• The Party’s Over – Business English

    Our business English listening exercises have been popular, so we’ve got another one this week. Even if you’re not learning English for business, I think these are great listening exercises that contain useful vocabulary and expressions, and interesting ideas. If you’re interested in classes focused on business English, check out our executive English course.

    This week we’ve got another scene from Margin Call. Forbe’s Magazine, a popular business magazine in the U.S., named this one of “The best Hollywood movies about real business.

    In this scene Kevin Spacey’s character (the one doing all the talking) is explaining to employees at an investment firm how they are going to sell investments that will likely have no value shortly after they are sold – something considered to be very unethical.  This scene uses several advanced phrases and some vocabulary which I’ll define below to help you before you watch the video.


    The Party’s Over: An expression meaning that it’s time to get serious, that an easier time has ended.

    Turmoil: Disruption, unpredictability.

    Liquidate: To sell something for cash.

    Majority Position: To have more than 50 percent ownership of something.

    Fixed Income MBS: This is a technical term used to describe mortgage backed securities. Very simply, it is a way of buying and selling mortgage loans. You can read a more precise definition here.

    Fire Sale: When something is sold at a low price, with the intention of selling it quickly.

    To Go Down: An English phrasal verb that, in this case, means “to take place,” or “to happen.”

    The Ground is Shifting Below Our Feet: Things are changing really quickly.

    Ok, that should help prepare you. Watch the video below, then try the exercises.

    1. What could happen to their careers as a result of what they’re doing? How is the company handling this?

    2. Why does he reference “your mother?” What does this tell you about what they are doing?

    3. Do you think this character believes there is “no other way out?” What language might make someone think he’s saying something he doesn’t believe?

    4. What will happen if they are successful?

    5. “Our talents have been used for the great good.” Why do you think he says this? Do you think he means it? Why or why not?

    Click here to go to our first exercise using a scene from Margin Call.

    Finally, I know these scenes show business in a very negative way, and I know that making business decisions can oftentimes be fun and positive. For our next business English listening exercises, I’ll try to find something more positive.

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