<!–:en–>Interview with HR representative <!–:–>

Dear [FRIEND],

If you want to work in the United States you should listen to and read the following interview by Michelle of English-Team:

Interview with a Human Resources Representative

Hello English language learners, this is Michelle with English-Team and today I’m here with Julie. Julie, how are you doing today?

- I’m good, thank you.

- Well, Juli can you please tell me a little bit about yourself?

- Sure, my name is Julie, I was originally born in Michigan, but moved around a lot as a child, lived in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, finally settled down into Florida and I’ve been in the Central Florida area for about ten years now.

- Ah, that’s a long time.

- Eh, yes it is.

- So Julie can you tell me what you do for a living?

- Sure, I work in the human resources department at a company, I’m human resources records manager.

- OK, can you explain to me what a typical day is like for you?

- Well, a typical day, there really isn’t such a thing as a typical day because you really never know sometimes what you’re gonna be walking into but the normal thing is that in the records department we approve a lot of job actions so if somebody is going to be hired or if somebody is going to get a pay rate change, or somebody is leaving the company, we then have to go through and approve these job actions.

- OK. So now I’d like to ask you a few general human resources questions. Is that OK with you?

- Sure.

- OK. The first question is what documents does a person need to provide to a company to legally work in the United States?

- Well, whether you’re a US citizen or an international employee you have to provide proof of identity and authorization to work in the United States. So for international employees there’s usually documents that they’re provided whether it’s an unexpired foreign passport or the arrival document, and then there will be some type of work authorization document if they’re an international student it’s usual an I20, if they’re coming in the United States in different statuses they would have a different type of work authorization document.

- OK, can you tell me what the current minimum wage is?

- In the United States it’s $7.25 an hour but then there’s also state minimum wages and since I live in Florida it’s $7.79 an hour.

- OK, can you tell me what are some company benefits and how does one qualify for them?

- Well, every company is different but most of the time if you are hired into what’s called a ‘line benefited position’ you’re usually offered things like health insurance, dental, life insurance, there’s usually some type of retirement plan, whether it’s a 4O1K or a 43B and usually on your first day of hire or your week, the first week you’re there, you sign up for all these different types of benefits.

- OK. Can you also tell me what an EIN is and a taxpayer ID and how they’re different?

- Sure, an EIN an employer identification number so when you start a company, for tax purposes you have to acquire one of these numbers and it’s usually done through the IRS. Now the taxpayer identification number, that’s usually when you’re talking about international individuals who are coming over and they need a tax number for different tax purposes but they don’t qualify for a social security number. So that’s basically the difference.

- OK, so besides of course US citizens paying taxes do foreign nationals have to pay taxes?

- The majority of foreign nationals will pay taxes, now, there’s two types of taxes: You have your federal taxes and your FICA taxes and FICA taxes is what we call social security and medicare. Now, for international students such as F1 students or J1 students, for the first five years they don’t have to pay social security and medicare or FICA taxes. For your J1-none students, your researchers, your professors, for the first two years they don’t have to pay it either. After that, they do have to pay the FICA taxes but there’s also something called federal taxes. The majority of foreign nationals will have to pay federal taxes unless there is a tax treaty which exempts some of your income.

- OK, are there taxation differences between US citizens and foreign nationals?

- There really isn’t a difference in taxation so if a foreign national doesn’t qualify for a tax treaty they would normally pay the same rate of taxes as a US citizen.

- OK, well going back to the tax treaty, can you tell me a little more about it?

- Sure, a tax treaty basically if there was a tax treaty agreement between the United States and the country in which the foreign national resides prior to coming to the United States. So, it’s not actually based on where you were born, it’s based on where you last resided. It’s, so, usually, within the country there’s usually a tax amount that you can be exempt from so for instance, for some foreign, national, international students it’s usually for a set period of time and there’s a dollar amount, so maybe it’s 5000 dollars, so the first 5000 dollars you’re not taxed on but after that you’d pay taxes. Or, if you’re coming in as maybe a J1 scholar, a J1 research scholar, H1B individual, it could be for like two to three years and you’d be exempt from all your income, so say you made 80000 dollars a year, you wouldn’t have to pay any taxes on that for the first couple of years but it’s very specific to your status in the United States and what country you last resided in.

- OK, just one question: What is an H1B?

- An H1B is for foreign workers who come over and work with their companies so maybe you’re an engineer and want to come over to the United States and work for a couple of years, so it’s employer specific meaning if an H1B petition is done by your company that you want to work with, you can only work at that company and usually it’s for about three years and it can be extended for another three years normally.

- OK. Again, going back to tax treaties. Can you explain to me what publication 901 is?

- Sure, publication 901 can be found on the Internal Revenue Services website www.irs.gov and basically it tells you all the countries and all the potential tax treaties and the specific countries, tax amounts, how many years, and of the different caviats, who can have it or who can not have a tax treaty.

- OK, can you explain to me what ‘equal opportunity’ means?

- Equal opportunity means that everybody has the same playing field meaning that you can’t be discriminated for a job or pay rate change or promotion based on, you know, your gender, your race, your age or any of this type of protected statuses.

- OK. Alright. And Julie, the last question, OK?

- Hmm.

- Unfortunately, some people view the human resources office in a negative light and why do you think that is?

- Well, unfortunately for human resources we’re in compliance meaning we have to make sure that we do what the IRS wants us to do, the US Department of Labor and all these different agencies and the majority of the human resources’ job is that we need employees to complete paperwork and sometimes it’s lots of paperwork and sometimes people do not like to complete all that paperwork.

- Right, I know what you mean. OK, Julie thank you so much for your time today, I really appreciate it.

- OK, thank you.


<!–:en–>How does a drive-thru bank work?<!–:–>

Dear [FRIEND],

In this video you will hear and see Michelle explain how a drive-thru bank in Florida works. If you like, you can read the transcript below the video.



Hello English learning learners, this is Michelle from English-Team. And today I’m at the bank. I want to show you the ATM machine.

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So look over here. OK – You’ve probably seen one of these before, but I want to point out that … of course, the screen is in English. And additionally what does ATM stand for? Do you know? Well, when you go to the bank, if you go inside the bank, the people that work in the front of the bank, they’re called tellers. So if you don’t use inside of the bank you can use ATM – the automatic teller machine.

So when you go to the bank you have 3 options here in the United States. You have the ATM machine, you have inside and then you also have the driver through. Let’s check the drive-through out. Now, the bank is closed right now, is that’s the only reason I can do this. Otherwise there would be cars here and I would be unable to drive through here, walk through here. OK, so let’s take a look. This is a drive through lane. And over here we have the drive-through.

Now some of the drive throughs have an actual window on the other side of this – where the tellers can see you, but this one – this one has a camera, a video camera to be able to see you. So, how this works is when come here you’re going to call, you’re gonna call the teller and basically the teller will greet you and say “hello, how are you doing?” and then send you to the tube down. So once the tube comes the window’s gonna open and you’re gonna put your hand in there. Now, the reason why you wanna come here typically you’re going to deposit money or deposit a check. So, you put it inside, you press the button that says “send” and then your items will go to the teller. The teller will process them and maybe ask you some questions, talk back to you here through the microphone and send you back your information, usually your receipt or your money, whatever it is that are you’re doing.

So, basically again if you go to the bank in the United States you can go inside which people will do but it does take time. People usually go inside the bank for bigger things such as applying for a loan or other bank items. It’s very common to go to the ATM or the drive-through because is simply it’s convenient and takes time! OK, I hope you enjoyed our trip to the bank today.

If you have any questions or comments you can post them here on the blog or on the forum here: How does a drive-thru bank work?


<!–:en–>How to obtain a Social Security Number in the US?<!–:–>

In the this audio interview Michelle of English-Team talks to Ryan who works for the Social Security Administration in Tampa. US Social Security Administration Interview

Here is the transcript of the interview:

Hello English language learners!

This is Michelle from English-Team, and today I’d like to introduce you to Ryan.

- Ryan, how are you doing today?

- I’m doing great, how about yourself?

- I’m doing good, thank you! So, Ryan, I’d like to ask you a few questions, OK?

- Sure!

- OK, can you please tell me what you do for a living?

– I work… For five and a half years now I have worked at the Social Security Administration, a field office here in Tampa, where I’m a service representative.

- OK, what are your main duties?

- My main duties are to assign new social security numbers, to issue replacement social security cards for people who already have numbers. I also will… I deal with post entitlement benefit issues. In other words, people who are receiving checks — if they have a problem, for example, they didn't receive a benefit check for the month, or if they move without telling us, or any number of issues regarding people’s benefits that they receive from the government, I handle that.

- OK, can you tell me exactly what a social security number is?

- A social security number is a nine digit number, assigned to United States citizens, and many lawful resident aliens in the United States. It’s a number that is unique to each individual, it can never be assigned twice and never to more than one person. You need… Yeah? You need a social security number to get a job, to collect benefits, or to receive other government services. Many businesses for example, like banks or credit card companies will require a number.

- OK, so how does one actually obtain a social security number?

- New born children receive social security numbers usually about six weeks after birth. If you are an alien in need of a social security number, for example if you’re a student from a foreign country, if you have been relocated in the United States as an intercompany transferee, you have to come to our office, present certain documents such as a valid passport, an immigration document, your visa; and then we process your social security number. Usually it takes about five minutes.

– Oh, wow, that’s quick! Do you ever meet performers or athletes?

- I do, I do! Depending on the visa, we process social security numbers for circus performers, for foreign athletes — usually baseball players. There are many baseball players in my hometown for instance. We’re the spring training for the New York Yankees of the American League. My hometown is also home to MacDill Air Force Base, so foreign dignitaries or foreign military who come and train at MacDill Air Force Base for example, they come with an A1 visa, they are eligible to receive a social security number because they are going to work in the United States.

- OK, oh, wow, interesting! So tell me what else can I use the social security number for?

- Well, a social security number is often required if you want to open up a bank account, if you want to apply for a driver’s license or a state ID card in the United States, if you want to enroll in many schools, the institution will require you to give a social security number and applying for your credit card for instance, as well.

- OK. So what would you say –in your opinion– is the biggest misconception about the social security number?

- The biggest misconception about the social security number is that although very important and required in instances where institutions would want to have your number for security reasons, it’s not an identification number –there is no such thing as an American identification number– and there may be even instances when you can refuse to give your social security number to someone who asks for it.

- But that’s pretty rare, right?

- It’s pretty rare!

- OK, so tell me, how are the numbers actually assigned?

- Once upon a time, the first three numbers depended on where a person was born geographically in the United States. For example, for people in the Midwest the first three numbers might be very similar, or identical. People in Southeast might have a very similar number, etcetera. But, in the past year, the number really is entirely random. It can be any combination of numbers zero through nine. The only thing is that a social security number that’s all nines, will never be assigned to anyone. But any other combination will work.

- OK, so you’re saying that in the past it was based on where you were born but today, since –I think– 2011, that’s no longer the case?

- That’s correct!

- OK. Is it possible to change your social security number?

- It’s almost impossible. In very rare circumstances we do allow for numbers to be changed. I’ve worked for the Social Security Administration for five and a half years, I have only seen a number change about two or three times. And the reason being there is an act, a federal act, that allows people to change numbers if their life is in immediate danger, if they are victims of abuse — in which case they have to provide numbers… I’m sorry! They have to provide evidence for the damages that they’ve incurred, because many times if someone is in fear of their life, an abuser, someone who’s abused them can use their social security number to hurt them. For example, do damage to their credit, to file taxes that are based on false earnings, or to even find them. So we give them new social security numbers if their life is in danger.

- OK, so pretty much the majority of the time the answer is “no” but in certain situations, and they would have to provide documentation, correct?

- They do, they would have to provide police reports; witness reports; letters from acquaintances, physicians, law enforcement, investigators, social services and it has to be documented and it has to be verified and then sent to the central office for approval.

- How long would something like that take?

- Usually the turnaround is about five to six weeks.

- OK, so what happens when someone needs a name change, for example, in the case of a marriage?

- In the case of a marriage the person changing their name –they can be married, they can be divorced as well –they have to bring a certified copy of a marriage or divorce decree to our office, along with their state ID or driver’s license and we can change their numbers for them… I’m sorry, forgive me — change their names for them!

OK, so you mentioned an official document. So photocopies are not acceptable?

- Photocopies are not acceptable! It has to be a certified copy. Which means it can be a copy but then it has to have a stamp with a raised seal or a wet mark that is issued by the clerk’s office, the county clerk.

- Are you allowed to accept any documents in other languages?

-Yes, we are! At our office we do have a lot of bilingual, even trilingual employees and we do accept documents written in other languages.


- And if by chance none of us can read them, we still accept them and we send them away to be translated.

- Oh, so then there’s a further process after that!

- Right, if no one is qualified to translate.

-OK. So I have another question: what happens when somebody’s immigration status changes? Does that affect the social security number?

- Yes, it does. Often times, lawful aliens residing in the United States… If their immigration status changes with the Department of Homeland Security but they don’t change it with the Social Security Administration, they can run into problems when they file taxes because the Internal Revenue Service which is the tax office in the United States, their employers telling them that they are a certain status but they interface with our system and we have a different status altogether. So everything has to match.

- I see.

- So when your immigration status changes, the applicant has to come to our office with their new document. For example, it can be a permanent resident card or a certificate of naturalization, and then we will change their status for them. Their number remains the same.

- OK, so their number won’t change, but just their status in the Social Security Administration system, right?

- Exactly!

- OK, what other services does the Social Security Office provide?

- Social Security is primarily… The services are retirement benefits and disability benefits. At age 65 number holders can also apply for Medicare, which is the federal medical program in the United States. So that covers hospitalization and doctor’s visits. A separate sub-program in Medicare covers prescription drug coverage. And those are our services.

- OK. Well, Ryan, that was really, really interesting, and I really appreciate your time. Thank you for speaking with me today!

- You’re welcome, it was a pleasure!

- Thank you!

You can listen to the interview here: How to obtain a Social Security Number in the US?


&lt;!–:en–&gt;How does an American crock pot work?&lt;!–:–&gt;

Dear [FRIEND], in this video Michelle of English-Team explains how an American crop pot works. Michelle recorded the video in her kitchen in Florida and together with a group of 14 accountants who are learning English together with English-Team in Nordhausen, Germany we created the transcript which you will find below the video.itfinal
At the bottom you will also find a link to a forum post where you can ask questions and share you cooking experiences. Maybe you

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have been using a crock pot or a similar appliance too? If you like you like you can record a video showing your kitchen and send it us via email or Youtube.

Hello English language learners, this is Michelle from English-Team. Welcome to my kitchen. Today I’d like to show you a very, very typical American kitchen appliance. Okay, please look. Do you know what this is? Have you seen this before? Okay. This is called a crock pot. It’s also known as a slow cooker. So, in this you can cook a lot of delicious meals. So, let me show you some examples. Here is a cookbook especially for the slow cooker. So in here you can cook chicken dishes, you can cook soups, you can cook another kind of chicken dish, here is lamb, here is beef chili, and here are some beef ribs. So, as you can see there is a lot of different foods you can cook in this slow cooker. You can actually cook bread too, but I’ve never tried it. OK so how does the slow cooker work? All right! So, here we have the slow cooker and it has a lid. You can call this a lid or a cover. So. You remove it and you put inside your foods that you want to cook. So if your recipe calls for beef or for chicken, vegetables, chicken stock or whatever it is, you’re going to put it inside here. And usually with the crock pot you cook it all together at the same time. And what happens is over time, because the way this cooks with the lid is it cooks your food and it will make everything very tender, very moist and very juicy. So down here, you get your juice, OK. The dials will show you how you want to cook your food. So. What you do is plug it in and let me show you an American plug actually. So this is an outlet and this is an American plug it might look different than what you have in your house but this is very typical, well it’s the only kind of plug we have actually. OK, so to work this slow cooker I plug it in and then I go over here. You can see it’s blinking now. So, then I go over here and I choose if I want to cook the food low and high. If I choose low the food cooks longer. If I choose high the food cooks faster. A typical time that you’re going to cook any dish in here is probably between three to six hours, but you can do 8, 9,10,11 hours, it doesn’t matter. So, let’s say I choose low. Okay. So, over here you can see the button is now red. Alright. For low. And now I choose the time. It will actually increase the time by 30 minutes each time I press that button. After it’s done cooking what will happen is it will keep the food warm. It will no longer cook it but it will keep it warm so that when I come home I can have a warm meal. It’s very common for working people to use this item. And then what you do is in the morning before you go to work you put all your items inside and then when you come home you have a delicious meal to eat. Now, another exciting feature about the crock pot and specifically this crock pot is this. This piece can come out. OK. What’s great about this is, when the food is done and I want to clean it, all I have to do take is take it out. So, I can put this in a dishwasher or I can wash it by hand.1Z0-051
It’s much easier to do it this way than to work with this whole item to clean it. So this is my crock pot and I hope you learned a lot and I hope you enjoyed it. :) Dear [FRIEND], If you any questions or comments on the American crock pot video, please post them here: How does an American crock pot work?


<!–:en–>English language training through video messaging <!–:–><!–:de–>Englisch lernen mit Video Nachrichten <!–:–>

If you want to improve your English while saving time and costs, you can use our new English language training services which will increase your self-confidence. Here is how the program works. First, your English-Team trainer records a personalized video message for you. The message contains a task and can look like this for example:

You can watch and listen to the message whenever you have time and as often as you like. In addition, you can use the transcript function available from YouTube (it allows you to see the text of the audio message).

Once you have listened to the video message, you should then record a response using a video recording program such as Debut Video Capture Software. You can either send us your video via email or upload it to you YouTube in which case you can email us the URL of the video. Your English-Team trainer then analyzes your video message, evaluating your pronunciation, grammar, intonation and your body language. You will receive the assessment of your performance via video message which comes with a written text.

The video message you receive will also contain your next task. So you gradually start exchanging video messages with your English-Team trainer while practicing and improving your listening as well as your speaking skills. This approach has a lot of advantages over conventional English learning courses:

  • You can listen to the video as often as you like.
  • You can watch and listen to the video whenever you have time.
  • You can use the YouTube transcript button to read the text of the audio content.
  • In addition to learning new words and phrases, you also see examples of positive body language.
  • You can practice your speaking skills by recording your own video message.
  • You receive a detailed analysis of your speaking skills, your grammar, your pronunciation and intonation, your tone of voice, your choice of words and your body language.
  • You instantly start boosting your self-confidence.
  • You can ask your trainer to help you with specific tasks, such as preparing for a job interview, a company presentation, contract negotiations, etc.

At any point during this process, you can schedule an online meeting session with your trainer using Skype, Google Hangout or another video conference system. If you are interested in this service, please post some information about yourself here: English Training via Video Messaging


<!–:en–>TOEIC apps: Business Case Study<!–:–>

Dear [FRIEND],

You all know what an app is — on average we each have about 25 apps installed on our mobile device, out of which we use 5 to 7 actively. Most of the apps available for Android and many iOS apps are free, only a few are paid. So the question is, how do app developers make money? The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of all apps never make any money for a number of reasons, the most important being the fact that nobody ever finds them, let alone downloads and installs them. You can apply the Long Tail Principle to the app market too: a few paid apps account for the vast majority of the total app revenue worldwide while there is a myriad of free apps, most of which are never used by anyone. Now you can download the first TOEIC iOS app here: TOEIC iPhone/iPad app

When we talk about revenue, it would be interesting to have some figures. According to CNET, the total app turnover in 2012 was about $8.4Bn worldwide. CNET also estimates that the total revenue generated by app sales and mobile advertising will increase to $46Bn by 2016. Without a doubt, the mobile app market is growing faster than any other industry and there are many stakeholders who want a piece of the pie. English-Team is one of them. Our entry into the mobile app market is the world's first iOS app that features 5 full length TOEIC tests (Reading and Listening).

What is the market potential of an iOS TOEIC app? The TOEIC (Test of English For International Communication) by ETS is by far the most popular English language test. About 5 million people take the TOEIC every year and most international corporations use and recognize the TOEIC test. At the same time, the number of business executives and professional people using a smartphone is rising constantly. Already today the vast majority of all successful business professionals use an iPhone, iPad or an Android device. So, the target market for our TOEIC app is any person with an iOS device who either wants to evaluate their level of English or prepare for the TOEIC test or both.

In addition to individual test takers, the iOS TOEIC app by English-Team will also be used by organizations such as TOEIC Test Centers, language schools, universities and other educational institutions and of course, international corporations such as Allianz, Siemens, Renault and Intel who have already been actively using the TOEIC test. Our TOEIC app comes with a lot of useful features. One of them is a back-end content management system that allows TOEIC test centers and companies to edit existing tests as well as add new tests. The app can also be white labeled so TOEIC Test Centers and companies can put their own logo and corporate identity on the app and market it as their own.

Any app is only as good as the marketing and promotion activities behind it. So what is the most important ingredient to a successful app marketing campaign? Very simple: A great app! The commercial success of any app largely depends on how its users and customers perceive and evaluate it. If the app comes with a lot of valuable features that make the lives of lots of people easier, it soon will attract an online community which will start promoting the app through various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Youtube and many others.

A question that has come up a lot over the past couple of weeks is this: Why is the TOEIC app available only for iOS devices and not for Android? Well, although there is a free version of our TOEIC app, the TOEIC is still a test for business people and business is all about commercial transactions. The TOEIC itself costs about $130 and most TOEIC prep books are priced above $50, so of course our app is primarily a paid one. You can purchase the 5 TOEIC tests separately or as a bundle, with substantial savings. When it comes to selling apps, the Apple app store and iTunes still outperform Android apps by a ratio of 4 to 1. That is, their revenue generated through iOS apps is about 4 times higher than through Android.

Of course our goal is to develop and offer an Android version of our TOEIC app as soon as possible and that's where you come in, [FRIEND].

Dear [FRIEND],

If you want to learn more about the first TOEIC app featuring 5 complete TOEIC tests or even become a beta tester, please read this: iPhone/iPad users wanted as beta testers for TOEIC app


<!–:en–>Do you know the power of donating? <!–:–>

Dear [FRIEND], You know that most of the materials and services we offer on our sites are free. That's important because the vast majority of our users live in emerging countries in Africa, Asia or the Middle East where resources are scarce and credit cards and PayPal rare. I'm convinced that by providing free services to those users now, we are helping them to get better jobs, raise their families and create a better future for their country. In a few years, the children of the people we are supporting now will pay us back for our efforts in one way or another.

We are not at all worried about that because we believe in the 'law of increasing returns' which says that whatever you do for or to another person comes back to you compounded. This law applies regardless of whether you do something good or bad. Usually, you receive the result of your action not from the person you did something for or to. You receive it from others and in most cases the reaction is several times removed from your initial deed.

For example, if you donate some money to a charity organization today, you won't get your money back from that charity organization. But mother nature will see to it that you are compensated for your act of kindness. If you donate money because you really want to help somebody and not because you want to get something back, you actually are paid back multiple times the amount you gave.

That's why I have always donated some money to somebody who had much less than me and it always gave me a good feeling. Here is just one example: Charity Event at Zfort Group.

I know that there are many children in Ukraine who would give everything for a loving pair of parents and a peaceful home. They don't have anything but for some strange reason they often are much happier and content than all those kids from rich countries who have virtually everything. The saying 'you can't buy happiness' is so true!

A couple of months ago one of our forum users from Pakistan asked me if he could donate just one dollar to our site to express his gratitude for the support he had been receiving from us. Up until that point, I hadn't thought about the fact that there actually might be some people who want to donate a few dollars to us so we can create even better materials and offer more services for free. So, Untaught from Pakistan became our first and only forum user who has tithed to us. You can see his profile here: I have donated to english-test.net!

Dear [FRIEND], if you feel like making a donation or tithing to english-test.net too, you can give any amount of money — no matter how small – by using this PayPal Donate Button.

Everyone who donates at least $1 gets a special forum badge and will be listed in our list of sponsors. We will also publish the amount that is being collected and share some of it with the kids in Kharkov.

Many thanks for your support.



<!–:en–>Please meet Michelle Ver Way, an English-Team Trainer from Florida<!–:–><!–:de–>Verbessern Sie Ihr Englisch mit Michelle Ver Way, einer English-Team Trainerin aus Florida<!–:–>

Dear [FRIEND], please meet Michelle Ver Way from Florida. Michelle has recently joined English-Team and will be creating video messages for some of our corporate clients such as LOVOO and VOOMY IT Park.

You can practice and improve your English with Michelle, too. Just schedule a free 15 minute trial session with her which you can do either via Skype or Google Hangouts. For more information, please respond to this blog post or this forum thread: Please meet Michelle Ver Way, English-Team trainer from Florida