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Breakthrough at Talks Spurs Concessions | English Lesson

Nov 30, 2022

Listen to this headline that was published in a newspaper called The Business Standard. Listen closely because this headline is tricky to understand and it contains a lot of information.

Breakthrough in Venezuela Talks Spurs US to Ease Embargo

Listen again: Breakthrough in Venezuela Talks Spurs US to Ease Embargo

There is a lot going on in that headline! But we can begin by breaking it down into two parts.

Breakthrough in Venezuela Talks


Spurs US to Ease Embargo

Alright: Breakthrough in Venezuela Talks

What is a ‘breakthrough’? Well, taken in this context, a ‘breakthrough’ is a significant advance in negotiations. In negotiations, each side has their opinion and their priorities, and each side wants what’s best for themselves so they protect their interests. However, this can mean that sometimes negotiations break down because there is no progress being made. Well, a ‘breakthrough’ is when one or all sides make concessions, and that action allows for talks to move forward dramatically until an agreement can eventually be made. Having a ‘breakthrough’ is an important achievement.

Breakthrough in Venezuela Talks Spurs US to Ease Embargo

Okay.. second half of the headline:

Spurs US to Ease Embargo

The first thing you need to know is that the word ‘spur’ means to provoke, or to encourage, or to motivate. A spur is a kind of incentive. Spur is a fantastic word and it can be used as it is here as a verb, ‘to spur’, or as a noun. A spur. Say, do you know what a pair of spurs is? A pair, as in two spurs? Well, that’s what horse riders have attached to the back of their boots, so when they want the horse to move faster, they poke the horse with the spurs. They spur the horse. What does the horse do? It reacts.

So, what was the reaction in this case? The US has eased its embargo. It has loosed the restrictions it had placed on Venezuela. It eased the embargo.

Listen one last time:

Breakthrough in Venezuela Talks Spurs US to Ease Embargo

The article goes on to say this:

The government of Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition broke a political stalemate Saturday with a broad social accord, and the US government responded by allowing a major US oil company to resume operations in Venezuela.”

So, the article states that the actors “broke a political stalemate”. Broke, past tense of break, ‘break’ as in the noun ‘breakthrough’. And political stalemate?  Well, a ‘stalemate’ in this case is exactly what I described earlier. It is a situation where both sides are locked, and nothing is being advanced. A political stalemate.

So, friends, remember these keywords:

  • Breakthrough: a sudden advance
    • “Wow! What a tremendous breakthrough
  • Spur and to spur: to provoke an action
    • “Higher than normal inflation has spurred central banks to raise their reference rate
  • Stalemate: when no progress is made. The process is stuck in place.
    • “In a war there was a stalemate. Neither side was able to advance.”


Did you enjoy this lesson? If so, you might be interested in our lesson on the COP26 Conference. Check it out to continue improving your level of English, and become more confident when discussing business, economics, and finance in this language.

Alright, before finishing the podcast, I want to talk a little bit about the challenge of giving a talk in English as a foreign language. In other words, having to give a talk in a language you don’t totally command.

That can be hard, right? You can’t find the exact word, or you get nervous, or you think you did a great job only to find out later that your audience didn’t understand what you were trying to say.

But your next talk given in English can actually be much better than you think. Why? Because there are proven ways to help you make the most of the limited language skills you have so you can get your message across and leave a good impression on your audience.

That’s exactly what my new course covers. It is called ‘Give Great Presentations in English, Even If Your English Isn’t Great’. The tips given in this 70-minute seminar will guide you as you plan your next presentation in English, so you can be clear, concise, and convincing.

I will be back soon with another English lesson for economists. Take care.

Picture credit: Creative Commons en:User:CowboyWisdom 


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