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0118 Small Talk at a Business Lunch

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 118: Small Talk at a Business Lunch.

Welcome back to English as a Second Language Podcast episode 118. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Today’s podcast is going to be about talking to someone, a business person, but in an informal way – what we would call “small talk” or talking about unimportant things as part of an informal or social meeting. Let’s get started!

[start of dialogue]

James: Hello, are you Muriel Douglas?

Muriel: Yes, and you must be James. It's nice to meet you at long last.

James: Yes, you too. Thanks for agreeing to meet with us about the new account. My associate, Susan Kim, should be here any minute. Would you like something to drink while we're waiting?

Muriel: No, thanks. I'm fine. Did you have a nice holiday?

James: Yes, I did. My family and I went to Tahoe to ski and the weather was great. How about you?

Muriel: I stayed in L.A. and it was sunny the entire weekend. We spent most of the time at home, but we did go see King Kong on Christmas day.

James: How did you like it?

Muriel: It was better than I expected. But, you know, I think I would have enjoyed skiing in Tahoe even better. Do you go there often?

James: No, not much. My wife doesn't like to ski. She prefers vacationing where it's warmer, like Hawaii.

Muriel: I don't blame her. I really enjoyed it there when we went a few years ago. I'd like to go back sometime soon.

James: Yes, me too. Oh, here's Susan now. Let me introduce you.

[end of dialogue]

We’re talking about small talk and in this dialogue, we began by one of the people, James, saying to a woman, “Hello, are you Muriel Douglas?” He obviously doesn’t know her and doesn’t know what she looks like, so he asked “Are you Muriel Douglas?” and she says, “Yes, you must be James.” The expression “you must be” is used when you don’t know someone. You don’t know what they look like, but the situation, the circumstances, tell you that that person is probably the one you are looking for. So, we use that expression especially when we’re meeting someone new and we don’t know what they look like. But it’s obvious from the situation that they are that person.

Well, Muriel says, “It’s nice to meet you” to James. “It’s nice to meet you at long last.” “At long last,” (last) means after such a long time – after a very long time. So perhaps, here, they talked on the phone for many weeks and at long last, they met each other in this meeting. James says that he thanks Muriel for meeting with him and says that his “associate,” Susan Kim, should be here any minute. An “associate” (associate) is someone that you work with. So, someone else in your company or your organization is your associate. And the expression “should be here any minute” is what we would say when you are waiting for someone at a meeting who isn’t there yet, but you expect that they will be there very soon. So, that’s what James is saying. “She should be here any minute,” meaning very short time.

Muriel asked if James had a nice holiday. “Did you have a nice holiday?” – meaning did you have a good time in your holiday, such as Christmas or New Year’s or Hanukkah. James says he did, that he went to “Tahoe” to ski. “Tahoe” (Tahoe) is a famous skiing place here in California – in northern California. And then he says to her, “How about you?” – meaning did you have a good holiday. “How about you?” – that’s an expression you can use after someone asks about what you did, then you would say “Well, how about you?” – tell me about what you did.

Well, Muriel says she stayed home and they watched King Kong on Christmas day –they went to a movie. And James asks, “How did you like it?” Again, we’re talking here about informal conversation, and so, notice the topics that they are talking about – vacations, movies – those are good topics that Americans will talk about with someone that they don’t know very well. They won’t talk about religion, or politics or anything controversial – anything that may cause problems. So, James asks Muriel, “How did you like it?” – meaning how did you like the movie, did you like it. Tell me your opinion, how did you like it. So, if you’re asking someone – you see someone reading a book and you want to know if they like it and why, you would say, “How did you like it?” or “How do you like it?” if they’re still reading it. Muriel says, “It was better than I expected.” “It was better than I expected,” meaning before the movie, I didn’t think it would be very good, but after I saw the movie, then I thought, “Oh, it’s better than I thought it was going to be.”

She says, “but you know, I think I would have enjoyed skiing in Tahoe even better,” meaning she would rather have gone skiing. Notice the very common use of the word “you know.” “You know” is a conversation filler – we would say, in English – (filler). We use that expression “you know” a lot. Young people sometimes use it too much. But it’s often used when there’s a pause in the conversation. And you want to fill it with something or you want to make sure that the person is listening to you. And so, when you say “you know” it gets their attention. And that’s another use of “you know.” And here in the dialogue, Muriel says, “But you know, I think I would’ve enjoyed skiing in Tahoe,” meaning now that I think about it – “you know,” meaning she’s considering it. She’s thinking about it even more.

Well, James says, or rather, is asked by Muriel, “Do you go to Tahoe often?” and James says, “Not much,” meaning no, he doesn’t go very much. He prefers to go to Hawaii. And Muriel says – Hawaii, of course, is the beautiful island. It’s also pronounced, more commonly here in the United States – “Hawaii” – “Hawaii.” But in the island of “Hawaii,” they pronounce the “W” – Hawaii is spelled (Hawaii) – in the island itself, the people who live there call it “Havaii,” where the “W” becomes like a “V.” James tells Muriel that his wife prefers to go to a warm place like Hawaii and Muriel says, “I don’t blame her.” “I don’t blame her” means I understand. I agree with her. I would do the same, the same thing. “To blame someone” (blame) means to say that they are wrong, to say that they have made a mistake. But here, she’s agreeing with James’ wife – “I don’t blame her,” meaning I agree with her. Finally, at the end of the conversation, Susan, his associate arrives and they stop with their small talk. Because now, all three of the people are there for the meeting. Now they can go into their regular meeting and he says at the end – James says at the end of the dialogue, “Let me introduce you,” meaning let me introduce you to Susan Kim.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of dialogue]

James: Hello, are you Muriel Douglas?

Muriel: Yes, and you must be James. It's nice to meet you at long last.

James: Yes, you too. Thanks for agreeing to meet with us about the new account. My associate, Susan Kim, should be here any minute. Would you like something to drink while we're waiting?

Muriel: No, thanks. I'm fine. Did you have a nice holiday?

James: Yes, I did. My family and I went to Tahoe to ski and the weather was great. How about you?

Muriel: I stayed in L.A. and it was sunny the entire weekend. We spent most of the time at home, but we did go see King Kong on Christmas day.

James: How did you like it?

Muriel: It was better than I expected. But, you know, I think I would have enjoyed skiing in Tahoe even better. Do you go there often?

James: No, not much. My wife doesn't like to ski. She prefers vacationing where it's warmer, like Hawaii.

Muriel: I don't blame her. I really enjoyed it there when we went a few years ago. I'd like to go back sometime soon.

James: Yes, me too. Oh, here's Susan now. Let me introduce you.

[end of dialogue]

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

ESL Podcast is a production of the Center for Educational Development in Los Angeles, California. This podcast is copyright 2005. No part of this podcast may be sold or redistributed without the expressed written permission of the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
you must be... – your name must be; a statement one uses when one is meeting someone else and knows who that person is without being formally introduced

* When the teacher met the young girl for the first time, she said, “You must be Sophia. I’ve heard about you from your older brother.”


at long last – finally; after waiting for a long time or for what seems like a long time

* It was a difficult week at work for Susanna, and she was happy that Saturday was here at long last.


to agree – to accept or allow someone else’s request; to make one’s ideas or actions match someone else’s

* Wes asked his mother if he could go to his friend’s house, and she agreed, saying that it was fine as long as Wes came home before dark.

account – a client of a business, usually in a company

* Do you think Kristie can handle three marketing accounts in her first month working here?


associate – a partner; a person one works with in business

* Umberto talked to the customers and his associate did most of the other tasks.


any minute – very soon; arriving or happening within a short time

* The clouds were very dark, and it looked like it might rain any minute.


Tahoe – a lake with mountains around it, located between California and Nevada (two states on the west coast of the United States), where many people visit to snow ski or relax

* Leota had never been skiing before, but she planned to learn before leaving for her trip to Tahoe in November.


How about you? – How would you answer the same question?; a question one uses to ask someone a question already answered by someone else

* Gary asked Taisha if she had a fun weekend, and she answered, “Yes, I did. How about you?”


How did you like it? – Did you like it or hate it?; a question one uses to learn if someone liked or did not like the thing one was talking about

* When Viviane’s brother learned that Viviane saw the popular new movie, he asked, “How did you like it? Do you think I should go see it, too?”


better than one expected – a phrase used when something that one did not think would be good was actually good

* Jim worried about his exam grade, but he got 85 out of 100 points, which was better than he expected.


I don't blame (someome) – I can understand why he or she thinks that way; a statement one uses to show understanding, agreement, or a shared way of thinking

* Chantell did say some very hurtful things to her boyfriend, and I don’t blame him for ending their relationship.


to introduce – to formally give his or her name to another person; to cause two people who do not know each other to meet for the first time

* Michael introduced his new girlfriend to his family for the first time, and his family was happy to meet her.

Culture Note
Work Spouses

A “spouse” is a husband or wife. A “work spouse” is an informal or funny term referring to a co-worker, usually of the “opposite sex” (a man if you are a woman; a woman if you are a man), with whom you have a close, but “platonic” (not romantic or sexual) relationship. The relationship can be much like that of a married couple. In a 2008 U.S. survey reported by CNN, 23 percent of workers said that they had a work spouse.

According to the CNN story, here are seven clear “signs (indications) you might have a work spouse:

1. You depend on a particular co-worker for office supplies, snacks and “aspirin” (common medicine for headaches and pain).

2. There are “inside jokes” (jokes that other people would not understand) that you and a specific co-worker share.

3. You can be “bluntly” (directly; frankly) honest with this person about his or her appearance, “hygiene” (cleanliness), or hair.

4. When something “eventful” (important or interesting) happens at work, this co-worker is the first person you “seek out” (try to find) for a “de-briefing” (discussion; asking questions to get information).

5. At breakfast, lunch, and coffee breaks, your closest co-worker knows what to order for you and how you like your coffee, and “vice versa” (the other way around; true for the other person, too).

6. You and your co-worker can finish each other’s sentences.

7. Someone in your office knows almost as much about your personal life as your best friend or real-life spouse does.