Improving your English isn't that difficult, you just need to practise using it and increase your knowledge and use of different types of vocabulary.

To help you do both of these, below is an article called 'How bribery and corruption damage business' which I would like you to read and a vocabulary exercise to do after you have read it.

What to do

Before you read the article, read the 'Article summary' (knowing what the article talks about will make it quicker and easier to read).

After you read the article, have a break of 5 minutes and come back to this web page and then do the 'Vocabulary exercise' to learn and remember 7 selected words or phrases which learners often forget, don't know or don't use from the article.

Article summary:

This is an article on corruption. It focuses on companies having to pay 'bribes' to government officials (politicians & civil servants) to do business in some countries. It first explains that paying bribes is an increasingly common practice in some countries and why companies have to pay them. It then says how many countries this commonly happens in. It ends by explaining what some countries are trying to do to stop companies paying them.

Type of vocabulary used: Business, Money, Government, Law


How bribery and corruption damage business

In Turkey, the apartment buildings that collapse during earthquakes are known as 'bribe buildings'. In Africa, bridges dot the landscape with no roads to connect them.

There's no doubt that corruption, endemic in emerging economies around the world, throws economic development into chaos. It affects decisions made by bureaucrats, degrades the quality of those in power, and discourages foreign investment. It's also an increasingly hot business topic, with a growing number of influential business and political leaders from around the globe regularly highlighting corruption as one of the greatest threats to global economic development.

'Corruption and bribery have moved to the forefront in discussions about business,' says legal studies professor William Smith. 'The list of countries that have been politically or economically crippled by corruption continues to grow, and businesses with long-term interests abroad will ultimately be harmed by any plans that include bribery.'

Bribery, of course, is the most widespread form of corruption, and corporate strategies for dealing with bribe requests vary. According to Smith, some companies opt to pay, sometimes damaging their public images and making it more difficult to refuse future requests. Others because of their sheer size and revenues consistently say 'no'. Oil giant Texaco, for example, has such a reputation for refusing to pay bribes.

On a practical level, what does the increase in international corruption mean to a company? 'The fact that a great number of government officials in a great number of countries, including some potentially large markets, seem to demand bribes is critical to any business that has a international presence', says Smith. 'Then there's the reality that more than 20 nations, including the wealthiest and most-active trading nations, have made bribe paying illegal, and the fact that despite this there are still competitors who will pay bribes'.

'These facts combined make for some extremely difficult decisions for a company to make. Officials expect you to pay bribes, some of your competitors will pay them, but you might go to jail if you do. So the result for a company is, they face the risk of losing business if they don't pay them, but they could face going to prison if they do and are found out'.

The 'Corruption Perception Index'

Although it is difficult to know for certain where bribes normally have to be paid and for how much money (those who pay them seldom publicise the fact they do and how much they paid), some businesses have anonymously given details of the bribes they have to pay. In Kazakhstan for instance, several foreign businesses claimed that the typical bribe amount that must be given to win approval of a large construction project is between 15% and 20% of the contract price – which often means that the bribe alone will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. In Russia, meanwhile, a retail chain manager stated that a bribe of US $4,000 would lower the tariff on a truckload of printer cartridges from U.S. $20,000 to U.S. $4,000.

International businessmen and women say the number of countries in which they expect big bribe demands has risen staggeringly. A recent study by Berlin-based Transparency International stated that out of the 102 countries they surveyed, 70 of these were likely places for businesses to be asked to pay bribes. TI's 'Corruption Perception Index' incorporates data from surveys, polls and other ratings on the number of bribe requests perceived by business people who regularly conduct business in a given country. A score of 10 means people perceive that bribe requests are never made in a particular nation, while a zero indicates the perception that bribes are always requested.

In the 2002 index, Finland scored a 9.7, the United Kingdom came in at 8.7 and the U.S. earned a 7.7. With 70 of 102 countries scoring 5.0 or lower, however, the index shows that business people believe bribe requests are likely to be made in more than two-thirds of the nations examined. These countries include some of the world's biggest: China, which scored 3.5; India, 2.7; Indonesia, 1.9; and Pakistan, 2.6. Bangladesh had the lowest score of 1.2.

No longer acceptable

In the last few years, the number of cases of corruption which have come to light has risen dramatically. With each new case, the public anger seems to grow evermore more louder. And much of this is directed not only at the corrupt officials demanding the bribe, but also at those also paying it.

As a result, many countries around the world are now introducing laws which prohibit the payment of bribes to foreign government officials. And some of penalties which an individual or a company will or could face for doing so, are severe. In the U.S. they include being sent to prison, fines and disqualification from doing business with the U.S. government. A French proposal would impose a 15-year prison sentence on certain types of transnational bribery.

The risk of prosecution is quite real, Smith says. Both direct government investigations and reports by competitors can bring a corporation under the spotlight. The U.S., he adds, is believed to already be using intelligence agency reports from Latin America and the Middle East to track bribery. Furthermore, competitors who refuse to pay them have every motive to report another company for failing to do so.


Although punishing the companies or individuals who pay bribes may have some impact, it unlikely to stop corruption happening. For every company unwilling to pay a bribe, there will always be another (and probably in countries which don't have such laws) that will be willing to run the risk and pay it.

Corruption like tax avoidance is unfortunately a fact of life in many countries. And as long as people think they have a good chance of getting away with it, the practice will continue. In many countries, it has been part in one way or another of the normal way of doing business for centuries. Changing this culture is key to reducing corruption, but it is far than easy to do.


This article was originally published by the Univeristy of Pennsylvania on their website. But it has been heavily changed and adapted here for people learning English.

Vocabulary exercise:

Now you are going to learn and practise using important 7 words/pharses from the article you have read (if you don't do this, you'll forgot what they mean or won't use them in the future).

First, decide from the sentence(s) you find below each of the words/phrases what the meaning of the word/phrase is. Then check if you are right in a dictionary.

After you have done this for each one, create your own sentence with the word/phrase in your mind (don't write it down) and say it out loud.

By doing this, it'll make sure that you'll both remember what they mean and use them correctly in the future.

  1. highlighting (paragraph 2)
  2. "It's also an increasingly hot business topic, with a growing number of influential business and political leaders from around the globe regularly highlighting corruption as one of the greatest threats to global economic development."

  3. crippled (paragraph 3)
  4. "The list of countries that have been politically or economically crippled by corruption continues to grow, and businesses with long-term interests abroad will ultimately be harmed by any plans that include bribery."

  5. long-term (paragraph 3)
  6. "The list of countries that have been politically or economically crippled by corruption continues to grow, and businesses with long-term interests abroad will ultimately be harmed by any plans that include bribery."

  7. widespread (paragraph 4)
  8. "Bribery, of course, is the most widespread form of corruption, and corporate strategies for dealing with bribe requests vary."

  9. seldom (paragraph 7)
  10. "Although it is difficult to know for certain where bribes normally have to be paid and for how much money (those who pay them seldom publicise the fact they do and how much they paid),"

  11. come to light (paragraph 10)
  12. "In the last few years, the number of cases of corruption which have come to light has risen dramatically. With each new case, the public anger seems to grow evermore more louder."

  13. to report (paragraph 12)
  14. "The U.S., he adds, is believed to already be using intelligence agency reports from Latin America and the Middle East to track bribery. Furthermore, competitors who refuse to pay them have every motive to report another company for failing to do so."

What to do tomorrow:

If you want to make sure you remember the above words and phrases, you just need to do one more thing (and it won't take you more than 10 minutes). Come back to this web page the day after you've done the above vocabulary exercise and write a sentence for each of the words/phrases which you learnt. After this, read each sentence out loud.

Now you'll remember them.