Business English Teaching Equals Teaching Adults
The teaching of business English by definition means that your students/clients will be adults. English is the modern language of business. As markets have become global, businesses at all levels have had to adapt and train their staff in English usage, both written and spoken.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jessica H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Expertise in different fields
When teaching Business English, you do not need to be a specialist in any particular business field to be able to teach, though a working knowledge of general business terminology will be very beneficial and may assist in many ways for both the student and teacher.
Business interactions vs. Life interactions
Most of the language of any business interaction is similar to normal interaction, for example, agreeing and disagreeing, making arrangements, and writing letters and reports, though it may be slightly more formal. Teaching English to adults has some advantages as well as disadvantages over younger learners.
An advantage is that the adult's level of maturity is much higher than that of the younger learners, which means that behavioral problems are minimal, though not always completely absent because some of the students may have been out of the educational system for quite some time and may have trouble adjusting to becoming a student again.
Levels of motivation in adults are greater than those of children, attention spans are longer and you can form bonds with your clients. This could be due to the fact that most of the business students are there by choice and therefore they want to learn and progress. However, you cannot assume that all the clients attending your classes are doing so by free will. Whilst many are keen to be learning Business English, as they understand the importance of it, they may have to do this learning outside of their normal working day.
Place of study
Sometimes the groups of students may be organized by the department in the workplace, meaning that you may have a whole range of management levels all with very different abilities in English. Adults are more self-conscious about certain kinds of activities in the classroom, especially when the class is of all different management levels. The difference in levels may also come as a problem to the teacher, having to teach people who have different abilities in English. The easiest way to manage this is through differentiation in your activities. For example, graded activities, such as worksheets that have a lot of questions, the first few questions being easier and getting progressively harder. Another method is to give ‘catch-up’ work to the lower level students to do outside of the classroom to help them with their weaker areas.
Students also may well be learning in their own time, for example after work and so maybe tired from the day and so have less of a concentration span. The lessons after work may also present a problem when it comes to assignments and homework, as students will not have much free time to be able to complete the assignments and homework given.
Most of the potential difficulties can be overcome by careful planning, getting to know your students, and keeping them motivated and focused. You will need to keep in mind that Business English lessons may not be their priority, which can lead to erratic attendance. This in itself can lead to teacher frustration, having planned a series of lessons that build upon each other.
Skills to develop
In business English, there are two receptive skills which are listening and reading, and two productive skills, which are speaking and writing. The level of contextualization will be different to young learners, which means that any activities that you give your business students should have some form of a link to what they will use the language for.
Most of our business students will more than likely have access to computers and the internet. This provides an opportunity to use a vast set of resources, not just for the use in the classroom, but for assignment and extension work. There are websites where you can find business letters and email formats, which the students can use for writing practice. If students are using the internet, to research a topic or company, then the most useful form of feedback from this research is in the form of a presentation, which provides opportunities for speaking and writing.
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In the new modern world, more and more businesses are insisting that their employees attend Business English lessons. It is a great opportunity for learning and it is beneficial to both the company and the students/employees.
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