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.

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