Business Vocabulary Can’t be Taught has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel.  Original video was published on December 19, 2012

I want to do a video because I’ve been putting up these Google Hangout videos and one of my viewers said we want to see the old style video where you talk about language learning, enough of this hangout business. So I’m going to talk a bit about phrasal verbs, Business English and other similar subjects. Before I do that, though, I just want to mention I’m quite surprised at Google Hangout and how unreliable it is. I should explain.

I do these hangouts primarily to explain LingQ to LingQ members; therefore, I like to broadcast them through YouTube because there are many people who don’t come to the table, so to speak, who would like to learn more about how to get the most out of LingQ. I’m happy to do more of them, I’m happy to do them in different languages (hangouts), so let me know. I’m quite responsive to what people want.

One person asked me whether I speak Swedish because I was born in Sweden and I do. I lived in Sweden until I was five. I forgot my Swedish, but I learned it back. I have even had a request to do a hangout in Swedish and, if there is interest, I’ll do a hangout in Swedish or in any other language. Those of you that don’t want to watch the hangout videos at my YouTube channel can just not watch them. They’re identified as hangout videos. I will certainly continue to do my regular rants and today I will be ranting, again, on phrasal verbs and Academic English.

Acquire business vocabulary through listening and reading

My view is that phrasal verbs cannot be taught. Academic English cannot be taught. Business English cannot be taught. Modals cannot be taught. What I mean is that the way to learn these aspects of the language is the same way you learn the language itself; in other words, through a lot of listening and reading and through paying attention, noticing. This will allow you to speed up your language learning. How do we notice? Well, if I’m reading a book, in the case of say Russian, the issues are not phrasal verbs as much as verbs of motion or case endings. So I underline what I’m reading. I save these in LingQ. I tag them. I review them as a list of concentrated examples of how these things work.

Obviously, with phrasal verbs you can’t rely on any particular logic. In our hangout, we were talking about phrasal verbs in the example of ‘invite me over’. Of course the ‘over’ there doesn’t mean the same as ‘get over’. When we say ‘get over something’, like a hangover after you have too much to drink, ‘over’ has that sense of ‘over there’ or ‘over it’. But you really have to learn these various phrasal verbs by seeing them often, just as we learn individual examples of vocabulary by seeing them often.

Again, if I save these in LingQ and I see them highlighted in yellow, the next time they pop up I’m reminded that I’ve seen them before. I can review them, as I say, if I tag them. It’s the same with say Business English. To learn Business English you have to listen to and read a lot of content that relates to business and you have to save words and phrases that are useful when discussing business. You have to acquire that vocabulary. The same is true with modal verbs.

So when I have issues in a language that I’m learning that present either problems for me in terms of the way these patterns work, then I make sure I get a concentrated dose of them. In other words, the initiative to learn these things has to come from the learner. I don’t think these things can be taught. If I’m interested in learning medical terminology, I will read lots of articles that relate to medical terminology or health issues, medicine. I will save keywords and phrases and I will tag them so I can review them, that way I notice them again. If I’m reading away from the computer, I underline. So you’re constantly working to help your brain notice these things while at the same time exposing yourself to as much as possible.

The point I wanted to make in all of this is from a marketing point of view, it’s great to be able to sell books and courses on Business English, Academic English, modal verbs, these kinds of things, but ultimately the learner has to identify those things they find difficult and has to train themselves to notice these things. Now, obviously, if we’re talking phrasal verbs or modal verbs, if you have a little book that stresses these and has whatever explanation is there this may all help you to notice. So I’m not saying don’t go out and buy little books to help you, but the main task is for you to start noticing these things as you’re listening and reading.

So there you have it, my take on phrasal verbs and the like. By the way, just to comment further on the discussion I had with Bennie the Irish Polyglot, I have the greatest respect for him as a person who has promoted tremendous interest in language learning. We both agree on that and we also both agree that people can have different approaches to language learning. In my case, I remain very, very much input based. In other words, you’re learning from the language. The language is the teacher, so you need to get exposed to that language as much as possible. Not to other students learning the language, not to teachers explaining the language, but to the language itself. You’ll know when you want to start speaking, but absorbing the language through input, developing the ability to notice that language and exposing yourself to the language as much as possible are, in my view, the keys to language learning success.

Okay, thank you for listening. Bye for now.