Your teacher can give you an in-depth report on your English language with observations made over several classes.

Get In Touch For English Classes For All Levels

Over the years, we’ve taught learners who don’t know any English words at all, right through to advanced speakers who want to polish their pronunciation and advanced vocabulary.

And we have years of experience testing English too. So if you’d like an English course with a level assessment and report at the end, just let us know.

Contact our friendly London team on 020 8150 7239 or write to us here.


How To Avoid Feeling SAD In Winter In London

Posted on November 17, 2021

New to London? We run English language courses for professionals from everywhere from Japan to the Mediterranean. And often our students just aren’t used to the short winter days in northern Europe.

In their company English language courses people often tell us they’re feeling down in winter. Also they’re sleeping a lot, and staying inside because it’s cold now.

So we quickly realised that not everyone knows the best way to deal with dark winters. Or mitigate Seasonal Affective Disorder in London.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

When you can see the winter night drawing in and it’s only 3:30, it can make you feel panicky or depressed.

Have you had this feeling? It’s very common. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD can affect anyone, and it’s essential to know how to manage it. Here’s what you need to do.

Get Outside

The worst thing you can do when you see the seasons change is hibernate away inside for the winter. You might feel like it. But this will reduce your exposure to daylight even more.

It’s important to get outside and get moving. Even when the weather’s cloudy!

Play Sports Or Take Some Kind Of Exercise

It rarely snows in London so you can easily play sports all year round including throughout the winter.

If you work from home this is super easy because you can plan your outdoor exercise for if and when the sun’s out that day.

You don’t have to run a marathon, but if you can get outside for 30 minutes a day and do something to raise your heart rate, it’s perfect.

Organise Your Exposure To Daylight

It could be best to ditch the tube in winter and take the bus to work if it will mean you get to see the day for longer. Or can you walk to work?

Where do you sit at work? Near a window? Make sure you get outside during your lunch break.

And how about at home? Are you making the most of the natural daylight while you’re relaxing, or working from home?

Which brings us to…

Don’t Lie In Bed Too Long On Winter Weekends

Sorry.

Normally we love a lie in too. But it’s bad in the winter in London. If you lie in until midday for example, you will miss a lot of the daylight. Much better to get up at say, 9am or 10am.

Plan A Winter Break

Don’t keep all your holiday entitlement for the summer. A week spent away, ideally somewhere sunny and doing some exercise, can do wonders for your mental health.
Winter sports, anyone? 

Do Something Social

If you’re feeling down you might not feel like socialising. But getting to know new people, taking up or revisiting an old hobby can really help your mood.

In London, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to social groups you can join.

Learn More About Feeling SAD In The Winter

You can find out more about Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD here.

If you’re struggling with your mental health this winter, you’re not alone. A great deal of people on our English language courses tell us they feel down around this time of year.

It’s been a tough few years and you deserve to be OK.

So please don’t hesitate to ask for professional help if you want it. The Samaritans offer a wonderful, free telephone service for people in need. Alternatively, you can speak to your GP.


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

Posted on October 14, 2021

Let’s have a look at a common mistake: the difference between work and works in English. The good news is that it will be quite easy for you to fix. Read on!

Verbs

So firstly we can work as a verb. We work, she works. OK. The verb form is easy and regular. If you can read this blog post you know this already.

Nouns

The confusion for many of our students comes later, when we use nouns.  Is the noun “work” countable or uncountable? Well, it can be either countable or uncountable in different situations, and we hear this mistake regularly. Let’s look at when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar.

Job: 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

What we can’t say in general business

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

Job: 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

Job: 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.

Comparing “work” and “works” for types of job

To return to our previous example sentences in the general business section:

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

Likewise,

“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.

Conclusion

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

Further reading

Are you interested in learning English to work in a restaurant? Take a look at our blog post on English phrases for restaurant staff in London.

Get in touch for English classes!

Would you like excellent, reasonably priced English classes? Get English courses at your company in London or online. Simply get in touch, and we’ll set up a free trial class for you or your colleagues.

 

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