Why Teaching Business English Isn’t As Difficult As It Seems
As a former teacher of English as a foreign language, I have some experience teaching business English. Majority of my classes were for general English conversation. However, as I continued teaching, my workload increased to include a few business-focused classes. At first, I was intimidated and nervous about teaching these students. Did I have enough knowledge about business to teach them? Would I have the information they needed? After a lot of preparation and a few lessons, I realized that business classes are not much different than regular English classes and I need not know much about business to be a successful business English teacher.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Megan B.
Also read: 7 Great Resources for Teaching Business English
Businessmen Are Ordinary Learners
First, the students who are studying business English are not much different than regular English learners. English learners are studying for a wide variety of reasons. Some only as a personal hobby, others to travel. High school students study to get into good universities. Businessmen and women are studying because the international business culture is spreading rapidly. Most of it being conducted in the global language of English. For companies to expand their businesses overseas, it is essential for their employees to learn English. For example, according to the Japan Times - a very popular company in Japan, Rakuten, has made English their official language of business. The company owner, Mikitani, calls it an “Englishnization” of their company in which internal affairs and operations are all now conducted in English. Employees have increased TOEIC scores by nearly 300 points. Rakuten now has television advertisements seen all over America (and possibly other English speaking countries). It is nearly essential for companies to “Englishize” if they are to keep up in the global marketplace.
Once teachers realize that business English learners are studying English for the same reasons as general English learners, they can focus on other points. For instance, it is important to remember is that, in general, teachers are not business people. In turn, business English teachers are not teaching learners how to be business people. Their students, or clients, are already business professionals. Instead, what teachers are providing are the tools on how to communicate effectively and professionally in a business setting in English. It is also the teacher’s responsibility to teach the appropriateness of language. In other words, formal versus informal language. More important than to have knowledge of the business is to have a wide knowledge of the English language in general. Teachers will indeed teach many of the same points from general English to business English. Such as, making introductions, taking messages, agreeing and disagreeing, as well as giving presentations in English. Teachers do not need to worry about being business experts, but English experts.
In my experience I taught at a school - versus in-company - and in a few cases, companies would send their employees to take business English lessons. I had to provide an initial placement analysis - what the students’ level was at the start of the course. At the end of the students’ contract, I also needed to provide an analysis of how the student or students improved. It was a short report, but very important for the company to view their employees’ performance. In other cases, students came on their own to improve their English skills for their own benefit. So, as a business English teacher, it is very important to monitor each of your students. Not only will students wish to know their progress, but their employer will need that information as well. In any case, teachers need to be aware of individual student progress, no matter their purpose for studying.
Are You Ready to Teach Business English?
Finally, as the global market grows, as do the available resources for teaching business English. Many more resources are being developed and becoming available on teaching this specific topic. Entire textbooks, as well as online resources, specifically for teaching English for the specific purpose of business are becoming more readily available. These books may even be provided by a school or employer. Online sources are only a few simple clicks away and easily sourced. In short, there are many ways that a teacher can receive assistance or guidance in a business classroom.
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