Free English Lessons

Financial Problems – Listening Lesson (C1-C2)

Have you ever run your own business or known somebody who has? If so, closing the business due to financial reasons is something you probably don’t want to talk about, but sometimes you have to. Listen to a woman whose business has suffered recently, talking to an old friend in a video call. In this free listening lesson from Oxford Online English, you’ll learn vocabulary and grammar for talking about financial problems and do exercises to improve your listening. This is a lesson for advanced learners.

There is one dialogue and five exercises in this lesson. We recommend that you attempt the exercises in sequence and only refer to the transcript and vocabulary notes if you need to.

Listen to the full dialogue at normal speed here:

or listen to a slower version here:

Man: Are you OK? You don’t look too good.
Woman: Yeah, yeah, I’m getting through the day, but … I don’t think I’m gonna be able to rescue this business.
Man: Oh, I’m so sorry, um … is there nothing you can do?
Woman: I don’t know. Nobody cares – nobody’s really in a position to help.
Man: Well, I guess … this isn’t going to help but it’s … it’s happened to everyone, hasn’t it? It’s … it’s not your fault.
Woman: Sure, I mean, there have been thousands of people that have been affected – millions! – so I’m surely not the only one. But, at least I haven’t had Covid1 during this time … but … it’s just … it’s hard to move from here.
Man: Well, forgive me2, I know nothing about business, but … couldn’t you just start another one?
Woman: I mean, this one … it’s been a huge investment of money, of time, of energy, and I’m right out of all of them.
Man: OK, but what could you take forward for another time? I mean, nobody could have predicted the pandemic, but … but if it hadn’t happened, what would the situation be? Would you be in a healthy position? What … what was the situation at the start of 2020? Was the business healthy?
Woman: Well, er … one minute I’m getting orders for tons of3 products, and the next, no-one … I’m, I’m … I’m out of customers. It’s … no-one really needs this product anymore and frankly I’m all out of customers now.
Man: Well … pardon my ignorance2 again, I’m not a business person, but isn’t this part of a business plan? Didn’t you have a contingency fund or whatever you call it?
Woman: Well sometimes you have some money set aside4 for a rainy day, but this wasn’t a rainy day! This was like having a dam that completely collapsed on you and just left you covered.
Man: And you haven’t been furloughed?
Woman: Furloughed? What’s that?
Man: Oh, um, furlough … yeah, I didn’t know the word before either – it’s … it’s the word the British government have been using for when they bail people out; they pay your wage bill5 so that your company doesn’t go bust.
Woman: Well usually you need employees for that and I didn’t have any employees – there was … it was just me, my wage bill, so I made some enquiries about that – the government does have a bail-out plan – but really it’s just me.
Man: I don’t know what to say, um … do you regret leaving your job in the first place?
Woman: No, I … I’m sure if I’d have been there for the last year, I would’ve gone crazy, but … if I had been able to have something to back me up, it would have been nice to at least keep something and not have to sell everything in my business – never mind all my personal things! I had to pawn loads of stuff just to keep food on the table.
Man: Oh … I had no idea. Is there anything I can do to help?

1. Covid, or COVID-19, is short for the Coronavirus Disease which was identified in 2019 and became a pandemic.
2. Forgive me and pardon my ignorance are two collocations used by the speaker to apologise in advance for not knowing something.
3. tons of = a large number of. A ton is a British imperial measurement slightly greater than a metric tonne (=1,000 kg); note the spelling difference – the expression ‘tons of’ uses the imperial spelling.
4. set aside = keep / save for a particular purpose
5. wage bill = the total money that a company pays to its employees or contractors

Talking about Financial Problems – exercise 1
Listening skill: guessing predictable words

Whenever you say one word, you are automatically restricting what sort of word can be next in the sentence. If you say three words in a row, the number of possible options for what comes fourth is extremely limited.

Listen to five clips from which the last word has been omitted. Can you predict the missing word?

Talking about Financial Problems – exercise 2
Comprehension: following the conversation

Now listen to the full dialogue and think about what point each person is making every time they speak.

This exercise tests your ability to wait for certain information and recognise it when you hear it.

Talking about Financial Problems – exercise 3
Vocabulary: money words

Look at five words related to financial problems and listen again carefully for when they are used in the recording.

Using the context of the conversation to help you, match the words with the definitions.

Talking about Financial Problems – exercise 4
Grammar and Vocabulary: expressing regret

There are a number of ways to express regret that are used in the conversation – most of them are grammatical structures.

Listen to sections from the dialogue and fill in the gaps to complete the sentences you hear.

Talking about Financial Problems – exercise 5
Comprehension: figurative and non-literal meanings

The dialogue includes some examples of figurative language – when the speaker wishes to convey a message that is not contained in the literal meaning of the words.

Listen to sections of the dialogue and decide which message is intended by the speaker.

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