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Developing Stronger Diplomatic and Polite Language & Negotiation skills in English with Simon Brown

In episode 16 of Think Big, I share a conversation I had with Simon Brown about English learners developing stronger diplomatic language skills.

Simon specialises in individual and small group lessons for adults. He has collaborated with and given training to, some of the biggest companies in Europe, small French Tech startups and a number of Fortune 500 companies. In September he joined Jellysmack, the global creator company, as Learning and Development Manager - English Academy. In this role he is the in-house English trainer for his fellow colleagues, or 'Jellysmackers', he helps them unlock their full potential by improving their level of English, increasing self-confidence and breaking through the mental blocks that have stood in the way of their progress in the past."

We discuss:

✨The differences of English across the world and expressions

✨What it means to be polite and diplomatic

✨Examples of diplomatic language and which situations it’s important to use diplomatic language

✨Qualifiers, Positive and Negative downgraders and Hedges to deliver bad news

✨How to invite agreement by asking a question and framing it negatively and so much more.

Simon's details

Tara - ArchiEnglish details

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

Extended Shownotes




📚Negotiating for Success Essential Strategies and Skills George J. SIEDEL



a sidebar / a sidenote - a note to the side

accelerated tenfold - 10 times greater

for next to nothing - very cheap

back in my day - when I was younger

knock yourself out - go ahead

touch on - make a brief note

in the grand scheme of things - in the bigger picture

read up on - do research

to have a hang-up - fear or anxiety about something

to start from the ground up - to start from the beginning/start from scratch

Diplomatic language examples we discuss

I'm afraid there may be a delay (using a hedge)

I'm afraid we've gone over budget (using a hedge)

There seems to be a challenge with the budget (using a hedge).

It's going to be a bit over budget (a qualifier / positive downgrader) There may be a delay. (a qualifier / positive downgrader)

Invite agreement by asking a question, which is negatively phrased:

Instead of 'that's too expensive' ... 'Isn't that kind of expensive?'

Instead of We should wait for the contractor ..."Shouldn't we wait for the contractor?" Shouldn't we try this instead? Couldn't we try this instead?


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big episode 16

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:13

Hello big thinkers and welcome to episode 16 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect, and Communication Coach for archiEnglish. As part of my work at ArchiEnglish I coach people in the built design profession, who speak English as a second language to help them build outstanding communication skills and to feel more competent to speak up. You can learn more about my coaching programmes and courses at Well, can you believe that we are almost halfway through November. It's almost the end of the year, I've seen all the Christmas decorations up at the supermarket, I cannot believe it's almost 2022. Today I'm happy to share a conversation that I had earlier in the year with Simon Brown about English and developing diplomatic and polite language. This is something that I'm very passionate about. So it was great to have a conversation with Simon about it this year. We also interested in helping people to develop their skills in negotiation, you are definitely going to get a lot of value from this conversation. Because we share lots of practical examples and explanations. As always, you'll definitely find the transcript and key vocabulary useful to help you with some of the expressions and examples that we discuss. Throughout the episode, you'll be able to find the transcript on A little more about Simon, our guest for today. Simon lives in France just like me. And he specialises in individual and small group lessons for adults. He's collaborated with and given training to some of the biggest companies in Europe, including small French tech startups, and a number of fortune 500 companies. So quite an impressive resume. In September, we discussed how he joined jellysmack the global creative company as a learning and development manager in the English academy. In this role, he is the in house English trainer for his fellow colleagues or as he calls them, Jellysmackers, and he helps them to unlock their full potential by improving their level of English, increasing their self confidence and breaking through the mental blocks that have stood in the way of their progress in the past. Very exciting having this conversation with him. And also, it was exciting before we pressed record, we were talking about this new role that he was taking on. In the episode we discuss the differences of English across the world, different expressions, both Simon and I have lived and worked in different places. So Simon has lived in Ireland, I lived in the UK, Simon also lived in the UK. And of course, we both now live in France. So we discuss some of those differences about English that we have encountered across the world. We also talk about what it means to be polite and diplomatic. And then we give some examples of diplomatic language. And then of course, which situations it's important to use diplomatic language when we talk about qualifiers, positive and negative downgrades and hedges to deliver bad news. And then finally, we also talk about how to invite agreement by asking a question and framing it negatively. We also talk about so much more, I think it's a great conversation, you are going to have an absolute. So I hope you enjoy today's conversation. And I will join you briefly at the end. So Simon, I'm very excited to have another Ozzy who's living in France on the podcast today. So thank you very much for joining me.

Simon Brown 04:10

It's my pleasure. Thank you very much, Tara. I'm excited to be here as well.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 04:13

Right. So for those who don't know who you are, could you give the listeners a brief introduction to who you are and what you're doing in France?

Simon Brown 04:22

Okay, perfect. Well, I'm from Australia as well, a little bit further north than you. I was originally. I was born in Sydney, but I grew up in Brisbane. And I've been in France for almost 10 years now. And I've been teaching for almost four years as well. And my previous professional background was in as we'd say in Australian English hospitality. So working in hotels and bars and restaurants and I have been lucky enough to do that. Not only in Australia, but in in England, Ireland, Greece and in France as well. But four years ago, I finished my university Studies here in France and change career dramatically, I was searching for something completely different. And here I am. I haven't. Haven't looked back ever since.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 05:09

Well, congratulations for living in France for 10 years. That's quite an achievement. So well done. Thank you. How did how did you find the the admin at the beginning?

Simon Brown 05:20

Oh, it was, it was an experience. I remember when my wife and I, we were still living in Australia when we were going through the process of getting married in France. And so we had we had to do that via distance including travelling from Brisbane to Sydney to go to the consulate and everything like that. And then to get my visa was another story and the renewing of the of the Carte de Sejour, your, which is for those for those listeners that don't know, which is a one year, a one year visa, you have to do that five times when you arrive before you can get the 10 year visa. So I've got my 10 year visa now I should apply for nationality, but I'm still a little bit traumatised from my last visit to the prefecture.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:03

It is a process. Not a fun process in France. I'm sure it's not that fun all around the world. But yeah, it's you have to do it, don't you? Unfortunately,

Simon Brown 06:16

yeah, unfortunate comes with the territory.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:19

It does. But you know, we learn these things. So you've been a teacher for four years. And you've been doing that in France? Could you tell me what are some of the things that you love the most about teaching?

Simon Brown 06:32

Well, what I what I love the most about teaching is helping people to to gain confidence and to achieve the goals that they have, in their in their language learning journey. So they can that can be professional, or personal, I work with people who are studying English for a variety of different reasons. And, and when they come to me, even after the first lesson, or halfway through the training, or at the end and say like, thank you so much, I feel so, so much more confident. Now, you know, I know that I can progress in my career, or I'm not so worried about giving presentations anymore, something like that. And as kind of like a sidebar of that, of that situation is that I've had clients of mine that have told me at the end of their training, or during their training, that they insist that their children will now you know, study English or take English a lot more seriously at school. And for me, that's just, that's incredibly gratifying. Because we're not only, like helping people now to to learn English and to gain confidence and to literally change their lives. But we're making sort of generational differences. Like if I, if a client of mine has three children, and all three of them learn English, and they all have children, and they have children, like it's you kind of making an echo. And and this is something that the work that we do now can can influence people long after we were dead. And like, it's kind of morbid, but kind of true as well. For me, it's it's really given me that sort of big picture, big picture, sort of sense of purpose. And that's something that I think we're really lucky to have. As teachers and trainers of English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 08:11

I think it's really our job is really important too. Because as this the world is changing and shifting, we're becoming more global, and having that understanding of English and understanding cultural differences is so important. So I think it's a really important thing to be able to teach people

Simon Brown 08:29

definitely, definitely and also like to, to, to build on what you said about, you know, how we're becoming more global and everything that has been, from what I've witnessed at that with with COVID. And with remote working, that has accelerated like, tenfold, you know, companies that would never consider going international, because of their size before and now are now going international because they can be equipped with digital tools, you know, ever if people are working remotely, there's no longer the problem of, of, of having to, you know, pay people to travel internationally to go to meetings and things like that. So it's it's opening up a lot of opportunities, too. And with that comes with that comes a necessity to learn English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:13

Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, our jobs are very important in that we're having to help people with their communication skills and communicating across cultures. So yeah, I think we have a very important job.

Simon Brown 09:26

100% Yes.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:28

So before we get into the nitty gritty of today's interview, could you share a fun fact about you?

Simon Brown 09:37

Okay, cool. Well, other than teaching my, one of my other passions is writing and I write short stories, and I've had several published in the US on online magazines and in print, and I'm currently writing a book while I have been currently writing a book for about the past four years. It's taking longer than I thought it would and you That, like, I've sort of dedicate my summer holidays to doing that. So I shouldn't be doing it right now. My wife has reminded me about it the other day. So, so yeah, generally sort of put that aside for like, leisure time and window and when I'm on holiday, so I'll be getting back into that this week. But with that comes a little hobby. I have a passion for typewriters. So I currently have five old fashioned typewriters that I've restored to working order and use them from time to time to write,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:29

do you use them for your books, or you use computer?

Simon Brown 10:33

I use 5050. It really depends on the machine, and depends on whether it works or not. But yeah, I've got I've got one small typewriter, a Hermes typewriter that I bought at a flea market for next to nothing. And I was shocked that the guy wanted only five euro for it, that I use to write actively, but then I will second draft up with that on my

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:55

computer. Wow, that must take like three times longer than writing on the computer.

Simon Brown 11:00

It doesn't it doesn't it takes it takes longer, but I love the noise.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:06

I haven't thought about writing on a typewriter in years. So interesting. Yeah,


it's a different, it's a different pleasure. It really is. And in my building where we live in Paris, everybody knows that I own a typewriter. Yeah, because of the noise that makes but luckily, I have some some very understanding neighbours that we use

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:29

And do you share this passion with your students.


I have given my short stories as a reading exercise for homework. So I kind of, I've always been a little bit apprehensive of like giving my own work as say, as homework or all that sort of thing. But I do try to incorporate fiction into into my lessons, particularly for people who want to work on their writing ability. And I will, for example, scan the first page of a contemporary novel, you know, something like a murder mystery or something like that. The type of book that you can buy in a bookstore of an airport, something very, very contemporary. And I will get them to read the first page and then write what they think will happen on the second page. All right, as a as a well. And it could be anything and I say just go crazy. Like it can be whatever you want. And and yeah, that's a cool little homework activity that I give from from time to time.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:34

It's such a great creative writing activity. I

Simon Brown 12:36

love it. Yeah.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:39

So today, we've decided to talk about two things. We're going to talk about how English is different depending on where you use it. You're saying you've lived in other places before. And also we're going to talk about being polite and diplomatic. So why was before we before we get into that? Why was that an important topic for you to discuss?


Okie dokie, well, the difference in English, I think it's really important because English is a language was always changing. Like, that's something I tell my, my clients is that because English is not as standardised as French, that we have new words entering the dictionary every single year, it's always changing, it's always moving. And it's important to kind of keep up to date with that, and to know that in each different English speaking country, the the, the English that we use, it's mutually understandable, but there are some specific little changes. And I I like to focus on that with my more advanced clients. You know, it's not really necessary with a complete beginner to to highlight that in the UK, they might say this in the USA say it this way. But I think it's something to touch on through someone's English learning journey, because especially in a professional sense, there are different ways to say the same thing. I like, particularly if we use how to tell the time in English, like the UK would say half past six. In the US, I'd say 630. Like it's important. I teach both. I teach both methods. And I always begin with the the British way and my clients after I say, oh, but we have the American way we can do it that way. They always say, Well, why did you teach me the hard one first? And I say, well, even if you don't if you don't use that one, if you don't use the British way of telling the time, it's important to know that that's what some you know, a vast majority of the English speaking population would would say

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 14:34

so. Exactly. And and why do you think it's important to touch on being polite as well? And in terms of the differences?


Well, we for me, I think particularly with French speakers I work predominantly with with French speakers, we the French have a different way of saying the same thing in English like we it's when we have to give bad news or we have to criticise, we don't do it the same way as in, as in French, as in English. And I imagine that's very similar with a lot of other languages as well, I think it's really important to know how to be polite when to use, say the, a negatively phrased, positive adjective, and like, for example, not very good instead of bad. And just knowing more and more about the culture, and how to, how to carry yourself and express yourself in each and every situation. Like it's, it's something that, again, as somebody progresses in their training, like it's not for complete beginners, but as you approach sort of an intermediate level, that's something I like to really focus on.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 15:41

Yeah, something that I've noticed too, as an Australian speaker of English is obviously, you have to sometimes pick an English to, to teach them because they may not necessarily be wanting to live in Australia, or they're going to be living away. So the UK, so let's kind of go back and start talking about some of those differences between the different types of English that you would notice. So some of the examples that you have,

Simon Brown 16:10

for me, coming from Brisbane when you go into a restaurant, or a cafe or something like that, and most people would say, like, can I just have a, bla bla bla, when they asked what their order would be. And for me, like, we're now living in London, it was it was completely different. Like, again, it was English, but it was like, I'll have a blah, blah, blah, please be it. And so there's different ways to to phrase a sentence and different ways to ask for which is, like, when you when you get through all of the words and differences. It's exactly the same thing. And for me, that's a that's a big difference would be from the UK, English to the US English. So, for me, that's the two sort of obvious examples would be for those two. Yeah, I'm not sure how you feel. But I from the English I learnt when I was at school, it was mainly British English. And I haven't lived in Australia for a long time. But I would, I would suggest or even guess, now that a lot of young people in Brisbane will be speaking more American English, because popular culture, which is a American popular culture is a far bigger influence. And it was, you know, back in my day, as we'd say,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 17:23

yeah. And like, for example, I think one that I heard recently was all get up instead of all have, or could I have, or can I have? Yeah, so many, or I'll, I'll take is another one that I often hear. Yeah, yes. Yeah. She's posted French. Give us a yes. Yeah. Yeah.


Yeah. As soon as I hear somebody, say in English, I'll take a and if they have the slightest lap, slightest accent, I know that they're from either French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, something like that. Whereas they use the verb I'll take instead of, you know, can I please have or something? Yeah. Another example is when when I was living in Dublin, a lot of people begin a sentence with now. And that was something I had to get really used to it, for example, when I would go to the supermarket. And I was at the checkout to pay for everything. When the person when the when the cashier is ready to serve you, they will look at you, but normally in the eye "now" and then begin scanning your items, and I had no idea what that meant. And it's sort of just like a social backup. In the same was at the hotel I was working in at that time. Whenever the chef whenever she had an order that was prepared, like ready to go to a table, she'd say now and like start handing out the plates. And it's just this kind of strange, cultural, like Irish thing that people do to signify action. And that in Australia just does not exist at all. Yeah, imagine in the US either. It doesn't exist in the US either. Just to begin a sentence with Now when looking the person Yeah, I would say like now what?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 19:05

Now know what's right, what's wrong with me? Yeah, I think it's something that I definitely noticed. And I think I've spoken about this quite often is even even between native English speakers, we have a lot of differences in terms of how we do things. And so living in the UK, I've spoken about, you know, when when English people greet you and they say you're right, and for me that's yeah, that's like really strange because for me in Australia, are you alright is kind of like a sarcastic. What do you know, what do you think you're doing? Or it can mean Are you all right? But it's it's got these big differences. So even between native speakers, they can be those differences.


Yeah. Yeah, well, one one experience which is marked me was in 2005. I was in the UK for the first time as like as an adult. I've got family there, and my brother and I were in the north of England where we've got an uncle and auntie and some cousins. And at the time my brother was a smoker, then we were just walking in the street. And we were stopped by somebody who worked for Oxfam or or some charity. And he began his, his presentation to try and get a sign up for whatever it's offering. And we said, look, sorry, where we're not from here. Like we can't we can't make a financial contribution or sign up. We're not English resident. No, we're not sure, what's the word? We're not. Yeah, we're not English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 20:36

We don't live here.


Sorry about that. The guy straightaway said, Oh, you're Australian. Like, straightaway, he picked it. We're like, Yeah, we are. He's like, also you visiting. And but we started a little conversation. And my brother took his packet of cigarettes out and lick one up and the guy said, Oh, do you mind? Can I have fun? And my brother said, Yeah, knock yourself out and offer his packet. And the guy looked at us really strange. He said, Look, I'll take a cigarette, but I'm not hitting myself. And I was like, that's, that's so typical. It's like a typical saying, like, I think it's more American English, possibly to say knock yourself out. Like, yeah, but he did like, this is in South Yorkshire in the north of England, and the guy did not have any idea what we were saying. So, so funny.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 21:23

I mean, that's so typical of an Australian to confuse people as well.

Simon Brown 21:29

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. We like doing that.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 21:31

Yeah. All right. So we've talked about the differences. What what do you normally say to somebody who one of your students or clients? If if they're wanting to learn a particular English, what are sorts of things that you would say to them? What advice that you would give them?

Simon Brown 21:49

Well, the general advice I give is to try to immerse themselves in that culture as best they can from from their home. So if somebody wants to focus on American English, I would recommend that they watch a lot of English sit, sorry, American sitcoms, listen to American radio or get their news from American sources. Because even in the written form, you can see differences. So instead of say, listening to French, French radio station, us listen to Fox News, or CNN or something like that one of the big ones where it's not like not to criticise those stations was not too intellectual in terms of the link the English they use, and just to try and surround themselves with that culture as much as they can.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 22:34

Yeah, I think that's what I say as well. It's the, if you're wanting to move to Australia, or if you know that you're speaking to Australians, you would try and learn more Australian English or the same with England or Canada or, or the US. Exactly, yeah, yeah. Okay, so we've talked about the differences in English, which, which is actually could be a whole entire podcast episode. But we're just, we're just going to make people more aware of the fact that they need to sort of understand that there are differences. But let's talk more now. Yeah, we don't want to scare anyone. Let's talk now more now about being polite. So why for you, is it important to know about being more polite?

Simon Brown 23:20

For me, it's important because this is where we kind of move from the like, the proficiency in English into more like, almost like cultural behaviours. And I think it's really important for English learners to understand that we we do function in a different way in English, like we're very, very lucky there in a certain sense that there's not such a big difference, as in, say, going to Japan and learn Japanese, you know, it's not such a big social, there's not so many. So like, different social traditions, but we do speak in a certain way we do formulate our sentences in a certain way. And especially if you want to study English, for professional purposes, this is a subject that you just can't avoid. Yeah. And, yeah.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 24:07

And so thinking about, obviously, my audience are architects and landscape architects, and they work within the built design profession. So let's maybe give an example of where polite language is really important to sort of make sure you're forming good relationships with people.

Simon Brown 24:27

Sure sure, well a great example. And I imagine that every architect or landscape designer or architect might, unfortunately encounter a situation is when you have to give bad news to a client, when something when you cannot respect the deadline, or when something's going to cost a bit more, a bit more. Sorry, when something's going to be a bit more expensive than you initially thought. That is when you have to be diplomatic. Like you can't just say it won't be finished on time. You have to say something like I'm, I'm afraid there may be a delay. instead, yeah, so you have to approach this situation, the more diplomatic fashion. So that for me would be unfortunately, it's when you have bad news. Also, I imagine like client retention and new business development would be a perfect example. So when you want to foster good relationships, so it's not only when you have something negative to say, but when you want to continue a professional relationship. And even with the, the any internal or external conflict, if you have to tell your client about the conflict that you're having with somebody else, which is out of your control, and you can't just say to them, like, Oh, this guy is this person is stupid, or this person is difficult, like you have to do it in a more diplomatic way. And that will foster the relationship and the business that you have in the future.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 25:49

Yeah. And do you have any examples? So of maybe, so we talked about, I'm afraid is a good one, where you put that at the start of the sentence? What are some other examples of say, for example, you've got to explain to the client that the job is over budget. So the builders come back, they've given a quote for a project, and it's over budget, and then you have to call up a client and tell them it's over budget. How could you do that?

Simon Brown 26:19

Perfect, perfect. That's a great idea, a great question, because this is what we, for me, I would use what I call a qualifier. And so that's when we use a word or a phrase, which kind of minimises the certainty of the statement where we could say it's going to be a bit over budget, or there may be a delay or something like that, where it's you're not, you're not being dishonest, but you are you putting in the mind of the of the person that there is a possibility that there will be a future negative situation. So and also, for me, I would use something like a hedge, what I call a hedge is where we lessen the impact of a statement where we would say something like, I'm afraid there will be a delay, I'm afraid we've gone over budget. Or we could say something like, there seems to be Yeah, that's another example of a hedge. It's like, it seems to be impossible. Yeah.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 27:15

And then you kind of have that time to pause and then get the client to kind of have a breathing space. Another one that so with the downgraders (qualifiers), I think that one, it's opposite in French, like, for example, the positive downgrade would be I'm afraid it's a bit over budget, whereas French tend to use more negative upgraders. Like it's absolutely over budget. Obviously, you wouldn't say that to a client. But so actually, what I find with some French clients is it's much harder for them to to use positive downgrades. And to, I'm afraid, do you find that as well?

Simon Brown 27:57

Definitely, definitely. That's where I, I've been teaching diplomatic English for a few years now. And, uh, one of the the biggest points of feedback I get from people is like, but you're not being honest. Like, why don't you just say, Oh, it's absolutely over budget. And I'm like, Well, you know, that is the truth. But we're trying to, you know, get there together, like with the client, we're not sure. It's not your job here to say, that's the reality, you need to look at it, we need to, like, slowly turn towards that reality together. And that's, I mean, that's, that's how we that's how we behave in English. Like when we want to give bad news or try and make someone look at a reality which they didn't really envisage, or which would be negative for them. We try and help them to see at the same time, another way we, that I like to teach, or another technique that I like to teach is to invite agreement by asking a question, which is negatively phrased. So instead of if I say that's too expensive, saying something like, oh, isn't that kind of expensive? Yeah. Or if we say something like, we should wait for the contractor, we'd say, well, shouldn't we wait for the contract? Like, what I like to tell people is that if you, if you formulate your sentence like that and ask a question, you're inviting discussion, and that's the first step of diplomacy is to, is to promote discourse. If you're saying like a flat sentence, it's like that, you know, you're you're kind of saying, I'm the boss, like I'm in charge, that's the way it is. And you're not inviting any discussion. Yeah. And that's something that again, that I find that a lot of my, a lot of my clients have difficulty with, because it's it's a little cultural difference. Yeah,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 29:47

I think one thing, example that comes to mind too, is say, for example, a client disagrees with you or they're trying to say that they don't like a particular aspect of a design and that example of the negative question You're saying, you could say something like, shouldn't we try this? Or couldn't we try this instead? Instead of saying no, that won't work? That negative negative phrasing of the sentence, couldn't we try this instead? It kind of as you say, yeah, the invites that extra. Another thing that I another thing that I have noticed too, is that appreciation, like showing appreciation. So thank you for being patient. Thanks for Thanks for waiting or thanks for listening. Is that something that you incorporate? 100%?

Simon Brown 30:34

Yeah, definitely. I, I, I tell all of my clients like if if you are at fault, if somebody has to wait, or you've had to change something, you have to thank them for it. And apologise as well, if it's last minute, I mean, I had a very important meeting this week that I was worried about or not worried about, but stressing about all weekend. That was for Monday afternoon, and the person's assistant contacted me only a few hours before it on Monday morning saying, Oh, it's tomorrow instead. Is that okay with you. And I was fine. Like, I'm on holiday I've got I've got more time than I wanted to do with but then during that meeting, the person didn't make any sort of any sort of how can I say... effort to thank me for my for being so like accommodating or for cancelling at last minute the day before. Yeah. You know, in the grand scheme of things like I wasn't offended. I'm a big boy, I've got. But I like to tell people like we it's important that you do that. Like that's how we that's how we operate.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 31:39

I think that's very, very,

Simon Brown 31:44

oh, no, I was just saying we're, you know, we're very, it's we're sort of limited, apologetic in some in some scenarios, like I have one of my, one of my best friends in Australia works for a very, very large health insurance company. And he had to train himself to not say, sorry, at the beginning of sentences when he when he got his current job, because he just had this habit of when somebody would ask you a question, you say, sorry, oh, yes, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And we, you know, we apologise for for almost nothing. Yeah, in some cases.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 32:17

Yeah. Sometimes. Sometimes I see a lot in textbooks too, for English teaching that. To be diplomatic. You say? Sorry, I didn't quite get that. But I don't tend to teach that because I feel like no, you're not sorry. You're just trying to? Yeah, I'm afraid I didn't understand that, like what you were saying before? So yes, let's stop saying sorry. We have to stop doing that. Tell people? Yes. The other thing I was going to say, what was I gonna say? It's gonna say something now forgotten. It's just completely slipped my mind you're saying all these amazing things. Do you have? Do you have any other examples of how people can learn diplomatic language? How can they learn in context, I guess is what I'm trying to understand.

Simon Brown 33:05

Okay, perfect. Well, first and foremost, if you're working with a trainer, or language coach or anything, tell tell the trainer or the coach that is one of your objectives. Because it is it is the trainer and the coach's job to adapt to your needs. Secondly, I would try and read up on anything to do with negotiating. So I finished a good book just recently, let me find the name. I do like my Kindle, I do like

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 33:33

a good book.


So it's really cool. It was actually recommended meeting for a MOOC that I was doing on negotiation, because I wanted to learn more about that for my, for my HR clients. It's called Negotiating for Success, Essential Strategies and Skills by George Siedel from the University of Michigan, and he's an expert in negotiating and has worked all around the world. He's Professor Emeritus for the University of Michigan, and he's gone all over the world, like helping companies negotiate on big deals, and he focuses a lot on just, you know, the way to talk and the way to speak in meetings and in negotiations and in business deals. Yeah. And so that like reading up on it, and just becoming familiar with the fact that there are some differences when we, when we want to be more polite, more polite and more diplomatic.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 34:30

Yeah, great recommendation. So I'll put the link to that book in the show notes. And obviously, architects, we spend a lot of time negotiating. We're working a lot with clients. We're working with builders and contractors and other other professionals, other contractors. So it's one of the biggest and most important skills to have as an architect. And this course that you just mentioned this course that you did the MOOC that you did, what does MOOC stand for? Again, I forgotten.

Simon Brown 34:58

Its massive open Online Course

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 35:01

massive open online. So you what was the name of this course that you did? The the one I was negotiating.

Simon Brown 35:10

So the one I did on was called successful negotiation, I'm just opening up the page. So the actual the, the name of the site is called Future Learn. And they've got a whole heap of, they must have hundreds of different MOOCs that you can do from the world's biggest universities that are all free. And the one I'm doing is successful negotiation, essential strategies and skills.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 35:42

And do you think I was really interesting? And would it be a useful resource for say, advanced English learners?

Simon Brown 35:50

Definitely, definitely. Yeah, it's a very, it's at your own pace. Like that's the, the beauty of MOOC's, so you can do them, you know, according to your availabilities and your agenda. It's from what I've done. So far. It's all the same professor and he, he is, you know, we're a professional educator speaks at a very nice pace. His accent is not too strong. And I mean, that's his job is teaching people so, and I've noticed, like, part of the sort of MOOC community, you're encouraged to contribute in a forum as you complete each module. And there are a lot of non native English speakers

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 36:26

Great. Doing. Yeah. And I think I mean, the thing about COVID is it's opened up this whole online learning and self directed learning. And I think it's important to, to learn from other people learn from other cultures learn from different types of courses, it doesn't just have to be about learning English. It's all those aspects of learning about English and negotiation is a good addition.


It's incredible. Like, it's, we're in a golden age of free education at the moment, you know, and like, all of these resources are just incredible, like, part of being a member of FutureLearn. We have a weekly newsletter. And I remember about two months ago, there was an interview with somebody, there's a young guy from South Africa, who lost his job, thanks to COVID and had no you know, support from the government, the social system is very different than from mainland Europe. And he, in his spare time, he had nothing else to do. He completed 75 different MOOC's, and just just trying whatever took his fancy. And he now he has, he has a fantastic full time job because of all of the the knowledge that he got over the past year.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 37:35

Wow, I think it's important to be curious, dedicated and proactive. That's really great. Great, yeah. So what after working as a trainer for four years, you've been, you've been working as a trainer, could you tell me what are the top three things that you would like people to know about English for work or improving their English for work?

Simon Brown 38:01

Okay, perfect. Well, for me, the first thing would be to not worry too much about your accent, you know, I have a lot of people that feel really embarrassed. And this is something that you know, as an adult, it's, it can be really challenging, because you're afraid to make mistakes, etc, and afraid to look silly in front of other people. And most of my clients have a real hang up on their accents. And what I tell them is, you know, focus on your pronunciation, the accent will follow. You know, like, I'm well aware that when I speak French, I have a strong accent, but, you know, it's part of your identity, like it's being understood, and and contributing in discussion and living your sort of English life is your your main objective like it the accent, it's, I always say, it's like a friend, that it's the friend that arrives to the party lights all the time, you know, it will come eventually. Like, if it doesn't come at all, that's just fine. Because if you have an accent, that means that you're speaking another language, that's not your, your native tongue. For me, the number two would be I, I encourage my clients to integrate their professional objectives gradually, you know, I've I've encountered many situations where I've had someone who was a complete beginner, they said, I want to know how to give a proper PowerPoint presentation. And I was okay, we'll get there, like, but that's not going to be today. Yeah, you have to, unfortunately, you've got to start with the basics. You got to start from the ground up. And once you know, you've completed your 1015 hours or, you know, if it's more intensive, you've done even more. That's after the first couple of months. That's just when you start focusing in on your professional objectives. Like a lot of people don't have that choice. I've worked with people before that have got an internal promotion, and all of a sudden they have to speak English. So that's a different story. But if you have the time and you're doing this at your own pace, and it's for a future project, don't focus so much on The professional objectives because that's just unnecessary pressure.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 40:03

Yeah, it's like a ladder, isn't it? You've got to take one step at a time to get to the top.

Simon Brown 40:07

Yeah. 100%. Yeah, exactly. It's my last piece of advice that I give to, to all of my clients is to make use of the dead time. And what I call is dead time is time spent in queues or when you're driving, or when you're waiting at the post office. And that's what I encourage people to listen to podcasts, listen to English, English music, or to use an app for your if you live near where I live in Paris, you take a lot of public transport, you know, most people on public transport and glued to the phone, that's fine to do that. But maybe use an app like memrise or Duolingo or something like that, just take advantage of those little 1520 minutes, 30 minute periods, that you would that you would spend doing something else? Yeah, you know, try and surround yourself with with the language as much as you can. And a good way of doing that is using that that dead time.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 40:56

Great. Okay, so three really important pieces of advice. Don't worry so much about your accent, the learning is incremental, and then three, use the dead time. That's definitely something that I do with my French learning, actually. So if I'm cooking in the kitchen or anything, I've always got my headphones in my head listening to something and trying to make the most of that, that dead time.

Simon Brown 41:20

Yeah, exactly. And that's when you do that, like I used to do the same. When I was living closer to Paris, the restaurant I worked at was about four K's from my apartment. And I would go by foot and come home by foot. And so I would listen to BFM or RTL while I was doing that. And the good thing about those stations is that they're there in a loop. So the sort of the news is the same, like in one hour, you can hear the same news story maybe four times. And so I would as I was walking to work, I you know, sometimes I wouldn't understand a thing. And that's okay. But like I would, I would know that it's coming around again in 15 minutes. And just to wait for it know that I got that word, they got that word. So just try and surround yourself with the with the language as much as you can.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 42:05

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's exactly why I'm making this podcast, you know, to give my clients the listening resource that to think about and listen to things that are relevant to them, but that they can listen on repeat it because the language is going to repeat itself as you say.


Exactly. Yeah.


Last question.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 42:25

Sorry, go. Yeah,

Simon Brown 42:27

I was gonna say you also have fantastic exposure to the Australian accents.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 42:31

Exactly. And this this particular episode, we're gonna have lots of exposure to the Australian accent. Even our accents are slightly different because you come from Brisbane mind Melbourne. So we have slightly

Simon Brown 42:42

Do you. Do you think there is major differences in the Australian accent in Australia? Because that's a question I get asked all the time.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 42:50

I think like, if you listen to people from Melbourne, for example, we sound different to people from Queensland. Yeah, different to South Australia. I think you can have more. More drolly accents. So more broad. Yes. In accents, and more refined. Australian accents. Yeah. So yeah, I think it's harder for non native English speakers to hear the difference like it is. It's difficult for me to hear the difference in French sometimes. So I don't know. I think to us, maybe it's, it's very different than others. I don't know. It just depends.


Yeah, yeah. Cuz that's, that's something I get a question I get asked a lot, particularly from people who have been to the US or the UK, where the the accent is, like, remarkably different. And you could, you could find a big difference in, in the distance of five K's. You know, and I, what I tell people that like if I went to Sydney tomorrow and went into a restaurant and ordered my meal that the waiter wouldn't say, Oh, you're from Brisbane? Yeah, you know, and and Yes. For me if the Australian accent is different. Well, the way I define it, it's can be, as you said, with, like a refined accent will be somebody who's maybe from a different, like socio economic situation, somebody who went to university, for example, somebody who's travelled, whereas somebody who has a trade, their accent will be very different, or somebody who lives say in in the country would be much different to somebody who lives in one of the big cities. Yeah,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 44:21

for sure. And I guess, depending on the sort of work situation, you're in, like for a trade, for example, we're not always talking so formally, so their accent might be slightly different. But I think also, the main differences I see is a probably word choices. So I actually teach. I teach for Aussie English, which is a platform online with Pete and he speaks very, he says the word mate a lot, he says are Thanks, mate. How are you going mate? So he speaks more with an Australian accent. A typical I would say typical and I'm doing inverted commas. Australian accent than I do. Because often, often, the students within that platform make that comment. They say you sound so different to Pete. So it's really interesting. having those conversations.

Simon Brown 45:14

Yeah, that's true. Yeah. Yep.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 45:16

But yeah, the last, the last question I wanted to ask you, which was more about how you work with somebody. So how do you say for example, you're helping somebody with being more diplomatic and being more polite? How would you help them to, to give them feedback so that they know how they can be more polite in a real situation?

Simon Brown 45:39

All right, perfect. Well, I have an activity, a PDF that I use with with all of my clients that want to approach this subject. And in that activity, I outline like the four diplomatic techniques that I teach. So like I said, using using hedges, so when, or, or qualifiers, so a hedge, like I said, it's when something is like I'm afraid, or I'm not sure, etc, etc. A qualifier is when we say something like kind of, or a little bit, or a little, sorry, a bit of also the technique of using a negative adjective, so not very an positive adjective instead of a negative adjective. And finally, how to invite agreement. So by asking a question, which is negatively phrased, so I outline those four techniques. And on the left, underneath each technique, I'll have full sentences, they're written in a not very diplomatic way. And on the right, the same sentence written a diplomatic way. So we see that in context, and then I, I have an email, which is written in a very diplomatic way, and I get them to underline each each of the techniques that are featured in that, right. And also I have a number of a number of sentences that that I've written out, I think there's about 20 odd, that are in different contexts. And they're all very undiplomatic. And I get them to rewrite them using one of the techniques, or what I usually do is, I will ask them to rewrite the one sentence, and they'll do that and go, Okay, we can probably do that in a different way using one of the other techniques. So try that. So there we practice it two times

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 47:09

sounds similar to what what I would do with my clients. So giving them examples within architecture, obviously. So I'll say, you know, I need you to change the drawings. And I'll get them to change it to be something a bit more polite and diplomatic.

Simon Brown 47:25

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I've also for those that work in HR, I've got a number of like, kind of hypothetical workplace situations, which they might have to deal with. So similar to what you do with, with your architecture.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 47:40

clients as well. Okay. Sounds good.

Simon Brown 47:43

Yeah. It's like you're infringing to like Amazon set, like a roleplay. Role.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 47:48

Yeah, exactly. I think that's the best way to do it, because you're putting them in a context and getting them to practice. Alright, so before we finish today, is there if people would like to contact you, is there a way to contact you to have a chat to you if you would like or?

Simon Brown 48:05

Yes, sure Show. I'm available on LinkedIn, that's probably the best place to contact me. I've got a very, very boring name Simon brown on LinkedIn. So there's millions of us there. So

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 48:17

I'll put a link in the show notes.

Simon Brown 48:21

That would Yeah, that would save people a lot of time.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 48:24

Exactly. All right. Well, so that's a nice place. Okay, fantastic. Well, thank you very much, Simon. I've had a ball speaking to you. I love I love. Yes. I love speaking to Australians love speaking about language and how we can be more polite. So I think there's some really great examples that we've talked about some diplomatic, diplomatic language. So I really appreciate you sharing those examples with everyone. So thank you.

Simon Brown 48:51

My pleasure. Well, thank you for having me on. Like I've been, I've been admiring your content and things you share on LinkedIn Instagram for for quite a while now. So it's, it's great to, it's great to do this with you. Thanks for the opportunity.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 49:02

You're welcome. We will do it again in the future. Alright. Cheers.

Simon Brown 49:04

Enjoy the rest of the day.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 49:09

Thanks again, Simon for the wonderful conversation I had an absolute ball having a conversation with you. Remember, if you listen to this conversation, and you found it useful, please make sure to share it with somebody who might find it useful. You can go to www dot arky and you will find the transcript, the Episode notes and all the resources that we discussed throughout the episode. I look forward to sharing my next conversation with you very soon.

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