Want to improve your business English?
How about listening to a business English podcast?
Sounds perfectly logical, right?
But… it’s not a good idea.
Here’s a true story that shows you why.
I met Lenka in Cafe Grand Orient in the center of Prague.
After some small talk, I asked her Question Number One on my list: “What’s your motivation?”
She told me she learned English a long time ago in school, but she never needed it at work.
But suddenly, last week, that all changed.
Her boss had given her a new job; a new job which required her to talk with foreign clients.
And now she was worried.
She was worried her English wouldn’t be good enough.
She was worried she had forgotten too much.
She was worried she would lose the clients and she was worried she would be fired.
I looked at my list of questions.
Next, I asked her if she had a current English routine.
She told me she had just started listening to podcasts.
“Daily Routine: TICK”
“Which ones?” I asked.
“Business English podcasts,” she said.
Not So Good
I knew what the answer would be, but I asked anyway.
“What was it about?” I asked.
She had just listened to a business English podcast in her car on the way to the cafe.
But she had to think for a second…
Then a few more seconds…
Then a few more awkward, silent seconds…
Until finally, I changed the subject and asked another question.
It’s Not Your Memory
It’s because they’re boring.
And when something is boring, it’s difficult to pay attention and very difficult to remember.
Lenka spent about 30 minutes in her car “improving” her English.
And it wasn’t a week ago, a day ago, or even an hour ago. It was just 10 minutes ago.
But she couldn’t remember one thing about the podcast — not even what it was about!
Think of it like this:
Your memory borrowed some money from the mafia, didn’t pay it back, said some bad things about the Boss, went on a date with his daughter, and never called her again.
Your memory has enemies.
And Enemy Number One is Boredom.
Boring is the enemy of memory.
Your memory wants to do its job. It wants to remember.
But Boredom is powerful.
Achilles had his heal.
Superman had kryptonite.
And your memory has Boredom.
We forget what’s boring. And we forget it instantly.
SOME MEMORY SCIENCE
There was a research study done in the 1970s known as “levels of processing.”
I’ll spare you the boring details but what they found is that if new information is about you it will be about 50% easier to remember.
This is why a business English podcast is a bad idea.
It’s not about you or your business.
The teacher on the podcast is usually just talking about words: words to use in a meeting… words to use in an email…
They might be useful, but because they’re not about you, you’ll pay a 50% memory tax.
DO THIS INSTEAD OF LISTENING TO BUSINESS ENGLISH PODCASTS
What’s your business?
Here’s a list of five mergers and acquisitions podcasts I found after a quick google search.
Work in IT?
Here’s a list of nine IT podcasts google showed me.
Next, pick just four podcasts. Download one episode from each. Listen to one on your way to work and one on your way back from work. Then on day three pick your favorite, download them, keep listening on your way to and from work.
When you do you’ll hear new English words, you’ll hear correct English grammar, but now you’ll have a chance of remembering it because it will be about something interesting:
And it’ll be 50% more effective.
I never went to English class here in the United States. I usually feel frustrated about that, I’m a professional and here, without English, you are nothing. But, I’m studying English every day, alone since I live in the United States, I have my phone in English I watch tv in English, and I’m not afraid to talk or write in English and I think that this is important. I’m following you for a year maybe, and I agree with you. Before, I didn’t understand, why he said those things about school?, about learning English in school?, if I’m a professional because of school. Today I understand, because practice is another thing for learning English and because, I started a new job in December, 2 months ago, everyone talk in English, and all the documentation is in English, and I have learned more English in this time than in my 7 years leaving in the United States, also, I have the courage to write these comments and I don’t know if my grammatic is correct but, I’m no afraid of that. I wanna said thank you, for sending me those emails every day and for your lessons, they are revolutionary ideas!
Yes, this story is really thoughtful for us to observe everything in a complex way. No activities are purposeful and bear success without proper strategy and tactics.