Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

04 Working at My Desk

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SCRIPT

When I get back to my desk, I clear off a few stacks of paper on the top of my desk so I have some space to work. I open the computer file I have been
working on for the past week. This document is a report that is due next week and the deadline is fast approaching.

I open my filing cabinet and take out two files and a manila envelope that has the information I need in them. I look around for the pad of paper I used to jot down some ideas yesterday, and take out the paper clips, stapler, and Scotch tape I know I’ll also need. Now I have everything in front of me so I can get down to business.

The first thing I have to do is get organized. I scan the information I have in front of me and take notes on the things I want to include in the report. Before I
analyze the data for the report, I need to skim the background information to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I was making good progress but I’m
feeling thirsty, so I decide to take a quick break.

GLOSSARY

to clear off – to organize and remove things from a table, desk, or other surface
* Can you please clear off the table so that we can eat dinner?

stack – pile; a vertical (up and down) group of things that are placed on top of each other
* Michaela likes to read before falling asleep, so there is always a stack of books next to her bed.

file – information stored electronically under one name on a computer, CD, or USB drive
* Most of my computer files end in .doc, .xls, .ppt, or .pdf.

document – a piece of written, printed, or electronic collection of information
* Remember to save the changes to your document every few minutes in case something goes wrong with your computer.

deadline – the date when a project has to be finished; the date when something is due and must be turned in
* Each year, the deadline for applying to this university is March 23rd.

filing cabinet – a metal or wooden piece of furniture with large drawers that are used to hold paper files
* Could you look in the filing cabinet to see if you can find the papers we need for this case?

manila envelope – a large, yellow-colored envelope
* Please put your application in a manila envelope and mail it to this address.

pad of paper – many pieces of paper that are held together at one end
* Please bring a pad of paper to the meeting so that you can take notes.

to jot down – to write something down quickly
* Quick! I need a piece of paper to jot down that phone number before I forget it.

paper clip – a small, bent piece of metal or plastic that is used to hold together pieces of paper
* Please use a paper clip so that the check doesn’t get separated from the bill that needs to be paid.

stapler – a small, metal and plastic object that, when pushed, puts a small piece of metal through pieces of paper to hold them together
* Can I use your stapler for a minute to staple these pages together?

Scotch tape – a long piece of clear plastic that is sticky on one side and is used to hold two pieces of paper together, or to put a piece of paper on something else
* I need to buy some Scotch tape so that I can wrap these presents.

to get down to business – to begin working very seriously on something; to get serious about something
* Loch spent most of the morning making phone calls and talking to her colleagues, but now she needs to get down to business and finish the project.

to scan – to read something quickly, looking for the most important ideas
* Kyra scanned the newspaper, looking for articles about the baseball game.

to take notes – to write down the most important points of something that one reads or listens to
* If you go to class and take notes every day, studying for the text will be easy.

to analyze – to examine something carefully, trying to understand it by looking at each part in detail
* The vice president is analyzing the sales data, trying to understand why the company sold less than expected last month.

data – information and facts, often in numbers
* We got a lot of data from the physics experiment, but now we need to figure out what it all means.

to skim – to read something quickly, looking for the most important ideas; to not read carefully
* Please skim these resumes and look for anyone who speaks German and French.

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

This is lesson four of ESLPod.com’s “Using English at Work.” I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, from the Center for Educational Development.

In the third lesson of our course, we talked about vocabulary related to a morning meeting at the office. In this fourth lesson, we’re going to learn words about working at your desk.

We’ll listen first to the story read at a slow speed.

[start of script]

When I get back to my desk, I clear off a few stacks of paper on the top of my desk so I have some space to work. I open the computer file I have been
working on for the past week. This document is a report that is due next week and the deadline is fast approaching.

I open my filing cabinet and take out two files and a manila envelope that has the information I need in them. I look around for the pad of paper I used to jot down some ideas yesterday, and take out the paper clips, stapler, and Scotch tape I know I’ll also need. Now I have everything in front of me so I can get down to business.

The first thing I have to do is get organized. I scan the information I have in front of me and take notes on the things I want to include in the report. Before I
analyze the data for the report, I need to skim the background information to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I was making good progress but I’m
feeling thirsty, so I decide to take a quick break.

[end of script]

This story begins with me saying that when I get back, or return, to my desk, I clear off a few stacks of paper on the top of my desk so I have some space to work. “To clear off” means to organize and remove things that are covering the surface of a table, desk, or shelves. I usually like to clear off the papers on my
desk at the end of the day so I have a clean desk when I return to work the next morning. In this case, I’m clearing off a few stacks of paper. At home, if you are messy like me, you may need to clear off your dining room table – that is, move your newspapers, books, and other things so that you’ll have room to eat your meal.

I said, “I clear off a few stacks of paper.” A “stack” (stack) is a pile, or a group of things that are placed on top of each other. A “stack of papers” is many pieces of paper placed on top of each other, but we can also talk about stacks of books, stacks of coins, stacks of folded towels – all of these are stacks.

Next, I open the computer file that I’ve been working on for the past week. When we talk about papers, a “file” is a group of papers that are kept together because they’re related to the same topic. But here I’m talking about a “computer file,” which is information stored electronically on a computer, a CD, or some hard drive. This course has audio files that are stored on a computer or on a CD. When I open the computer file, I’m opening a document. A “document,” here, is the same as a computer file; it’s information stored electronically with one name on your computer or CD. We often talk about Microsoft Word documents and Excel documents. It’s something that has information on it, usually on one specific topic.

The document I’m working on is a report that is due next week and the deadline is fast approaching. A “deadline” is the date when something must be finished. My report is due next week, meaning that the deadline is next week; I must complete it by next week. When I say the deadline is fast approaching, I mean that we have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time between now and the deadline; the deadline is “coming up soon,” we could also say. Something that is fast approaching can be something positive or negative. If your birthday is next week, you may remind your friends that your birthday is fast approaching. Depending on old you are, this is a good thing or a bad thing!

Next, I open my filing cabinet. A “filing cabinet,” sometimes called a “file cabinet,” is a piece of furniture usually made of wood or metal that has large drawers that are used to hold paper files. Most office desks have a file cabinet, but there are also separate file cabinets that are not part of a desk. The documents in filing cabinets are usually organized alphabetically, from the letter A to the letter Z, or by date, or by some other way that is logical so that the files are easy to find. Or, if you’re like me, you have no system and your files are impossible to find!

I open the filing cabinet and take out two files and a manila envelope that has the information I need in them. A “manila envelope” is a large, yellow-colored
envelope (notice we can say “envelope” or “envelope”) made from thick paper. In the United States, most envelopes are small and white. We use these to send letters, usually. But larger envelopes are often manila envelopes that are yellow. These envelopes are usually the size of a piece of paper and let you send things in one package without folding them. For the report, the information I need is inside two files and in a manila envelope.

The next thing I do is look around, or search, for a pad of paper. A “pad of paper” is many pieces of paper that are held together at one end. After you’ve
finished writing on one page in the pad of paper, you can tear it off and still have the rest of the pad of paper to use. The pad of paper I’m looking for is one that I used to jot down some ideas yesterday. “To jot (jot) down” means to write something down quickly. You might jot down notes while you listen to someone on the phone, or you might jot down a phone number that you see in an advertisement.

Next, I take out the paper clips, stapler, and Scotch tape I know I’ll also need. A “paper clip” is a small piece of bent metal or plastic that holds pieces of paper
together temporarily. When you remove the paper clip, the pages are no longer together. A “stapler” is a small object that pushes a small piece of metal through pieces of paper to hold them together. A paper clip is a good choice when you need to hold the papers together for only a little while, because it can be removed easily and doesn’t damage the papers. A stapler, on the other hand, is good for papers that need to be held together for a long time, because staples (small pieces of metal) are more difficult to remove and they leave two small holes in each piece of paper. The third thing I take out is the Scotch tape. “Tape” is a narrow piece of plastic that is sticky on one side and can be used to hold things together. “Scotch tape” is a type of tape that is clear and colorless, meaning it does not have a color. We use Scotch tape to put papers on the wall, to wrap presents, or just to put two pieces of paper together. Paper will often rip, or tear, when Scotch tape is removed from it, so we have to be careful what we put it on.

Once I’ve found the pad of paper, paper clips, stapler, and Scotch tape, I have everything in front of me so I can get down to business. The phrase “to get down to business” means to begin working on something very seriously, or to get serious about something. So far I have been gathering all the things I need, but now it’s time to get down to business and begin working on the report. If you invite your friends to your house, for example, to help you plant a new garden, when everyone has arrived, you may say, “Let’s get down to business,” meaning let’s being working now. Those would be some very nice and very generous friends!

But the first thing I have to do is to get organized. I scan the information I have in front of me. “To scan” means to read something quickly, looking for the most important ideas. You probably scan web pages or long articles in the newspaper, and perhaps advertisements to find the information that interests
you, because reading the whole thing would take too long. While I’m scanning for information, I take notes on the things I want to include in the report. “To take notes” means to write down the most important points of what you hear or read. We usually talk about taking notes in class when a teacher or a professor is speaking, but in this case, I’m taking notes as I read other documents. Later, I’ll be able to read my notes and remember the most important points, which will be faster than reading the original documents again. Of course, to read your notes, you have to write carefully. If you are like me, many times you can’t read your own handwriting!

Well, then I say that before I analyze the data for this report, I need to skim the background information. The verb “to analyze” means to examine something very carefully in order to understand each of its parts. In this lesson, we’re analyzing the vocabulary of the story, trying to understand what each word means. At my desk, I’m analyzing the data for the report. “Data” is a type of information; it often includes numbers. We usually get data from scientific
experiments or, in a business environment, from our sales reports.

Before I can analyze the data for the report, I need to skim the background information. The verb “to skim” (skim) has the same meaning, or similar meaning
as the verb “to scan.” “To skim” means to read something quickly, looking for the most important ideas. When I don’t have a lot of time in the morning, I may just skim my newspaper rather than reading every story. I’m skimming it to look for the most important or interesting stories. We often skim a report to understand how the information is organized and then we go back and read it in detail. “To scan” is sometimes used to mean to look for a very specific piece of information: a telephone number or a name. Whereas “to skim” usually implies you are looking for general information, but you’re not necessarily looking for one piece of information. I’m skimming the background information to make sure that I haven’t missed anything. I was making good progress, but then I was feeling thirsty, so I decide to take a quick break, which is the subject of our next lesson.

Now that we’ve analyzed and discussed the vocabulary related to working at your desk, let’s listen again to this description of what happened at the desk, this time speaking at a normal rate of speech.

[start of script]

When I get back to my desk, I clear off a few stacks of paper on top of my desk so I have some space to work. I open the computer file I have been working on
for the past week. This document is a report that is due next week and the deadline is fast approaching.

I open my filing cabinet and take out two files and a manila envelope that has the information I need in them. I look around for the pad of paper I used to jot down some ideas yesterday, and take out the paper clips, stapler, and Scotch tape I know I’ll also need. Now I have everything in front of me so I can get down to business.

The first thing I have to do is get organized. I scan the information I have in front of me and take notes on the things I want to include in the report. Before I
analyze the data for the report, I need to skim the background information to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I was making good progress but I’m
feeling thirsty, so I decide to take a quick break.

[end of script]

I hope listening to this story about working at your desk has taught you some new vocabulary that you can use when you’re working in your own office. Our
fourth lesson is now complete, and in the next lesson, number five, I’m going to talk about taking a break and eating lunch – my favorite parts of the day!

This course has been a production of the Center for Educational Development, in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Visit our website at eslpod.com.

This course was produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2008.