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Speak English Like a Native Speaker – THE MYTH

Do you work in English?

If you do, and you’re like most people, you must have felt that it’s sometimes hard to find the balance between being formal but still feeling authentic.

Or maybe, if you’re like most people, you’ve also downloaded Business English vocabulary lists from the internet, only to discover it’s overwhelming and nobody really uses all those words and fancy idioms anymore.

This and more will be discussed in this episode as I interview Lindsay McMahon, the founder and host of the All Ears English podcast.

Lindsay will share with you what she’s discovered after hours of research of the language people ACTUALLY use in the workplace, as well as other tips on how to feel confident and authentic at work in 2020.

Then leave me a comment with one word that you use the MOST when you’re at work:


Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Have you ever felt like you don’t know exactly how to use your English at work? I mean, you know how to communicate, but sometimes you have questions like, “What words should I use? Should I use that phrase? I mean, I’ve learned it, but no one seems to use it”.

Or maybe you don’t know if you need to sound a bit more formal or less formal. And how can you improve your professional English without losing your authenticity? Well, today’s episode is all about that because today we have with us Lindsay McMahon. Lindsay is the podcast host of the All Ears English podcast, a very successful and fun podcast to learn English with. And she’s also an ESL entrepreneur, recently focusing on teaching business English.

And today she’s going to talk to us about the problem with traditional business English training. And she’s going to share with us some tips on how to really put into practice what you really need in the professional world.

Lindsay also interviewed me on her YouTube channel called “All Ears English”, where I talked about my Pronunciation Teaching Framework. So make sure to check it out right after this video. You can also find this interview on my podcast – The InFluency podcast, which you can subscribe to on your favorite platform. Okay. I can’t wait to bring Lindsay in, so let’s not wait any longer.

Hadar: Hi, Lindsay. How are you doing?

Lindsay: Hi, Hadar. I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me on your show.

Hadar: I’m so happy to have you here, Lindsay from All Ears English, and an ESL entrepreneur. Can you tell the audience a little bit about you and what you do, and all the amazing stuff that you do?

Lindsay: Oh my gosh. Yes. So All Ears English is a channel to podcast primarily, where we teach English as a second language, and we teach it with a kind of perspective of connection, not perfection. How can we learn English? Leave our perfectionism behind and in any given moment, how can we always focus a hundred percent on the most important thing, which is forming that human connection between you and the other person, right?

Hadar: I love that so much. The first time I listened to your podcast, and then I heard that like, ‘connection not perfection’ and I was like, “That’s what I’m talking about! I love this so much!” And then, “Do you have like 150 million downloads?”

Lindsay: Yeah. You know, we launched in 2013, and I think we just struck a chord. I think people were looking for something like this back then, and it’s just continued to stay strong since then. Our listeners keep coming back. We publish four days a week, and you know, the thing is we enjoy podcasting. And I think our listeners know that. And so it’s just a big, it’s just, it feels like edutainment in a way, kind of edutainment. We’re having fun and we’re learning at the same time.

Hadar: And I also think that your message resonates with a lot of people and it’s not what is very common in the industry, right? Like that idea of “don’t judge yourself so harshly”. Perfectionism is overrated. You don’t need to be, you don’t have to have perfect English, you just have to speak up and to connect with people. Which I love, I absolutely love, and I 100% agree with it.

Lindsay: Thank you, Hadar. Thank you.

Hadar: And you’re here today to share with us this philosophy, and also to talk about how we show up as people in English, in our, in our personal lives, but also in our professional lives. And how do we use English, you know, how to navigate between, you know, using English in your personal life with friends, colleagues if you speak English as a second language.

But also, is it very different than when you’re at the office? Do you need to use different vocabulary? Do you need to start using all these fancy idioms, phrasal verbs, or… So I’d love to hear how you see it, and also share with us your wonderful philosophy.

Lindsay: Yeah. You know, when we first started about, started thinking about focusing on business English, our students asked us, “Would you create business English material?”, I thought, “I don’t know if we can, because I don’t know if ‘connection not perfection’ carries over into the business world”. I wasn’t quite sure.

And then we thought about it a little bit more, and lately, my cohost Michelle and I were talking about this on the show the other day, I think that there’s kind of a movement around the world for us to be more true to ourselves and to stop compartmentalizing who we are – to stop having our work selves, our home selves, our family selves, right?

We want to be integrated, as people. We want to bring our whole selves to work. So we want to be able to be ourselves at work. What do you think about that? Yeah.

Hadar: I love that. And they think that, especially when speaking, that’s totally true for anyone and everyone. Right? But when it comes to speaking English as a second language, when we are not ourselves, anyway, we don’t feel like ourselves. Right? So when we feel like we need to put on this other suit, then we feel even less authentic and, you know, and then we don’t communicate authentically.

Lindsay: Exactly. And the thing is we talk about this a lot on the show. If we can’t be ourselves, if we don’t give the world at least a hint of ourselves, there’s nothing for people to fall in love with. I mean that non romantically, but in terms of building even professional connections, there’s nothing for people to grab onto. They can’t see you, they can’t, they can’t like you, they can’t do business with you. Right?

And so I think it’s the moment, it’s 2020, it’s time for us to start bringing our whole selves to work. And so that’s kind of where our philosophy was based out of, where it comes from. It’s this idea of really bringing, you know, it’s not formal English, it’s not just formal English – there’s semiformal, there’s formal, there’s informal. And as English learners, our students have to move between all of them. We have to be able to constantly move between these different ways of speaking. Yeah.

Hadar: Right. And it’s not different English. Right? And it’s not like a different field. It’s just like understanding the situation and bringing your best self, or like understanding how to use that language in a way that serves you best. Right? And in a way that is appropriate and you feel comfortable.

How do you the whole, you know, home-office merge, we talked about a little bit before. So what you’re saying now really resonates with me because there is no more, you know, office space, and…

Lindsay: I know, I know. Like I said, Michelle and I yesterday, when we were recording, she asked me that. She said, “Lindsay, do you think the office is dead?” And I think maybe it’s the beginning of the end of going into the office in the way we know it. Again, the commute, going to the large building in Midtown Manhattan, where the rent is so high, and we’re coming, we’re bringing our work selves.

I think maybe we’re at the beginning of an emergence of something new. Where again, people have a more integrated life. Maybe more people are working from home at times, they can walk the dog in the middle of the day, deal with their family, whatever they need to do, so they make work WORK along with life. And I think along with that, it becomes a little more human. I think there’s a move, a movement to make work more human, which ties in really nicely with what we’re trying to do, right, in the ESL world – which is make it more approachable.

Again, language belongs to everyone – whether you’re at work or whether you’re, you know, on the street, just trying to speak in English – it belongs to everyone. So let’s make it that way. Right?

Hadar: Absolutely. Yeah. I love it. And thank you for saying that. It’s so important. And sometimes people forget that. So it’s important to remind. And also people who don’t speak, who weren’t in born into English, they don’t feel like English belongs to them. And it’s important to say “It’s yours too, no matter how you use it, it’s okay.”

Lindsay: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah.

Hadar: So tell me a little bit about how you work when teaching and coaching business English. What is your, you know, methods and philosophy?

Lindsay: Yeah. So some of the things that we put into, we have put into the curriculum that we’ve built in the business English world is first of all, we started, again, so getting away from this idea of the other problem in ESL is that a lot of ESL courses are based on lists, that are online, right? Just a lot of…

Hadar: Burn the lists, my friends, burn… <both laughing>

Lindsay: And our team thoroughly believes that. So we thought, “Oh my God, how are we going to do this because we also don’t work in the corporate world?” And we thought, “Oh my gosh, we don’t have this experience in the corporate world.” I’m an entrepreneur. My team, we work from home, we worked in ESL, linguistics, a nonprofit, but not in the corporate world. And that felt like the gold standard for us.

And so we thought, what’s a way around this? So that we don’t have to go and take those lists online and teach our students things that we don’t even know are actually used. So we decided to send out a survey to more than a hundred of our friends, our family members who work, not just in the 9-to-5 corporate world. But in the tech space, in the medical field, the nonprofit field, all these different areas. Cause we didn’t want to just limit it to, you know, again, like your Midtown Manhattan corporation, a Wall Street banker.

And so then we took, that was the base of our curriculum, then, at that point. You know, we asked them, “What questions do you get asked in interviews? What are the acronyms you use in meetings? Give us the actual stuff you use every day.” And then we felt really solid to start with that foundation from that point.

Hadar: That’s amazing. So it was like, like real life English used in professional circumstances, situations. I love that. And, was it what you had expected, or were you surprised to see some of the things that people are using?

Lindsay: Some of the things I was surprised, some of the things I knew, others I didn’t know at all. And some of the things were very technical, you know, things like ROI, KPI. And then there’s, you know, work from home – an acronym that’s very common – WFH. But these are all things, of course, there was such a variety, of course, of fields that people were in. So there were things that were surprising, but we went with it because we said, “This is real. This is what people are actually experiencing in the real world. So we’re going to put it in the curriculum.” Yeah.

Hadar: Amazing. And of course, we’re going to link to everything in the show notes. So if you want to find out more about how to get access to all that good stuff, you can go and visit the description.

But for people who are saying, “Okay, so, I shouldn’t be looking for lists online”, right, business English vocabulary? No. What can they do if they don’t have access to those interviews and surveys? Like what can do they do to, to really get real world professional English?

Lindsay: Yeah. I think as much as you can expose yourself to, again, that real material: for example, watch a TED talk. I think that could be a good example of not just listening for the overall comprehension. What are the words they’re using in these TED talks? Pick them out, write them down, bring it in from real material. Again, because I think the truth is most ESL teachers don’t have that corporate experience, the vast majority, I think don’t.

And so we need to find that gap and then just figure out another way kind of around that. Because once we have the vocabulary and the material, at that point. And then just talk to people who are active in the working world. You know what I mean? I mean, finding people, ask them questions: “Hey, what was your interview like? What questions did they ask you? What do you, how are you preparing for the next step in the interview?” Use the world as your resource. That’s what I would say. Yeah.

Hadar: Maybe even using websites like Glassdoor or other websites that provide you with some typical interview questions, and it’s not like an idea. Right? And I love what you’re doing because basically what you’re saying is that, you know, I think that the way this has been taught up until now has not been very, it’s not like the most effective training that people have gotten.

Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, we interviewed students before we made the course. And that was honestly what they told us. They said that they felt like what they were learning was kind of old school. I love that expression “old school”, for your listeners here – old school, outdated.

Hadar: Outdated, right? Another word.

Lindsay: And just kind of like out of reach, you know what I mean? Coming back to the human, like let’s bring our whole selves to work. It might make students feel like that’s not accessible to me. Cause this is what perfect corporate people use, right? And I’m not that. And so how can I do that? It might make people shut down. But if we can take that human approach, then we can take the vocabulary and just hit the ground running with it, in a sense, if that’s make sense, yeah.

Hadar: Yeah. And you know, I always say when I, you know, teach people how to improve their vocabulary, then yes – burn the lists. But also, you know, focus on the 20%. You don’t have to go and learn all the words out there. And what you’re doing is like you’re saying, I’m only giving you the 20% – the things that people actually use. Because if you focus on that, that will expand your, the vocabulary that you’ll actually need to use, you know. And these are things that maybe you know, what you don’t use. So, you know, like focus on those things.

And I think also looking for, interviews, you know, YouTube videos with interviews, or just like lectures in the field, TED talks. Or just like, you know, panels, a lot of times there are all these conferences, I’m thinking. And then the video is uploaded with, you know, 1000 views – only the people of the company watch it. So this is a great resource to just listen through it and then collect words and be like, “I’m gonna use that.”

Lindsay: Exactly. It’s kinda like, the students that I’ve seen, who have been successful over the years, are kind of like language detectives, right? They go one level deeper, they don’t just wait for a teacher to feed them the list or the textbook, or give them the assignment. They go one level deeper. They go and find those resources and they know how to use that resource, not necessarily in a conventional way.

Hadar: Right, absolutely. We have to… like, I think it’s so important to be active learners, right? Like to know what’s right for you, if something’s not working for you to be able to, you know, say “No, that’s it”, don’t waste time on doing things that don’t serve you, that don’t help you.

Lindsay: Exactly. The other piece that I’ve noticed that students struggle with in the business – I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, Hadar – that students sometimes struggle with moving between, and I mentioned this earlier, between being more formal. Cause there are times to be formal, right? Maybe in the middle of a job interview we want to be a little buttoned up, right?

Before and after and during the interview, I have noticed that students can struggle moving between these different ways of speaking. Have you seen that with your students?

Hadar: Absolutely. I think there are many layers to that. It’s like, “How to use formal language, when do I use it?” Also cultural differences, right? What’s formal in my culture is not very formal or seems very direct in American culture, for example. So I think, absolutely, I see it all the time. So what do you say to that?

Lindsay: So, yeah, I mean, I think we need to, it’s a matter of building that flexibility. So, there is the vocab, like there is formal, informal, semi-formal vocab, but it’s also kind of a mindset. And again, it comes back to being human, letting them see your whole self. We don’t want to put that block up, and it’s sort of a self-protective thing: ” I have to be formal all the time so they won’t see who I really am.”

Once we get over that, then we know we can, there’s a moment to relax with your colleague and say, “Hey, did you go mountain biking over the weekend? You said you were going to go hiking. How was that? How’d it go?” Being able to do that, I think would bring students over a major hurdle, that I see as a challenge that a lot of people have. Yeah.

Hadar: Absolutely. And also, going back to ‘connection not perfection’, you know, the whole idea of small talk, people dread so much, right? Like, “No, focus on connection, really care about the other person. Really ask them how they’re doing.” Maybe not something too personal, but, you know, but that’s it. And when it comes down to that, like conversation is a lot more easy and effortless.

Lindsay: Exactly And  think there are certain things that we can do to prepare for those scenarios that might make us freeze. Right? For example, in what we’re working on, we actually put together an entire lesson on games that you often are forced to play in corporations, right? Corporate games, like team building games.

Team building games. I don’t know if these are common in Israel, but in the US they are really common. Things like trust or just sharing games. And we kind of showed our listeners what the rules are and how you might go about. So then when they’re in that situation, they can actually build the relationships what they’re there to build. That’s the point.

Hadar: Instead of being so stressed out about getting it right. Right? And also, when you show up in something that is already familiar, you perform a lot better and you’re less judgmental. Right? Cause the unfamiliar is what’s scary.

Lindsay: Completely. It’s like you’ve rehearsed this game already. Because you’ve learned the rules, you prepared what you might say. And now let’s go in and actually do what you’re supposed to do, which is meet people at your company and get to know them. So, yeah.

Hadar: And I think it’s the same with like using the words and using that slightly more formal, polite language, right, indirect maybe. So I think all of these things, like the idea of doing it again and again and again, and again. And then when you’re required to do it in real life, it’s no longer scary and you have the skillset and the tools to do it, you know, with confidence.

Lindsay: Yeah. So we put in that little extra step, we rehearse what we’ll expect to hear before we walk into a meeting, right? We kind of, we call it opening your brain box over on our side of things, opening your brain box and saying, “I’m going into a meeting about a merger that’s happening with my company and this other company. Okay. What words do I expect to hear? What might I be asked?”

And by just taking that little step of opening your brain box and being prepared you prime your mind from a linguistics perspective to actually be ready to respond, or it’s like you’ve already rehearsed. And then you’re going in and you’re much less likely to come up blank when someone, when the whole room is looking at you, because we know that’s kind of the pain point for a lot of our students. Right?

Hadar: Absolutely. So let’s say someone knows that, like, let’s say next week they’re about to play that game. How do you suggest that they, what, can they do to prepare for it?

Lindsay: So, definitely if they know that there’s some kind of a team building game or afternoon coming up, I would recommend, first of all, finding out what the games are that are going to be played. Know the game. Right? And then if you’re working with any teacher or in a course, just go and research the game on your own. Talk through the rules, maybe talk through it with a friend or a family member.

So that you explain the rules to them, to make sure you know it. Because when we can explain something, that shows that we understand it well cause I think that could be a big hurdle – is really understanding the rules. Cause sometimes I even struggle sometimes with card games. Like a brand new card game, I’ll sit down and be like, “Here’s the rules, here’s 10 things that you got to remember”. All of a sudden, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know the rules”. You know, it can be a challenge.

And so doing that, understanding the game, and then maybe having a few ideas of things you might say – it’s not a major project, it’s just 10, 15, 20 minutes you could spend preparing. That could make all the difference in how much you benefit from that afternoon. Cause that’s the point.

Hadar: Yeah, exactly. And enjoy it, right?

Lindsay: And don’t just survive, right?

Hadar: And actually have fun!

Lindsay: Yeah. Let’s move past like the survival mind, right, the fight-or-flight mind when it comes to learning English, and let’s make it a little bit more about connection and being human, and building relationships. So, yeah.

Hadar: That’s fantastic. What would you recommend now that like most of connection and communication is over Zoom, right? And I just had a conversation with one of my students who felt really, you know, anyway, it’s a challenge to show up in English authentically, right, like herself. And she said that she was in a Zoom meeting with, you know, like they already, there was like a group of people. They already had their own lingo and connection, and she felt like she didn’t know how to participate in the conversation and how to show up properly.

So do you have any tips for Zoom calls in general, but in particular for people who struggle anyway with English and they also need to show up on zoom, which is more demanding?

Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, so we have talked about Zoom a little bit in the last few months, for sure. Video calls, zoom calls, phone calls. I think at least in American culture, we have this idea – and I’m not sure if this is true in Israel as well – we have this idea that we have to get in on the scene and start speaking right away. We have to immediately be involved in a dynamic conversation. We kind of have that expectation because the value is on ‘speak, speak, speak’, not on ‘listen’.

Other cultures actually value listening a lot more, which I kind of respect. As I get older, I respect that more. So I’d say step back, don’t put the pressure on yourself to immediately jump in and start dominating, or even participating in the conversation right away. Step back, listen, get to know these people that are on the call. And then once you know the vibe, the culture of the group, then gradually get yourself in there. But I’d say don’t put so much pressure on yourself to immediately get in there. Yeah.

Hadar: Right. I think it’s important. And I think people understand that a Zoom call is a little different and it’s, you know, I feel that people are less judgmental about you participating or not, when it’s a Zoom call. Cause they don’t know what you’re doing, and usually the situation, especially if your video is off and like you’re just listening. And I think…

Lindsay: Go ahead, Hadar, go ahead. Sorry.

Hadar: No, and I think that, one of the things that I told her, I was just like, “If you don’t feel comfortable barging in or speaking, especially if there’s already like this dynamic between them, and you feel like, “I don’t know how to show up”, I said, “Well, you have the chat box, you can interact with them there, and people can come back to it. And it gives you the time and space to write a few things, but yeah.

Lindsay: Absolutely. I mean, the other thing that came to mind is share like little things about yourself so that they have something to ask you about next time, so they can kind of help pull you into their conversation. So maybe you’re finishing up that call, maybe you’ve just said a few things on the call, you’re finishing up and, you know, people are sharing what they’re doing over the weekend. Share that. So then the next time you all meet, they can say something and then you’re going to gradually build your confidence. So kind of let them know you so they can help you come into the conversation. It’s not all on you to get in there. Does that make sense?

Hadar: That makes total sense. I love it. It’s such a great advice because people feel like, you know, people don’t want to hear me talk about myself, but actually it’s really important. Cause not only that it builds confidence, it builds trust. Right? So people get to know you and also you give them something to work with. So they want to speak to you, but they’re like, “I don’t know what to talk to them about”, so they know something, yeah.

Lindsay: Yeah. If you think about how a lot of people might feel, if someone new comes into a group, and they don’t know you, they may feel awkward too, as you said. They might feel like, “I don’t want to say the wrong thing, I don’t know anything about this person”. Give them something to work with, give them a little material. Yeah.

Hadar: Right. And there’s nothing wrong about talking about yourself. If it’s like, especially at the end, you’re giving them some information. It’s a good thing. Yeah.

Lindsay: You have to, you have to. Yeah, for sure.

Hadar: I love it. Anything else you’d like to share with us? Any final tips about how to show up in the professional world, or anything else you’d like to add?

Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, I’ve just been really interested in kind of this new economy, how things are changing. So I think along with the typical business English skills for our audience, I would suggest focusing on things like time management, how can we set goals in a smart way – those are all part of your career in English, too, right? Growing your career, making more money, becoming more successful out in the global work world is: how do I set goals, how do I understand my true genius?

I believe that we all have this inner genius. We all have something inside of us that’s really special. How do we bring that out and know what it is? So think about those things too. Don’t just get stuck in vocabulary and, you know, grammar. There’s so much more that could build up your career. Yeah.

Hadar: Right. And when you know your ‘why’ and your bigger mission, then the mistakes are like they’re mindless. They’re not, it’s not that big of a deal. Yeah. And it gives you the motivation to keep going, right? Like to keep on learning and investing in yourself.

Lindsay: Exactly. So making sure, again, we know the ‘why’, I love Simon Sinek, I love his work, you know, he coined the whole start with ‘why’ idea, but a lot of people have tagged on to that: the zone of genius, the StrengthsFinder, all these things – make sure you know what you’re doing, try to be working in or around that area. I know it’s a privilege to be able to do that and not everyone can drop their job and find a new job and work in their zone of genius, but try to move towards it, however you can.

And your right, Hadar, once you do that, the vocabulary and pronunciation mistakes feel so much less relevant and everything gets put into perspective. Yeah.

Hadar: Right, exactly.

Lindsay: Yeah, so good.

Hadar: Okay. And this would be a good time to say that you also have a YouTube channel. And we had an interview there as well, right?

Lindsay: Yes, yes.

Hadar: So you should go and check it out. Do you want to share with them where they can find it?

Lindsay: Yes. So, I think the best way would be to go to the Google search bar in YouTube and just type in ‘All Ears English’. We are putting up some of our old podcast episodes. We are reappearing on YouTube, but after not really being on there much over the last four years or so. But we’re back, putting old podcast episodes up and putting current episodes up about once a week. So, guys, go over and check it out, for sure.

Hadar: Check it out. Check the interview we had, and don’t forget to subscribe. And that’s it. Anything else you want to share?

Lindsay: No, I’m just excited about the way the working world is going. And I want to empower your audience to jump on this wave, be human at work, focus on connection, not perfection. And thanks for having me, Hadar. This has been fun.

Hadar: Thank you so much. And all the links are going to be in the description: about your courses, and about your channels, and the podcast.

Lindsay, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful to have you here.

Lindsay: Absolutely. Thank you, Hadar.  Talk to you soon. Thanks a lot. Alright, bye.

Hadar: Bye.

Okay, that’s it. Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation. Let me know in the comments below what you think, if you have any questions for us. And Lindsay and I would be happy to answer you.

Don’t forget to go and check out our interview on her channel – ‘All Ears English’ on YouTube. And don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Thank you so much for being here. Have a beautiful day and I’ll see you next week. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
68. Say Goodbye To Traditional BUSINESS ENGLISH Vocabulary Lists! With Lindsay From 'All Ears English'

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