Matt Abrahams – Professor, Podcast Host, Author, Speaker, and Martial Artist

Matt Abrahams

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING

Presenting Confidently and Clearly in a Non-native Language
by Matt Abrahams

For most of us, presenting confidently and clearly in our native language is hard enough, but communicating in another language is marked by unique challenges and opportunities for growth. What follows is specific advice that can help all non-native speakers…

Matt's favorite ELL podcasts

ESL talk - Podcast
ESL
talk
SEND7 (Simple English News Daily) Podcast
SEND7
Simple English News Daily
Down to Business English
Down to
Business English
How To English TEFL
How To English
Let's Talk TEFL
Let's Talk TEFL
All Ears English
All Ears English

English Language Learning

Click here to see transcripts by episode.  Just select the episode you want and scroll down to see the transcript.

Me2We 2024

May 14

signal (verb)

Definition: to send a message or give a sign that tells someone something

Example from the episode: “It’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to signaling power or status is the simple idea of taking space, taking more space.”

Example sentence: “Owning a yacht signals strong wealth.”

counterpart (noun)

Definition: someone or something that is very similar or has the same role as someone or something else

Example from the episode: “And so it’s really about minding our metaphors and even creating a shared metaphor with our counterparts.”

Example sentence: “They exchanged ideas with their counterparts from other schools.”

firm (adjective)

Definition: strong in your decisions or beliefs and do not easily change your mind

Example from the episode: “We need to really be firm on our own interests and our priorities.”

Example sentence: “My boss is very firm about meeting deadlines.”

leave something on the table (idiom)

Definition: not taking or using everything that is available to you

Example from the episode: “So what’s fascinating is that negotiation happens all the time, but many of us leave a lot of value on the table.”

Example sentence: “She didn’t discuss salary during her interview and left some potential earnings on the table.”

Linda Hill

May 7

iterate (verb)

Definition: to do something over and over again, making small changes each time

Example from the episode: “Second, it requires that we actually know how to experiment and learn together, that we can iterate and go through that whole process where there are going to be in fact missteps and mistakes, failures in fact.”

Example sentence: “They iterate the experiment to fine-tune their hypothesis.”

imperative (noun)

Definition: something that is crucial or necessary to do

Example from the episode: “Linda is also the author of three important and popular books – Becoming a ManagerCollective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, and Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.”

Example sentence: “Following safety protocols is an absolute imperative.”

exhilarating (adjective)

Definition: making you feel very excited and happy

Example from the episode: “And the final thing is that it turns out that innovation can be fun and exhilarating, but mostly it’s emotionally and intellectually very challenging.”

Example sentence: “The view from the mountaintop was exhilarating.”

cut somebody off (idiom)

Definition: to stop someone from talking or to suddenly stop letting them be part of a conversation or activity

Example from the episode: “You’re going to cut somebody off.”

Example sentence: “Please don’t cut me off while I’m speaking.”

Burt Alper

April 30

strike (verb)

Definition: to give someone a sudden idea or feeling

Example from the episode: “It strikes me that in preparing for these kinds of interactions, having a stockpile of specific statistics are specific approaches to expand and extend a point would be really helpful to be ready with this different information.”

Example sentence: “It strikes me that you’ve grown taller since last year.”

pitfall (noun)

Definition: a hidden or unexpected problem or danger

Example from the episode: “But the experience of defending your ideas and proposals is hard, and fraught with potential pitfalls.”

Example sentence: “She warned him about the pitfalls of borrowing money.”

contentious (adjective)

Definition: causing a lot of arguments or disagreements

Example from the episode: “If you’re dealing with any kind of information that has a contentious element, or maybe even an unfamiliar element, thinking ahead of time about how that’s going to land with your audience where you might receive the pushback, and making a strategy ahead of time.”

Example sentence: “He avoided contentious topics during dinner conversations.”

build a bridge (idiom)

Definition: to create a connection or find a way to overcome a problem or difference between people

Example from the episode: “And if you can build a bridge right out of the gate, you’re starting off on the right foot.”

Example sentence: “To improve communication, we should build a bridge with our neighbors.”

David Melnikoff

April 23

exert (verb)

Definition: to put effort or energy into doing something

Example from the episode: “You don’t need to exert effort and self-control to keep going.”

Example sentence: “The coach urged the team to exert all their remaining energy.”

flow (noun)

Definition: a state of intense focus and enjoyment in an activity where one loses track of time

Example from the episode: “He investigates how people pursue and achieve their goals, especially with a focus on flow.”

Example sentence: “He is in a state of flow while coding”

trance-like (adjective)

Definition: being in a state where you seem lost in thought or not aware of your surroundings, almost like you’re dreaming

Example from the episode: “People will be in an almost trance-like state, engaging in this activity that is nowhere near any sort of goldilock zone of challenge.”

Example sentence: “The repetitive sound of the waves led him into a trance-like state.”

off track (idiom)

Definition: to be away from the correct path or direction

Example from the episode: “I think people can get off track by setting goals that are so easy, so attainable that there’s no uncertainty about whether to what extent it will be achieved.”

Example sentence: “The construction project is off track due to delays in material delivery.”

Graham Weaver

April 16

assemble (verb)

Definition: to put things together

Example from the episode: “But the first one and the most important job of a leader is to assemble a world class team.”

Example sentence: “After buying the new computer, you’ll need to assemble it.”

plateau (noun)

Definition: a time when something stops increasing or improving after a period of development

Example from the episode: “The reason that’s on there is that the thing that is keeping you where you are from your next plateau is something that you either don’t want to do or you fear.”

Example sentence: “The company’s sales reached a plateau after a rapid growth period.”

tactical (adjective)

Definition: planned carefully to achieve a goal

Example from the episode: “So I’ll start off with some things that are a little bit more tactical that may or may not be obvious.”

Example sentence: “He made a tactical decision to invest in real estate.”

an act of faith (idiom)

Definition: doing something because you strongly believe in it, even though you are not sure of the outcome

Example from the episode: “And for me, it took, it was like an act of faith.”

Example sentence: “Moving to a different country was an act of faith for her.”

Dana Carney

April 9

land (verb)

Definition: to successfully get or achieve something you want

Example from the episode: “That I think really will help us think about how can I best land whatever it is that I am trying to land.”

Example sentence: “She couldn’t believe she landed the lead role in the play.

attribute (noun)

Definition: a quality or feature that something or someone has

Example from the episode: “What are the behaviors that we can use as tools to express or land a particular attribute?”

Example sentence: “She had many good attributes, like kindness and patience.”

colloquial (adjective)

Definition: using everyday, informal language that people use when they are speaking casually

Example from the episode: “Use colloquial tone of voice with a lot of vocal variability that might be associated with having a good time.”

Example sentence: “The book was filled with colloquial expressions that were hard to translate”

on sabbatical (idiom)

Definition: taking a break from work, often for studying or traveling

Example from the episode: “This year she’s on sabbatical from Berkeley and is spending time with us here in the management group at the GSB.”

Example sentence: “She couldn’t join our meeting because she’s on sabbatical.”

Julia Minson

April 2

navigate (verb)

Definition: to manage or handle something

Example from the episode: “In fact, since my undergraduate days I wanted to understand how people work together, specifically how they make decisions together, how they navigate disagreement, and when people have different opinions.”

Example sentence: “Can you navigate through this difficult situation?”

bias (noun)

Definition: an unfair preference or dislike for something or someone

Example from the episode: “She explores how people engage with opinions, judgments and decisions that are different from their own and investigates the psychological biases that hinder maximizing the benefits of collaboration.”

Example sentence: “The news channel was accused of showing bias in its reporting.”

averse (adjective)

Definition: not liking or wanting to avoid something

Example from the episode: “I personally am very conflict averse and I try to avoid conflict as best I can.”

Example sentence: “My cat is averse to taking baths.”

two sides of the same coin (idiom)

Definition: two different things that are connected or closely related in some way

Example from the episode: “And it often then leads to conflict and negative emotions, these two sides of the coin, this idea that on one hand it’s good for you, on the other hand people avoided like the plague is kind of gotten me thinking about, well, what can we do to disagree better?”

Example sentence: “Risk and reward are often two sides of the same coin in business.”

Celine Teoh

March 26

introspect (verb)

Definition: to think deeply about your own thoughts and feelings

Example from the episode: “To truly hone and develop your communication, you have to introspect, reflect, seek feedback and integrate all of that information to improve.”

Example sentence: “As an introvert, I often prefer to introspect rather than socialize.”

agency (noun)

Definition: the ability to make your own choices and actions

Example from the episode: “Now I can pick and choose from, and I have agency.”

Example sentence: “Maria feels that moving out gives her more agency.”

notorious (adjective)

Definition: famous for something bad or negative

Example from the episode: “Well, one example I can bring to you is when I was a student, an MBA at the GSB, one exercise that we ran in “Touchy Feely” is notorious.”

Example sentence: “She is notorious for being late to every meeting.”

hard done by (idiom)

Definition: feeling unfairly treated or that something is not fair to you

Example from the episode: “I felt disappointed in myself. I felt hard done by, resentful.”

Example sentence: “Despite all her hard work, she felt hard done by because she didn’t receive a promotion.”

Jeremy and Kian

March 19

entail (verb)

Definition: to involve or require something as a necessary part

Example from the episode: “And that usually entails human ideation and prioritization.”

Example sentence: “Studying in a new country can entail facing many challenges.”

sentiment (noun)

Definition: what you feel or think about something

Example from the episode: “Did it have a differential impact on participants’ sentiment?”

Example sentence: “He expressed his sentiment in a heartfelt letter.”

tremendous (adjective)

Definition: very big, great, or a lot

Example from the episode: “The promise of AI is tremendous, yet most of us, if we’re using it at all, are using it incorrectly.”

Example sentence: “The storm caused tremendous damage to our city.”

bring something into the mix (idiom)

Definition: to add something new or different to a situation or group

Example from the episode: “And I wanted to see if we can bring a new technology tool into the mix to get better ideas.”

Example sentence: “Adding Sarah to our team will bring more creativity into the mix.”

Charles Duhigg

March 12

align (verb)

Definition: to make things match

Example from the episode: “The ability to connect and to align our goals to others is a real superpower.”

Example sentence: “Her beliefs do not align with mine.”

byproduct (noun)

Definition: something that is made when you create something else

Example from the episode: “Yeah, there are people who argue that communication is really just a byproduct of shared empathy.”

Example sentence: “Smoke is a byproduct of fire.”

engaging (adjective)

Definition: very interesting or fun that it keeps your attention for a long time

Example from the episode: “So we actually take a step back, and we say what it’s really about is engaging.”

Example sentence: “I found the book very engaging.”

take someone’s side (idiom)

Definition: to support or agree with what a person is saying or doing

Example from the episode: “I would say, like, why aren’t you taking my side?”

Example sentence: “She feels alone because no one will take her side.”

Amy Edmondson

March 5

enact (verb)

Definition: to put into action

Example from the episode: “It’s more something that is enacted day by day.”

Example sentence: “We need to enact measures to protect the environment.”

accountability (noun)

Definition: taking responsibility for your actions and decisions

Example from the episode: “This is a really important distinction because psychological safety’s been getting a lot of attention in the last few years and often it’s being misunderstood to mean comfortable or not having high standards or not feeling a sense of accountability to excellence.”

Example sentence: “Her accountability for her actions gained everyone’s respect.”

dissenting (adjective)

Definition: disagreeing or not going along with a common belief or idea

Example from the episode: “It’s hard for someone to offer a dissenting view or it’s hard for someone to ask for help or to let you know the project is not going well.”

Example sentence: “She voiced her dissenting view during the meeting.”

bite someone’s head off (idiom)

Definition: to angrily scold or yell at someone

Example from the episode: “If every time you hear bad news, you bite someone’s head off, that does not encourage psychological safety.”

Example sentence: “There’s no need to bite someone’s head off over a small mistake.”

Bob Sutton

February 27

scale (verb)

Definition: to make something bigger or grow, like a business or project

Example from the episode: “You have done a lot of research, teaching, and writing about best practices for how companies can best scale.”

Example sentence: “She hired more staff to scale her bakery business.”

revelation (noun)

Definition: discovering or learning something new or surprising

Example from the episode: “Now, there’s also another aspect of scaling, which for us was a revelation.”

Example sentence: “She had a revelation about her career path during the meeting.”

meta (adjective)

Definition: when something refers to itself; for example, a story about a story, or a film about making films

Example from the episode: “I’m going to ask you to get meta for a moment.”

Example sentence: “In the film, the main character made a meta statement about being in a movie.”

strike a chord (idiom)

Definition: to cause a strong emotional response

Example from the episode: “A lot of the difficulty I have with the way corporate leaders communicate their mindset is they tend to use very abstract language that doesn’t strike a chord, or at worst, it’s confusing.”

Example sentence: “Her book did not strike a chord with most readers.”

Jeff Pfeffer

February 20

employ (verb)

Definition: to use

Example from the episode: “So are there specific nonverbal behaviors or body language, if you will, that we can employ to be seen as more powerful and having higher status?”

Example sentence: “I decided to employ a new strategy to solve the problem.”

remorse (noun)

Definition: the feeling of being very sorry for something wrong you have done

Example from the episode: “Anger is a much stronger emotion than sadness or than any kind of remorse or hesitation or whatever.”

Example sentence: “He was filled with remorse after forgetting his best friend’s birthday.”

vivid (adjective)

Definition: clear and detailed

Example from the episode: “You want to use simple language, forceful language, vivid language, vivid words, and keep it simple and direct.”

Example sentence: “Her vivid descriptions made me feel as if I were there.”

sneak peek (idiom)

Definition: a quick early look at something before it’s completely ready or revealed

Example from the episode: “You were very kind to give me a sneak peek at your upcoming book, and I’m very excited for that to come out.”

Example sentence: “Can I have a sneak peek at your new project?”

David Brooks

February 13

foster (verb)

Definition: to help something grow and develop

Example from the episode: “I’m curious what drives your interest in this topic, and what role does communication play in fostering the connection you write about?”

Example sentence: “Their work helped to foster positive change in the society.”

crossroads (noun)

Definition: a point in your life when you have to make an important decision

Example from the episode: “So what crossroads are you at right now?”

Example sentence: “Sophia is at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to start her own company or keep working for someone else.”

aloof (adjective)

Definition: not friendly or not involved with others

Example from the episode: “And so I grew up kind of an aloof personality type.”

Example sentence: “Despite being in a crowded room, she felt aloof.”

imposter syndrome (idiom)

Definition: when you feel like you’re not as smart or good as others think you are and you worry about being found out

Example from the episode: “Maybe you have imposter syndrome.”

Example sentence: “She didn’t share her ideas in the meeting because of her imposter syndrome.

TSFS Live
Part 2

February 8

hijack (verb)

Definition: to take control of something without permission

Example from the episode: “But Amal is asking about an audience hijacking a pitch or a presentation.”

Example sentence: “He was arrested for attempting to hijack a car.”

boundary (noun)

Definition: a line or limit that separates two things or areas

Example from the episode: “First and foremost, in those circumstances, I highly recommend setting some boundaries and expectations at the start.”

Example sentence: “You should respect the boundaries that others set.”

overarching (adjective)

Definition: something that includes or influences everything

Example from the episode: “So let people know you want a few minutes to just get the overarching idea across.”

Example sentence: “Love is an overarching theme in her books.”

tone deaf (idiom)

Definition: someone is ignoring or not understanding people’s feelings or reactions about something

Example from the episode: “If we ignore it, we seem tone deaf, and everybody else sees that because we hear that emotion.”

Example sentence: “Mike upset everyone with his tone deaf comments about the tragic news.”

TSFS Live
Part 1

February 6

deploy (verb)

Definition: to start using something

Example from the episode: “For each one, I’m going to introduce the concept, explain it, then I’ll give an example, and ultimately we’ll talk about how to deploy these to help you be more focused.”

Example sentence: “The company will deploy new policies starting next month.”

antidote (noun)

Definition: a medicine that helps to stop the harmful effects of a poison

Example from the episode: “The only antidote to the curse of knowledge and the curse of passion is empathy.”

Example sentence: “The scientist is working on an antidote for the virus.”

dumbfounded (adjective)

Definition: being so surprised that you cannot speak

Example from the episode: “And many of our students were dumbfounded.”

Example sentence: “The magician’s trick left me completely dumbfounded.”

hit it out of the park (idiom)

Definition: to do something really well or perfectly

Example from the episode: “Here in the United States, we use lots of sports analogies: Hit it out of the park; push it across the goal line; it’s a slam dunk.”

Example sentence: “If you study hard for your test, you’ll hit it out of the park.”

Elise Keith

January 23

channel (verb)

Definition: to direct something, like thoughts, energy or resources, towards a particular goal or outcome 

Example from the episode: “Everything in an organization’s communication architecture is really designed to channel three things, right?” 

Example sentence: “You need to channel your anger into something positive.” 

resolution (noun) 

Definition: a firm decision someone makes to do or not do something 

Example from the episode: “Three people take the first one, three people take the second one, three people take the third one, and they work on them in parallel at the same time coming to a suggested resolution.” 

Example sentence: “Her resolution was to read a book every month.”

wishy-washy (adjective)

Definition: unclear or not firm in decision or behavior 

Example from the episode: “Because when things are wishy-washy and messy, being in the room so that we can interrupt each other and overlap and read that body language really, really well helps.” 

Example sentence: “Her wishy-washy response did not help us make a decision.” 

crack the code (idiom)

Definition: figuring out a solution to a challenging problem 

Example from the episode: “I’m excited to have you help us crack the code on effective meetings, Elise.” 

Example sentence: “After studying for hours, Tom finally managed to crack the code of the complex mathematical equation.”

Joe Allen & Karin Reed

January 16

validate (verb) 

Definition: to recognize or value something as important or correct 

Example from the episode: “The first one is validating all forms of participation.” 

Example sentence: “Society should validate all cultures and traditions.”

ally (noun)

Definition: a friend or someone who supports and helps you 

Example from the episode: “And even doing things like creating in-room allies where, okay, Bob, you be the in-room ally for Joe because Joe is attending virtually today.” 

Example sentence: “The superhero found an unexpected ally in his fight against crime.”

perpetuating (adjective)

Definition: continuing something or making it last longer 

Example from the episode: “And so it becomes this perpetuating cycle of, I don’t like meetings, you don’t like meetings, let’s go grab a beer and talk about how horrible and awful our meetings are.” 

Example sentence: “The media plays a major role in perpetuating these stereotypes.” 

have the floor (idiom) 

Definition: it’s your turn to speak in a group or meeting 

Example from the episode: “And then suddenly they have the floor.” 

Example sentence: “Does anyone else want to have the floor before we end the meeting?”