We launched this “On the Job” series to find out how people use English in their working lives. We talk to them about jargon in their profession, writing on the job and what advice they’d give to learners of English.


mary in studio

Mary King, Radio Host

Who do you work for?
Mary King: I work for CRI (China Radio International), based in Beijing.

What is your position?
I host China Now, a 3-hour daily light news/entertainment show. I was initially employed as a multimedia travel journalist in the web room, but I was found to have a talent for speaking on air and so I was moved over to the radio side of the office.  I really love broadcasting.

How important is being able to speak/write good English in your job?
You cannot do my job without excellent speaking skills. Print journalism in any language demands refined writing skills. Print journalism has a very different style to broadcasting. Each newspaper, magazine, website has its own idea about style when it comes to writing articles. Scriptwriting is another ballgame. Now that I write for radio, I have to write in a more conversational way.

Does your field have jargon?
Yes, and quite a lot of it relates to the equipment used, for example we record “in the studio” and also “out in the field”. Also, we have “jingles” and “sweepers”. Jingles are music advertisements, while sweepers are promotions of programs used prior to a segment or between segments. “Fade in” or  “fade out” are terms used for sound — the music becoming gradually louder or quieter.

Have any new terms been coined in your field recently?
The development of the Internet has enormously changed the media industry. New Media has introduced a new vocabulary.
 For example, Social Networking has had a dramatic impact on how news is put out, and even who puts that news out. So we talk about “microblogging” and “SNS”. You have a company like Twitter whose very name has spawned a word that is now a verb: I twitter; you are twittering; he tweeted etc. You may choose to even “defriend” someone on your Facebook account, or perhaps I “LinkedIn to you”.

Do I ask people to proofread my work?
I personally believe that all copy and scripts should have at least three edits, but I actually am the editor for the show too. I am completing a book at the moment. The publisher presently has an editor working on the third edit of what will be my book on a 7,500 kilometre walk I made through Japan. The book is titled “Japan on Foot”.

What mistakes in English do you find annoying?

I don’t find any mistakes annoying. Mistakes are mistakes. Sometimes they’re interesting. Sometimes fun. I think English is fun because it is so varied. Ambiguity can be fun too, but it is important that you convey your message clearly.

What advice would I give to English learners to improve their language skills in the workplace?
If you can, find a job with a firm that works in English. Try to have lunch with the English speakers. Have dinner with them too, if you can. Socialize with them. Listen to English-language radio. Watch English films, and ideally without subtitles. Go to karaoke bars and practice singing songs in English. Listen to audio books, and read and write as much as you can in English. Perhaps, join an amateur theatre group that does productions in English.

You can read about Mary King’s work on her blog

Want to hear what some of the other interviewees said?  Head over to the On the Job series home page here.