Meeting Tips for ESL Students: Some Tricks to Make Meetings in English Easier

By Natasha Nixon


Often, going to a business meeting can be daunting (= seems difficult) for English speakers of all kinds. It can be very challenging, however, if English is not your first language. But never fear! Here, I have a couple of meeting tips for ESL students. Put these to use when you are in business meetings, or attending classes. I’ll explain a trick how you can remain attentive. I will also let you know how you can ask questions to better understand.

Listen Carefully

The first of our meeting tips for ESL students is to listen carefully. Do your best to turn off your phone, computer, or other distracting devices. If you are taking notes on a computer, shut down all instant messaging or email. It is important that you focus on the task at hand. Listening attentively can also help to keep you engaged (= connected) and in the moment. Listening attentively means you may nod when a speaker makes a good point. Maintain eye contact with them. Respond promptly (+ directly) when spoken to. This will let others attending the meeting know that you are paying attention. This will make a good impression on the people in the meeting, so that when you ask them a question afterwards they won’t think you’re asking because you’re stupid but because you are interested.

Take Notes and/or Record the Meeting

My second tip for ESL students is to take notes or record the meeting. Feel free to bring a computer, iPad, or notebook to take notes. Taking notes that you can refer to later can help you to look up terms you do not fully understand. Just so you do not miss anything, ask others if you can record the meeting audio. In this way, you can listen to your recording as many times as you need to better grasp the terms. Or, it can also help if you can refer back to the exact audio to look up words later.

Ask Questions

The last of our meeting tips for ESL students is to feel free to ask questions. It’s perfectly okay to ask speakers who are too quiet to please speak up. You can politely raise your hand, or wait until questions are called for, and ask for clarification by saying one of the following:

  • “At one point you used the word (insert word you are unsure of here). Could you please explain that?”
  • “What, exactly, is (word you are unsure of)?”
  • “Could you please repeat the word (word you are unsure of)?” Then, you can have a clear recording of it, or write it down for later.

When you need the speaker to speak louder, you can say:

  • “Sorry, could you please speak up?”
  • “Sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Can you please raise your voice a little bit?”

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