How To Empower Your Colleagues To Learn English In London

Posted on November 11, 2022

Do the people you work with avoid speaking English unless it’s really necessary? Look no further for tips on how to empower your colleagues to learn English.

It can be tough to learn English in London. Imagine having to contend with words like “Grosvenor”, “Leicester” and “Marylebone”, and not giving up.

Here’s how you can help your colleagues learn English stress free.

Speak Slowly

Done well, it doesn’t come across as patronising, we promise. If you slow down your speech and pronounce everything carefully, it’s much easier for people learning English to understand. There’s a myth that you should speak as you do to everybody else, and then people will learn natural English.

However, what’s more likely to happen is that the person hardly understands, and never learns the correct pronunciation because people speak English too fast for them to catch.

Form Short Sentences

Consider how you can break up your sentences. Short sentences with only one topic are much easier to understand and your grammar will probably be simpler, too.

Use Simpler Grammar

The more they understand, the more you’ll empower your colleagues to learn English.

Look at these two versions of essentially the same thing.

  1. It would be great if you could have finished cleaning the bedrooms before 11 o’clock.
  2. Please can you finish cleaning the bedrooms before 11 o’clock?

The first one is how native English speakers tend to speak. However, this is complicated grammar. It’s actually the future perfect, or a past action in the future. This doesn’t even exist in many languages.

The second sentence is a much easier version in the present tense.

Watch Out For Phrasal Verbs Or You Might Not Get Through

That title just above is super hard for anyone except upper intermediate or advanced speakers of English. Why?

  • Watch = look at
  • Out = outside

Easy. However…

  • Watch out = beware

These two words form a pretty different meaning when combined. Even more confusingly:

  • Get = obtain
  • Through = in one side and out the other
  • Get through = cause someone to understand


Phrasal verbs are something that contribute to the wonderful richness of the English language. But if you want to get through to beginner English speakers, consider whether another word would be easier.

Can You Use A Closer Word To Your Colleague’s Own Language?

Does your colleague speak a Romance language? Maybe they’re from Spain, Italy or France. In that case, when you use words that came into English through Latin or French it will be much easier for them to understand.

Have a look at this short list of examples. The version on the right is easier to understand for people learning English.

  • Get used to – accustomed
  • Useless – futile
  • Leave – abandon
  • Pretty – attractive
  • Goal – objective

It’s funny, isn’t it? Most of the time the easier words for Romance language speakers are the harder ones for English language speakers.

Be Aware Of Typical Mistakes That Will Help You Understand Them Speaking

When they speak and you understand, you’ll empower your colleagues to learn English naturally.

Pronouncing Words As They Are Spelled

“Salmon” with an “L”? “Island” with an “S” so that it sounds like “Iceland”? If you can visualise the spelling of the word the speaker is saying, it can help you understand mistakes in pronunciation.

Confusing “Tuesday” And “Thursday”.

If you’ve been teaching English a while, you’ll always follow up with the date if you’re talking about days of the week.

  • Let’s meet on Thursday.
  • Thursday the seventeenth of November?
  • No, the fifteenth of November.
  • Ah, TUESDAY.

Scheduling disaster averted.

Consider Sound Quality

Think of the last time you spoke to someone on a really bad phone line. If you were speaking in your own language, your brain was doing something amazing. It was working out the missing sounds so that you could make sense of what was going on.

In your native language your brain knows which words are usually found together, known as collocations. And this helps it to fill in the gaps in a logical way. However, if you’re learning English this is much more of a challenge!

Even calling through from a different room can be very difficult to understand because if you’re learning English, your brain can’t fill in the gaps like a native English speaker can. 

So sound quality and clear face to face speech are key. 

Write It Down When It’s Important

If you have something important to tell everyone, consider an email in simple language. Your colleagues can translate it using translation software if necessary.

Also, written English is much easier for many English learners to understand than spoken English, so helping them gently like this will empower your colleagues to learn English.

Ask Some Questions To Check Comprehension

There’s a vast difference between room service getting a hotel guest some soup and getting her some soap.

All good English teachers in London know to ask some sneaky follow up questions to check the learners are really on the right track. “Soap for the shower?”

Alternatively, you can mime “soap” or “soup” as you say it quite easily.

Keep Talking To Your Colleagues Even If They Say They Don’t Speak English

A lot of people get stressed and claim that they don’t speak English. But don’t let this put you off speaking to them. The only way to learn English is to practise.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to speak English. Your patient ear and continued conversation with them will empower your colleagues to learn English. If they are a very low level, routinely ask them about simple things like how their weekend was. 

Correct Your Colleagues In Private

Speak with your colleagues about whether they’d like you to tactfully correct their English. They might be delighted at the opportunity to improve!

The longer people go on saying something wrong, the more it gets ingrained, and the harder it is to correct. Just make sure you give a lot of encouragement, and correct them when you’re alone.

Empower Your Colleagues To Learn English In London With Orchid English 

Our fabulous teachers give engaging and fun English speaking classes at companies. You can get group or individual English lessons in London. Would you like that at your company? Learning English can change your life, so it’s a wonderful thing to do for your staff. 

Give us a call on 020 8150 7239, or send us a message through our contact form here.


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