Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
english conversation history

Do you want to be able to talk to natives about historical events?

Have you heard of people talk about things of “historical proportions” in English?

This can be confusing, but there are some events or decisions that change the shape of history–and you will find that these are great topics of conversation.

Today we’ll show you how to make it simple with the words that you choose.

We’re going to give you the phrases that help you to talk about the huge historical events, and teach you how to talk about these.

We’re going to show you how these events or decisions can shape the future, and how to make this an important part of the conversation.

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In our Facebook group for the students in the Connected Communicator course, we got a question.

Hi ladies,

I was watching the show “Madame Secretary” and I heard a phrase they used and was wondering what it meant. She said “a mistake of historical proportions.” What does that mean?

Thank you for any help that you can provide!

Steven Lin

Looking At This Phrase

What does this mean to talk about something of “historical proportions?”

It essentially means that something has changed the course of history in some way.

On a smaller scale in your own life for example, this may mean that the little decisions we make everyday change our path or our future.

On a larger scale it can mean that world leaders or even some event can change the entire history or outcome of something big.

This is usually used with a mistake or something negative because it completely changes the outcome of that event or situation.

It could be positive if you were to talk about an achievement, but it’s not typically used in this way.

This is usually a phrase that speaks to something negative and it was done on a larger scale.

Such a mistake could be so enormous that it had a very dramatic outcome in the end.

This is about scale and so these mistakes are very large and have a significant impact.

In your own life you may even say that it was a mistake of “life changing proportions.”

This fits here because it may alter something big or significant in your own life.

If a world leader made a huge mistake it could be seen as something so large it’s on a “global scale.”

It’s All About Scale

This is about scale, which is a measure of something–and these mistakes or decisions are huge in their outcome.

This could be about global warming, or something that is affecting everyone.

It has a negative outcome and it’s a mistake that affects people all around the world.

Don’t step away from these conversations about bigger issues like politics.

Our goal is to make you feel more confident to have these conversations about world issues.

Americans tend to exaggerate and so we may make things bigger than they are, but there are some mistakes or issues that are of epic proportions.

These phrases are typically about larger world events, but sometimes they may happen in your own life and may apply.

These events are large in scale, and therefore the outcome and the impact are just as huge.

These are universally felt, and so they are great to talk about in your conversations in English.

Two Ways To Use This Phrase

There are two ways to use this phrase “global proportion” or “historical proportion” in your conversations.

Challenge yourself to use this phrase in two different ways, both of which are very important and applicable.

  1. Reflective Use: Think about your country’s history and what are some actions that altered the course of history? This is the type of thing where you have to reflect and look back at history. There are some things that may be more obvious, and they are worth talking about in conversations.
  2. Speculative Use: Look around at things that are happening right now and what may affect the future. Are there things that are happening right now that may alter the course of the future? This is about what you think will change the course of history, and it’s up to your speculation and thoughts about the future. This is up to your impression or your thoughts about the events happening around to you.

These topics are big and very important, and so they are good to talk about.

The communication style of Americans tends to be very focused on the present day, and perhaps not as great in the past.

Other cultures can talk about the past or history in a better way because they have more of it.

Try using this phrase in both ways because they both create great conversations.

Shapes The Future

To be more positive we could say something “shapes the future.”

This is a much more positive way to say that something is changing the history or the way that things have been done.

This is typically about something positive in nature, and it is therefore a nice twist on the other phrases because it talks about hope and vision.

This works for ideas or education or things that can have a positive outcome.

It may be about sympathy or tolerance or positive things that we need to get better at or improve upon.

This can be very inspirational and positive, and in the end it has a very significant outcome.

This can be about trends or technology, like you could say “Apple is shaping the future of design.”

This thing, person, outcome, or vision may change the future and it’s a really good thing in this instance.

Alter the Course of History

You can also say “alter the course of history”

World Wars altered the course of history and other big events like it had the same impact.

This is true for many Americans when it comes to 911 because it was such a huge impactful day.

Everyone remembers where they were and they remember what was happening on that day.

Everyone was staring at the TV that day trying to make sense of it and wondering if it was real–but the realization came about that “history was altered.”

Sometimes with an event like this you just know that history will be changed from this day forward.

Every generation has something like this because it’s an event of such a global scale that you remember everything about it.

Other generations may remember where they were when JFK got shot, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, or even when OJ Simpson was in a car chase.

These are all life altering events of epic proportions that generations can remember vividly years after they happen.

If you want to learn about these events and how they shaped a culture, you can find documentaries that tell you all about them.

Starting The Conversation Can Be The Hardest Part

One of your greatest fears can be starting a conversation and this can be so common, whether it’s about historical events or anything else.

This can be hard both personally and professionally, particularly if English isn’t your first language.

It’s not just about your English speaking abilities, but rather it’s about being more confident.

We want to help you to feel more confident, face and get rid of your fears, and learn how to move forward in a more powerful way.

If you can do this then you can get to the point where you can start a conversation with anyone.

2020 is going to be a great year, and you are going to learn how to speak with confidence and so much more.

In our upcoming webclass, we are going to present to you the “Fearless Formula” which is a three step strategy to help you to build confidence and lose your fear in any new conversation. Go here to sign up now.

You will be able to initiate a conversation with just about anyone, and you won’t worry about your English speaking or anything else.


There are some events or things that happened in the past that are of “historical proportions” and so you have to talk about them.

These are the events that you never forget or that changed the entire history of a nation or even the world.

You can tell us about an event in your own culture that changed the course of history.

This is a great reflection exercise, and it’s also great for using amazing vocabulary.

There are things that may have changed your nations history, and you may have things that changed your own history or future in your own life.

These are the big conversations and the big connections that you want to be able to have in life–so start talking about these things and see how it pays off!

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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