2 Effective Strategies for Teaching Business English
Business English is considered a specific subset of international English. Business English focuses on studying English vocabulary and topics that can be applied to business purposes such as trade, finance, and even international relations. English in the workplace often requires a specific subset of skills such as presentations, negotiations, and professional correspondence that are typically not covered in general English courses. As the amount of business English learners grows, there is an increasing need to understand how business English differs from general English and what strategies are effective for teaching business English.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Kush M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Business English vs. General English
It is important to distinguish between business English and general English because English is a worldwide language used for communicating in the business world. One of the key differences is the purpose of each type of English. General English is more often used for engaging in day-to-day conversations, whereas business English is typically learned for specific purposes such as professional growth that can lead to more opportunities in the future. Second, the level of proficiency often differs between general and business English learners. General English learners will often plateau after reaching a certain level of proficiency. Business English learners, however, will often continue to improve their proficiency because they are motivated to improve their current skills and techniques. Finally, the terminology set is different between the two classes of English. General English focuses on more daily conversational vocabulary such as clothing, weather, or food. Business English is more specific and often includes terminology associated with specific industries. One example is aviation, where all international pilots must use aviation English that includes technical terminology necessary for flying aircraft.
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Despite the differences between general English and business English, there are effective strategies that can be used to teach business English to clients.
1. Considering Students’ Peculiarities
First, there is a need to understand the clients who are interested in learning business English. Business English learners can vary widely. For example, learners can be high school students preparing for the workforce or established 40-year-old professionals hoping to expand their current career opportunities. They can also range in English language experience, from very little experience to extensive previous language coursework. Lastly, learners can vary in motivation. Learners who are forced to learn English will be less inclined to prepare outside of formal instruction and will be least motivated. On the other hand, learners who are self-motivated to learn English will be incredibly diligent to improve on their own schedule.
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2. Identifying Learners’ Needs
Finally, another strategy to teach business English is to conduct a needs analysis of the clients and determine how the teacher’s own expertise can help meet those needs. The purpose of the needs analysis is to identify the learners’ specific objectives of the course so that the teacher can maximize the effectiveness of their lessons. A needs analysis can be done as both a written questionnaire and a verbal “negotiation.” The negotiation portion is also useful for making sure an entire class has aligned priorities because business English learners may have come in with varying expectations of the course. Additionally, it is also important to consider information about the company, such as what industry it is in and what the company’s needs are for business English speakers. Knowing this information can provide the teacher with a framework on how to structure lessons and orient the learners in order to directly apply their lessons to their work.
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Overall, there is a growing need for speakers of business English as English continues to be the dominant language for international communication. It is important to understand the differences between business English and general English. Additionally, it is just as critical to be able to use effective strategies for teaching business English to a wide range of students. English language teachers who can accomplish both will be able to successfully impact their students in their business English education.
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