Author Archives: Alisha Debara

The 5 Cs of Email Writing

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The 5 Cs of Email Writing 

Written by- Kamini Taneja, Academic Manager, British Council.

 

Please do the needful and revert back asap.’

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We see sentences like these in emails all the time. However, it’s not the most effective way to write since it doesn’t state what needs to be done and by when.

Emails need to be written as clearly as possible to avoid causing confusion, especially when transacting with partners/stakeholders overseas. A common complaint among Learning and Development managers is that their team members, while excellent in technical skills, can’t communicate successfully in writing. This leads to a lot of time being spent correcting and proofreading emails before they are sent out. This is especially true when emails are written to senior managers or important stakeholders. Furthermore, it has a negative impact on employee productivity and decreases efficiency.

Business communication is heavily reliant on emails – an indispensable tool in the business world today. So let’s look at the 5 Cs of email writing.

Complete: This is about stating your purpose up front and providing the right amount of information. It is a good idea to explicitly state what action will follow and when, and who will do it.

For example, let’s look at an email that starts with the sentence ‘I am writing to enquire about the new photocopier model manufactured at NEWX.’ Is the purpose/reason for writing clear or obvious? We usually state the reason for writing in the opening sentence of the email. It is also vital that all information is logically presented in the message.

Clear: This relates to using specific language. Which of these sentences specify exactly what action is required from the reader?

  1. We might extend the deadline to some extent on the condition that necessary measures are taken in a timely fashion.
  2. You now have until 31st March to remove all machinery from the site.

Additionally, using linking words, paragraphs to logically connect ideas is of utmost importance.

Correct: Let’s consider these sentences:  ‘I received many informations from you last week.’ or ‘I have received a letter from you on Monday.’

Can you spot any errors in these sentences?

You got that right – information is an uncountable noun so doesn’t take a ‘s’.

The second sentence can be written as ‘I received the letter on Monday.’ We use the past simple to state completed actions in the past (i.e. the action of receiving the letter is complete). The use of present perfect, in this case, brings together two contradictory elements: I have received the letter (recently received the letter) on Monday (with a past time phrase, time that is complete and over).

Grammatical accuracy plays a big part in how you come across to the reader and if the message was received as intended. Remember, words are powerful, but the right words are dynamite.

Concise: It is important to use short sentences (15-20 words).  Take a lo at this sentence:

The recommendation I have, and this is the area which I will now address in this section, is that relating to the issue of whether we need to provide refreshment for the employees of our company. It being my considered opinion that in fact, it would save time if the aforementioned meal could be provided by our company rather than having the employees go outside for any eventual refreshment.

The importance of keeping it simple and concise cannot be stressed enough when drafting crisp and easy to understand messages. Sentence length and “big” words can distort the message. Besides, who has the time to read long-winded emails! A better sentence is:

In order to save time, my recommendation is to provide refreshment to all staff in the office rather than having them go out.

Courteous: Our relationship with the reader influences our choice of language (formal/informal). When talking to your reader, you need to tailor your writing to fit their specific needs. One needs to consider what the tone of the message is and strike the right level of formality.

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The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs. Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant on our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

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Make meetings matter – Expert tips to improve your meetings

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Make meetings matter- Expert tips to improve your meetings

Written by- Shonali Khanna, Academic Manager, British Council

Think meetings are a waste of time? Think again. Our top tips for managing meetings effectively can help you make meetings matter!

What’s usually your first thought when you get a meeting request?

  1. Oh no, not another meeting
  2. Why am I even invited for this?
  3. What a total waste of time
  4. Fabulous, I love meetings!

If you chose 4, you’re one of those few individuals who is clearly doing things right. For the rest of us, however, meetings that run on endlessly or one where everyone is preoccupied with their gadgets can be a really frustrating part of regular work. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way and you don’t have to jump on the “boring meetings” bandwagon. Here are some ways to hold effective meetings that energise your team and leave them with clear objectives.The end game

The end game
Often, general weekly meetings with no clear outcomes end up becoming opportunities to catch up on lost sleep. So first things first, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve through this meeting. In other words, clearly define what will happen as a result of the time spent together as a group. Define this with a tangible action such as ‘by the end of this meeting we will have created a marketing action plan with timelines and leads for each action.’
Putting the D in digital
Once you clearly define your objectives, you might even find that a meeting isn’t the best medium to achieve a particular outcome. That’s ok. In fact, that’s good! Maybe a shared, collaborative document or an online meeting platform such as Zoom or Skype for Business can help your team review a proposal in real time. Perhaps project updates can be shared more effectively through a project management tool or communication platforms such as Basecamp, Asana or Slack.
An invite gets the clock ticking
The meeting actually starts when the invite is sent out, not when the physical meeting takes place. Meetings can be way more productive if you use appropriate ways to engage your invitees even before the meeting happens. This could be done by sharing a clear agenda so people know exactly what they can expect or giving a pre-meeting task that they have to complete before they come to the meeting.
Pre-wire meetings with important topics
For important or sensitive topics, where you want people to collaborate and don’t want any surprises, use the pre-meeting time to approach the key players attending the meeting. Get a preview of their thoughts on the meeting even before it happens. This will also help you anticipate concerns or questions or challenges so you can go into the meeting with clear solutions.
What are your top tips to make meetings more interactive? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below.
If you know someone who spends a lot of their time in meetings, share this article with them.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs. To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

 

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Planning your company’s L&D strategy for 2017?

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Planning your company’s L&D strategy for 2017? 

Written by- Tapsi Chhabra, Academic Manager, British Council.

With rapid globalisation, English has emerged as the lingua franca for international business. Add to that the rise of the internet, and you have a situation where there is a high demand for proficiency in using English a.k.a the ‘universal language on the internet’.

Even within organisations, English takes centre stage.
Need to share information with your team? Write an update on Yammer or Basecamp.
Need to report to the CFO on numbers? Make a presentation.

Considering all of the above, here are the three main reasons why English language training should be your top L&D priority for the year.

To avoid communication breakdown:
Non-standard English aka ‘Indianisms’ in international contexts can cause confusion and pose barriers to building good business relationships. If not corrected, they may even lead to communication breakdown.

For instance, the oft-asked question What’s your good name? may confuse an expatriate colleague or a native English speaker. That’s because this is a direct translation of the Hindi expression, ‘Aap ka shubh naam kya hai?’ and the use of the adjective ‘good’ needlessly complicates a very simple question. Instead ‘What is your name?’ works for all situations.

To save time, save costs:
Did you know that we spend 28 per cent of our work week reading, writing or responding to emails, and a whopping 35 percent on meetings? That’s because most communication on emails and in meetings is to get things done. When employees improve their Business English, messages conveyed are clear and the need for clarification is drastically reduced. On the whole, employees are better able to grasp what is expected of them and perform tasks more effectively.

In addition, many companies report that highly paid senior managers often have to edit presentations and emails riddled with a non-standard use of English. If that’s the case in your organisation, it may be time to think about English language training.

Boost confidence and propel leadership:
You may have hired people with excellent technical skills, but are they able to lead on projects that require a high level of communicative competence? Equipping these techno-wizards with the ability to use language effectively empowers them to embrace leadership and take initiative beyond their basic job responsibilities. Don’t be surprised when a middle manager who recently attended a negotiation skills workshop cracks that deal with a coveted client all on his own – yes, the one that the management has been eyeing for months!

So tweak that L&D plan today – save costs and shape leaders by making language learning your top priority for 2017!
Have you struggled with communication breakdown at the workplace and a high cost of training? What do you look for in language training programs? Comment below and let us know.

If you like the article, share it with someone who will like it too!

 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication related solutions targeting specific needs. Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant on our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

 

 

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The CELTA course has had an immense impact on my professional life – Swastik’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (3)

Hi, my name is Swatik Guha. CELTA happened to me when I was on the verge of getting lost in the corporate rat race. Being a corporate trainer for over 5 years had turned me into a thoroughbred corporate professional for whom meeting deadlines took precedence over developmental needs of trainees. As I lurched through the corporate maze chasing the next promotion, I often wondered and questioned the efficacy of the pedagogical methods used in corporate training.

Some of the training techniques seemed too traditional, so I tried to innovate and introduce new ones. But with no formal training on teaching, I often found myself in at the deep end. At this time CELTA offered me a new glimmer of hope. A Cambridge certification in teaching English was reason enough for me to jump onto the course.

I remember walking into the British Council on the first day beaming with confidence. Even though, I expected to gain a new perspective on teaching English I had underestimated the magnitude by half. The variety the course offered soon left all of us scrambling to cope with the stress. Our very able tutors, Steve and Charles, were always there to guide us and pick us up when we stumbled.

The course was very well structured with observed teaching practice every day. I learned something new with every teaching practice and by the end of the course, I had the confidence to design my own lessons to teach English as a foreign language.

The CELTA course has had an immense impact on my professional life. Soon after the course I applied for a job at British Council, New Delhi as a newly qualified teacher and within a year of completing the CELTA course I started working at the same center I did the course from. The CELTA course has opened many new doors for me.

I have been teaching at the British Council for a year now and I have taught various age groups ranging from primary kids to adults. I have also taught a range of courses from general English to exam preparation course. The experience I gather at the British Council is rewarding as it helps me to become a better teacher every day.

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English is everything for me – Sanjay’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (1)

Hi, my name is Sanjay Gupta. I have been learning English at the British Council for one year. English is everything for me and my hobbies include reading books, writing poems and listening to music.

I got to know about the British council through my friends. My decision to learn English was my lack of confidence in speaking, which improved drastically after joining the British Council. Apart from learning English, the one thing I will always remember is my first film club in British Council. It was an enjoyable experience, one I could share with new friends.

The British Council follows a good teaching methodology. After my course, to keep practicing and stay connected with fellow students, I am currently enjoying Edmodo.

My advice for friends would be to learn new things about the English language and enjoy reading, writing, speaking, watching and listening.

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Creative Writing Course at the British Council – Ashank’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL

Hi, my name is Ashank Chandra. I opted for the Creative Writing course at the British Council for two reasons: I wanted to be an English language teacher and I could always relate to writing. I had previously worked with startups after which I started writing commercially. It was a suggestion by one of my colleagues to join this course.

I have always been fascinated by the code of conduct that the British Council follows. Everything is extremely organised, the time schedules are fixed, and the books are apt and easy to use. The diversity inside the classroom proved to be the biggest advantage and the environment was extremely conducive for effective learning to take place.

The course was very well structured and dealt with each component of creative writing. The methodologies used to teach were different and easy to grasp for all the learners, making the classes engaging and interactive in nature.

This course has helped me in learning various aspects of English such as the appropriate usage of vocabulary, structuring of the text, how to express ideas more effectively. My favourite takeaway from this course was to learn how to make people enjoy my style of writing. The course has changed my writing style positively, as every time that I now sit to write a content piece, I know how I should frame my thoughts and structure them effectively.

Penning down my own thoughts was once a hassle for me but now it comes naturally. I find it easier to plan the plot for a story. I also practice different styles of writing which I couldn’t do earlier.

Most importantly, the changes that I have undergone as a person, surprises the people around me the most. I now talk and listen to people more patiently which is a result of the course. Seeing this, many of my friends have also joined different courses at the British Council.

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CELTA taught me the techniques of effective teaching – Lakshmi’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL

Hi, my name is Lakshmi Sreedhar and I am currently a Teacher of English at the British Council.

A Chartered Accountant by profession.I signed up for CELTA at British Council in June 2016, Chennai to pursue an alternate career in the world of English language learning and teaching. CELTA, a globally recognised certification, offered by the University of Cambridge, paved a way for meeting people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It provided a challenging platform that enhanced my skill levels to a more holistic approach to teaching.

The course included valuable inputs from experienced mentors on classroom management, engaging learners through activities, lesson planning and student evaluation along with real-time teaching sessions. I should say the course presented a completely new window into the language itself.

CELTA taught me the techniques of effective teaching, an alternate approach to understanding English, along with practical methods for engaging learners. In particular, the structure of the course combined with an excellent library, offering wonderful resources and tools made learning intense, hands-on and fun. The program learning experience, as we cruised through the course, was enriching and tremendous because we were given the opportunity to try and implement the tips, techniques, and feedback followed by a guided evaluation of the results, leading to perceivable progress. The TP sessions and challenging assignments, I believe, has equipped me to further hone my skills as a complete teacher.

A special mention needs to be made, about the wonderful team of CELTA program mentors I had, namely Robin, Usha, and Suganthi, who equipped me to navigate an intense and challenging course. The guidance and effective feedback provided helped in the successful completion of the course. The experience was invaluable as it taught me effective time management, kindled my creativity and improved my ability to plan and structure the class lessons.

The CELTA badge opens up opportunities worldwide because of its recognition in the education and corporate sector globally. In my case, I got a full-time teaching position at the British council in November 2016. I recommend this course for all those who love English, love teaching and for those looking to build a career in English Language Training & Skill development industry worldwide.

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I had finally taken the first step towards overcoming my fear of the audience and the stage – Hareni’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (5)

I am Hareni Elango, an eleventh grader at Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam. I am currently in Senior Secondary School in the Humanities Stream. I am passionate about the English language. I only possessed effective reading skills but my speaking skills were not very impressive.

I had stage fright which was visible to the audience. There were many instances when my speech was well prepared, but on stage, I failed miserably. I would sweat profusely, start stuttering and forget almost half of the speech. I was crushed when I walked off from the stage. It was utterly humiliating. I decided that speaking on a public forum was just not my cup of tea!

Being a member of the British Council, I came to know about the English Impact – advanced course, which piqued my interest. I joined the course and reaped phenomenal results within the first two weeks of the course itself. To be specific, after joining the course it made me eager to participate in more public speaking competitions and debates at school as well as outside. It motivated me to enrol for a virtual discussion on “Gender Equality” with the Indian International Model United Nations 2016 and participated with some students from the USA.

After the discussion, I was thrilled to hear the feedback on my performance from my class teacher. I felt satisfied and content. I had finally taken the first step towards overcoming my fear of the audience and the stage. The credit goes the British Council’s English Impact course. It also forged some new friendships which give me an opportunity to engage in some very interesting conversations and discussions.

Overall it has been an amazing and certainly helpful experience.

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My goal in life is to become an author – Kuhoo’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (4)

I am Kuhoo Mitra. I am presently thirteen years old. My hobbies mainly include reading storybooks, writing short stories and drawing. My aspiration is to travel around the world.

In reality, I do not currently have too many opportunities to travel the world. However, I have another option and that is through books. Books always transport me to a place far from reality to places I have only ever dreamed of going to and, of course, to places I shall never be able to go to since they exist only in the world of books and fiction. A girl of class eight, still in school, I usually am cheerful and joyous and as many put it, extremely talkative. Coming to my dislikes, I absolutely dread Maths! Apart from that, there are quite a few things that I don’t like such as holidays when I’m forced to stay at home and Chemistry lessons in school.

My goal in life is to become an author and that was the main reason I joined British Council.

I have forever loved English, both as a language and as a subject. As I’ve stated above, I want to be an author when I grow up. Though I could speak, read and write English fairly well I felt that I needed to improve to achieve my goal in life. That was when my thoughts turned to British Council. I have been a member of this library since when I was very small, maybe seven. Even then I would come to the library quite often for various workshops including those about art. It first struck me when I was in class six that I needed to improve my English. There was more to this language than the stories and poems I had learnt in my literature class in school. I wanted to go into the depth of this language, find out more about it. It took me one more year to realise that the perfect place for this was none other than British Council.

I have been a member of this library since when I was very small, maybe seven. Even then I would come to the library quite often for various workshops including those about art. It first struck me when I was in class six that I needed to improve my English. There was more to this language than the stories and poems I had learned in my literature class in school. I wanted to go into the depth of this language, find out more about it. It took me one more year to realise that the perfect place for this was none other than British Council.

I don’t quite remember my first time here or how I had found out about British Council. But I do remember how I found out about the classes. Since I regularly visit the British Council Library, I know almost everyone there. It was one of the administrators who had first mentioned these classes while talking to me and my mother. It was decided- I would take these classes. Thus, I appeared for my level test and joined the British Council classes for the first time.

I have been part of the British Council for so long that today it’s almost home to me. I cry when I hear I’ll have to miss a class and though I know that I’ll be leaving this place after the sixth module, it still seems unbelievable that I won’t come here every week- something that I’ve been doing for the past two years. So, I can’t state one thing that I’ll remember about this wonderful time. There are loads of memories from this time that I will treasure all my life. The very first one is counting down my days to the next Saturday, that feeling of excitement on a Friday evening, the happiness in the air on a Saturday morning and, of course, feeling sad when the class comes to an end.

British Council has not only taught me the English language. It has also taught me certain values of life such as friendship. All activities in British Council encourage pair work and teamwork. And as we all know pair work and teamwork help to build strong friendships because that’s when we help each other to succeed. There’s a quote which says- “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success”. Because of this, I made several wonderful friends here in British Council and they are people I can never forget. But most of all the people whom I shall remember forever are the teachers who taught me. They stood by my side not only when I was in trouble but also during moments of happiness. They are teachers who are very friendly and the learning experience is fun all because of them. I will never forget them.

British Council has also completely changed my views about learning. Before, learning to me meant burying my head into big, fat textbooks and mugging up chapters. School taught me that learning is about understanding concepts and being able to do well in your exams. From others, I heard that learning is just another synonym of ‘studying’. But after joining British Council I realised that all these ideas were wrong. Learning is about increasing your knowledge. To learn, you don’t need to study from textbooks. Neither do you need to get full marks in your exams. All you need to do to learn is understand and remember. But learning isn’t complete without an element of fun in it because I feel that to learn you need to enjoy learning more and more. And British Council is a place that is full of fun and enjoyment.

My advice to a person looking to learn something new would be to join an institute which allows people to think on their own, where, like at British Council, ‘no answer is a wrong answer’, where people have lots of fun through learning itself. And if the person wants to learn or improve his/her English or wants to learn something new about the language then I would surely recommend that he/she joins the British Council.

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The CELTA experience is all about ‘Focus’ – Shailini’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (3)

Hi, my name is Shalini Jain and I am currently a Teacher of English at the British Council.

Having spent 12 years in the UK, most of them working in a typical 9-5 setting, I felt a change was long overdue. I imagined doing something more creative and rewarding in my professional life. After exploring a lot of options, I finalised on teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). I have always been a linguaphile and I felt that being an English Language Teacher would enable me to experience life in more than one language.

When I went through the work prospects, it was apparent that if you are serious about EFL, then a formal qualification is a minimum requirement. On exploring all the available courses, I surmised that there couldn’t be a more reputable course in this field than CELTA.

I decided to pursue this course through the British Council because it is a highly regarded organisation and I could connect with the values that the Council stands for.

The CELTA experience is all about ‘Focus’. There was no luxury to be a procrastinator or a perfectionist! The four-week period was one of the most challenging and yet rewarding times for me. There wasn’t a lot of ‘learning’ involved, as much as ‘unlearning’- of notions, perceptions, and skills to deal with people.

CELTA is all about ‘learning by doing’. We were teaching students from Day Two. It seemed daunting at first, but by the end of week one, we had started to learn the ropes of English Language Teaching (ELT).

Our tutors – Steven, Vandana, and Robin were our lighthouses! They demonstrated excellent models of teaching. During our feedback sessions, they offered personalised constructive input which enabled us to improve our teaching skills significantly.

There was a lot to be learnt from fellow CELTA trainees too. The class environment was rich because of people from different personal and professional backgrounds. It was not a competitive course at all, and everyone was supportive of each other. We bonded over colours, scissors and glue sticks like 5-year-olds!

On most days you feel like an android- sleepless nights, long days, living on caffeine shots and sugar rush! Even so, I would recommend this course as the best way to get a solid footing in the fascinating world of ELT.

CELTA has enabled me to reskill myself as a teacher and create a more rewarding career path. It has helped me regain a sense of purpose and achievement both professionally and personally.

When I interact with students of various nationalities, I gain an insight into different parts of the world. Through discussions with my colleagues, I unleash the power of collaborative working. By observing senior teachers and connecting with teachers across the globe, I draw inspiration to enhance my teaching skills.

It is ultimately a dream job and I want to teach in as many countries as I can.

 

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