How much do you know about news from the English speaking world?
I’m going to give you a quick test.
What’s been happening on Capitol Hill lately?
How do you vaccinate ignorance?
What’s a Bitcoin?
Are these questions that appear on the TOEIC test or during an interview for Harvard Business School?
Not even close. These words and phrases will appear when you are simply watching the news or talking about current events with a coworker.
No matter how much you study a second language, reading a newspaper is always tough. You have to understand business English, for sure. You also need to know idioms, slang, more slang and pop culture.
On the other hand, staying informed of the news is a great way to connect with others at networking events, business meetings or when entertaining clients.
This article is about just that – decoding business English and pop culture to explain current events. Below are recent article titles from the politics, finance and business sections of English speaking news – all explained!
How Breaking News Headlines Can Help You Learn Business English, Economics and More
We’re going to walk step-by-step through some major news headlines. Headlines are the titles of articles, and they are written with the purpose of telling readers the main idea of the article. Because the goal is to include all of the very important information in the article’s title, newspapers tend to use lots and lots of specific vocabulary.
“Despite a Majority in Both Chambers, GOP Runs Into Trouble on Capitol Hill”
The US Congress is the legislative, or decision-making, part of the US government. It has two important responsibilities. One is managing the federal (US national government) budget. The second is passing (approving and adding) and repealing (removing) laws, such as those regarding gun control, abortion rights, trade, etc.
The US Congress is divided into two parts, or chambers – the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Majority in Both Chambers
Both senators and representatives are “elected into office”—chosen to work in government by voters. The most recent elections, in November 2014, resulted in the GOP winning a majority of the seats (government representative positions) in both chambers (both the Senate and House of Representatives, that is).
Congress decides many important policies and laws by vote. This is why having a majority in either of the two chambers makes a difference. The more people you have on your side, the more likely you are to win votes for the issues you care about.
GOP stands for the “Grand Old Party” and refers to the Republican, or conservative, political party of the US.
Show your mastery of English and American culture by referring to Republicans with any of these terms: GOP, Grand Old Party, Republicans or conservatives. Everyone should immediately understand what you mean.
Republicans are typically known for supporting lower taxes and lower overall government spending. They are opposed by the Democratic, or liberal, political party. The most recent Republican president was George W. Bush.
The US Congress meets in a building called—you guessed it—the Capitol. Capitol Hill is the historical district surrounding the Capitol building.
We often say “Capitol Hill” instead of “Congress,” just like we say “Wall Street” instead of “financial district.”
Despite a Majority in Both Chambers, GOP Runs Into Trouble on Capitol Hill.
Currently, Republicans have a majority in both chambers of Congress. This should mean that they will easily win votes and can support their policies. However, despite having the advantage of a majority, Republicans in government are still having issues getting votes for the policies and laws they want to pass.
“Seeking a Vaccine for Ignorance”
This is a tough one – you have to be aware of American current events to understand this article title.
Vaccines are given to people to prevent future infections. For instance, the measles vaccine prevents future measles infections. You become immune (unable to contract) measles. Vaccines are not 100% guaranteed but have significantly reduced the presence of diseases such as chicken pox, polio, rubella, etc.
Recently, one of the most controversial (argued, disputed, difficult) topics is vaccinations and whether or not parents have a responsibility to vaccinate their children.
I said “immune.” What does that mean?
Immune means that you are protected from a disease. Your body is resistant to the disease.
This comes from the phrase “immune system,” which is the system inside humans that protects against disease.
Immune is an adjective, or a descriptive word. Immunity is a noun, or a thing.
A person IS immune. A person HAS immunity. A group of people have HERD immunity.
Wait – now it became confusing. What’s herd immunity?
A herd is a group of animals. Herd immunity refers to a population being vaccinated and having immunity.
Like we said, vaccines are not 100% guaranteed. However, the more people who are vaccinated, the more difficult it is for diseases to spread. Some people consider it necessary to be vaccinated in order to protect yourself and others (through herd immunity).
The author of this article seems to support childhood vaccinations. This explains the article title, “Seeking a Vaccine for Ignorance.”
It is a little sarcastic—she wants a vaccine that will protect people from being ignorant (uneducated, uninformed).
Seemingly, the “ignorant” are those who do not believe in vaccinations.
*Bonus! Remember what immune means? You are protected or resistant from something. The true definition is that you are protected for a disease. However, you can use this in slang/pop culture to say you are protected from other things as well.
For instance, if your boss is worried that you will miss a deadline, you can joke: “I will get this done. I’m immune to distractions!” This means you cannot get distracted! Therefore, you will definitely meet your deadline.
“Bitcoin: Will 2015 be a Make-or-Break Year?”
What is a Bitcoin? Why have I never heard of this thing?
Bitcoin is a new currency, just like a US dollar, Japanese yen or Thai bhat. It is unique because it is a digital (virtual) currency, held electronically.
It is a very unstable currency (similar to investing in an emerging market’s currency). For this reason and more, many vendors do not accept Bitcoins as payment. However, you can exchange your Bitcoins for a more common currency, such as the dollar or euro, to make payments.
You can learn a lot more about Bitcoins by referring to Forbes, Bloomberg, or any other major news outlet.
This is an extremely useful English idiom, particularly for the business world.
Make-or-break refers to a decision that is the single factor deciding the entire outcome. It is usually a gamble – one where we are unsure of the results. The results will either make us (huge success) or break us (complete failure).
Customer loyalty can make or break your business.
This example sentences means that it is difficult to win customer loyalty. If we do, we will be a huge success. It will make us. If we lose customer loyalty to other brands, we will fail. It will break us.
“Shares Fall at Chipotle Although Sales Rise”
If you haven’t heard of it…I’m sorry. That is kind of sad. This is a very popular restaurant that offers delicious tex-mex food. I highly recommend it!
“The Wolf of Wall Street” taught us what shares are. They are financial products that represent ownership of a company.
When you buy Chitpotle shares, or stocks, you own a portion of Chipotle. When the value of Chipotle shares increases, you earn money. On the other hand, when the value of shares decreases, you lose money. Unfortunately, Chipotle shares fell in value, meaning shareholders lost value and lost invested money.
For a refresher on describing movement, such as fall and rise, refer to this post on movements in graphs.
The author is showing her confusion. Although is a great word to use anytime something does not match your expectations. Other phrases you could use include despite, in spite of, even though. In this case, shares fell unexpectedly, despite the fact that sales rose.
Shares Fall at Chipotle Although Sales Rise
Usually, when sales rise, a company’s value increases and the prices of shares also increase. But reality is strange. This was not the case for Chipotle. Even if the reader does not understand finance, the words used in the article title let them know that this is an unusual and unexpected event.
“Brain Drain: Which UK Regions Hold On To Their Graduates?”
This refers to the loss of educated individuals, due to emigration (leaving their native country to move abroad).
Countries invest in their citizens by providing educational opportunities. There are many reasons for this. Generally, high quality education leads to economic strength and growth.
Brain Drain often occurs when there are better professional opportunities (careers) or standards of living elsewhere.
Overall, Brain Drain is a waste of a country’s efforts to improve its citizens’ intellect and skills. The value of these educated individuals is wasted because they don’t work, live or spend money in their home country.
Brain Drain: Which UK Regions Hold On To Their Graduates?
The author of this article is highlighting which regions in the United Kingdom keep their graduates (the opposite of Brain Drain). This information could be used to predict (expect) which regions will become stronger in business development and overall economy. This strength would be due to their retention (holding, keeping) of educated individuals.
“An Online Jeweler Creates Links with Brick-and-Mortar Shops”
There are two popular types of business – brick and mortar and pure clicks.
Brick and mortar (or B&M) is a simple way to say “physical buildings.”
Does the company have a store or a showroom? Can you walk inside to shop? That is a brick and mortar business. The phrase literally refers to brick building which is held together by mortar (a bonding agent that glues bricks together).
On the other hand, pure clicks is the exact opposite. It is a business which is only on the internet, such as eBay, Overstock and Epsy. The Online Jeweler mentioned in the article title is a pure clicks business.
Previously, you could divide businesses into these two categories. They would be defined as only one or the other.
Businesses want to be wherever their customer is. These days, that’s everywhere – customers are at the mall, in bed using their tablets, on trains using their smartphones, etc.
This has introduced a new type of business: clicks and bricks. This is a combination of both – and means exactly what you think it means. These businesses have both physical buildings AND websites. Consider some popular brands. Nike, MAC Cosmetics, Apple – they all have stores and websites that you can purchase from.
One very well-known pure clicks business is Amazon. Just a few days ago, they announced they are looking to purchase hundreds of stores across the US.
This means that one of the most popular pure clicks businesses is transitioning (changing) to become clicks and bricks.
Similarly, the pure clicks jeweler in the article title is working with a B&M to become a clicks and bricks business.
All you did was read 6 article titles and you learned business English, slang, current events and history in politics, finance and economics across multiple countries.
Consider that a mini MBA!
If reading business articles is still difficult for you, consider subscribing to a magazine. Magazines can be better for more casual reading then newspapers, as they are often a little more informal and entertaining.
Of course, you can research articles on your own or ask your professors or mentors about them.
Another suggestion: bring up these conversations in your business life. At a networking event? Ask them how we can eliminate Brain Drain! Entertaining clients? Ask them how they feel about the future of Bitcoin! Using these topics is a great way to engage listeners while staying current.
Your colleagues will forget English is not your first language!