This article explains the main points of teaching Business English and why choosing relevant and relatable teaching material is critical to the success of a Business English training programme.
What is the Trinity CertPT BE accredited Business English teaching course?
The Trinity CertPT BE accredited Business English teaching course:
- gives you the skills for selecting, creating and using relevant and relatable teaching material in a Business English class
- is an accredited Ofqual level 6 diploma level course
- is a continuing professional development (CPD) course
How to increase your value and earnings as a modern teacher
Want to earn more and grow as a modern educator? Take the Trinity College CertPT BE accredited Business English Teaching course and make yourself even more marketable.
Read on to find out more about teaching Business English.
What is Business English?
Teaching Business English is primarily teaching English to adults working in or planning to work in a specific business sector. The companies in the business sector to be studied could be large multinationals, small private companies or state-run organisations providing products or services. Business English courses may be long or short. Classes can be taught in-company, in a language school, in a rented space or online.
Business English shares aspects of general EFL. However, it is different because the aims of a Business English course usually specialise and cover English use to a greater depth than a general English course.
The aims of Business English teaching will always relate to your students’ work. Sometimes this means developing generalised business skills such as giving presentations. Sometimes, it will mean something much more technical or academic.
Some course organisers do not get the differences between Business English, ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and EAP (English for Academic Purposes). Therefore, it would help if you are open-minded when going into the area referred to as Business English.
The main thing to remember about Business English is, relates to expectations. Not your expectations, but those of your students or their sponsors. Course organisers request Business English because they want a course that relates to occupational or professional language needs.
Investigating, analysing and fulfilling Business English students’ needs is critical to the success of any Business English course. Therefore, it is best if you initially focused on analysing the language needs research process. This process is called a “Needs Analysis”.
Do not assume that your role as a Business English teacher is well-defined. You may need to consider tasks or concerns which are outside a standard English teacher’s role. Your priority is to run successful courses. To be possible in the field of Business English, you need to consider wider issues.
Your students in a Business English course
Your students may have a wide range of jobs. They could be clerical staff, executive-level directors or anything in between. They might be specialists in areas like advertising, law, marketing, etc. If they are young or still studying, they are unlikely to know much about their work. If they are older and more experienced, they may be experts in their field. The chances are that most students on a Business English course are older and more experienced.
Your students may be motivated if English skills are essential in their work environment. Another motivation factor is each student’s attitude towards both learning English and getting trained. A final motivational factor could be future promotion prospects for employees who have superior English skills.
Whether your students are overly confident or unmotivated, do not worry! Even students who are tired, preoccupied with work and seem uninterested in English can become highly motivated. If the need for English in their work is made clear to them and you treat them as partners in the learning process, they will want to learn. Your students should see that learning Business English has quantifiable value.
The purpose of a Business English course
The purpose of a Business English course is to fulfil students’ work-related needs. These needs are usually specific and can cover a wide range of language areas. For example, suppose a multinational corporation employs your students. In that case, their prime need will probably be communication. For example, phone conversations, reporting, writing correspondence, reading publications and performing other workplace tasks.
Suppose your students are doing business with foreign companies. In that case, their primary need could be to survive on business trips, communicate over the phone, email correspondence and contract negotiation.
Students who work in an industry where the primary language is English (e.g., telecommunications or computing) will need to digest large quantities of material written in English. They may also need to give presentations or discuss their work using English.
The content of a Business English course
Business English courses get built for many different reasons, so their content can vary considerably. However, the content of any particular Business English course is usually specific. Your students’ needs and objectives define a Business English course content.
The most successful courses are the ones that identify appropriate content and fulfil your students’ needs in the shortest possible time. Since language training is expensive, your students and companies want cost-effectiveness. Therefore, if you choose course content to suit your student’s needs and is related to their job, you meet your students’ needs most quickly.
The balance of specific course elements depends on your students’ priorities and the learning process. Remember that some things can be learnt more quickly than others or more easily understood before or after other language areas. Suppose you decide to ignore the principle of needs-directed teaching. In that case, you must be very sure that you can justify this approach to yourself, your students and your manager.
Language in class
The language studied is set by your students’ needs. Sometimes, the language can be highly technical mixed with standard business terms.
It also focuses on styles of speaking or writing that are appropriate to your students’ working environment and the tasks they have to perform. Therefore, your students need to develop a keen awareness of style to spot formality versus informality and directness versus indirectness. Most importantly, through language study in the classroom, your students need to understand the cultural context of language use, i.e., national culture, local culture, industrial culture and corporate culture.
As well as the language studied in class, teacher talk (i.e., a teacher’s meta-language) can also provide valuable input and exposure for students. To capitalise on this opportunity, you must make your talking time as adult and business-like as possible.
Your objectives for lessons and study stages need to be made crystal clear to your students on a day-to-day basis. If your goals are clear, your students will work with enthusiasm and intelligence, making your life easier. If you have a trusting relationship with your students, give some decision-making and setting objectives to your students. Your students may be used to making decisions, setting objectives and respecting deadlines in their day-to-day work. If they are, give them the practice and let them do it under your control.
While objectives are concerned with what you are teaching, activities and techniques focus on the ‘how’. Since these can affect whether or not learning occurs, they must be selected and used with sensitivity and according to teaching aims and your students’ responses.
Variety is desirable, and there is a wide range of teaching techniques you can use. However, it is essential to develop teaching principles that give you a benchmark against which you can evaluate the success or the effectiveness of specific methods. In addition, you must be able to combine methods effectively to deliver a coherent class or course.
Your students will appreciate hearing why you use certain methods for specific language areas. If they understand why things are happening, they will usually cooperate with greater enthusiasm.
On the most effective courses, students and teachers work in partnership to build a constructive learning environment. The environment must be appropriate to your student’s professional and personal situations. As well as being a learner, the student is also a provider of information, material and frequently business expertise. If you are teaching business people, they will adopt the role of customer, and you, the teacher, will be seen as the service provider. It would help if you got used to this.
Never forget that your role is also as the progress tracker. Students are often used to working under pressure. They usually take for granted the idea of being accountable to their bosses. They will expect that you keep the promises you make in class. They will expect that you are accountable for the results of the training programme. In addition, your students’ bosses and supervisors, and/or the person setting up the English training in a company, may want to attend and observe classes. Therefore, you may have to write regular student attendance and progress reports. Expect to write reports when a company is paying for the training course.
Since your students are your customers, their level of satisfaction is also vital to your success. If they are dissatisfied with you, you may find yourself without a job! Although business practices and contractual agreements should ensure that you get treated like a professional, results-oriented managers are the norm.
Why is Business English special?
Business English is unique because of its opportunity to fulfil students’ immediate needs for English. In general English classes, students’ needs are rarely so immediate or urgent. However, work is part of people’s lives, and Business English addresses occupational and professional needs; you have the opportunity to improve your students’ day-to-day work experience.
An example of a real-life experience might serve to illustrate how real your link with students can be. For example, I asked a student returning from a trade fair how it was. He said that there had been one fascinating piece of equipment. However, he had written off the possibility of getting this for the company because he had been made well aware of budget constraints for his department.
I decided to take a less cynical attitude about budgets and helped this student. He was studying in a class of six students. He had to put together and practised a short presentation on the virtues of the equipment. I incorporated his presentation into the course.
The next day he delivered this impromptu and informal mini-presentation to his boss. He came to my next class glowing. His supervisor had appreciated the longer-term advantages and cost-cutting features of the equipment and had found a way of approving its purchase.
To make Business English special, you need to build a good working relationship with your students.
Firstly, you must choose material based on your student’s needs and to which they can relate. If your material choice is not relevant or too academic, they will almost certainly reject it.
Secondly, you need to address your students appropriately and communicate with them openly and informatively.
Thirdly, you need to give your students more power than is sometimes the case in a student-teacher relationship.
Fourthly, you are the teacher and the English expert, but you and your students are collectively a team. They have a problem, and you have the solution, so try and create team spirit rather than the traditional teacher/student relationship.
When students meet you halfway in a constructive working relationship, Business English is not only special, but it can also become an exciting and surprising area of teaching. As a result of your efforts to improve a few people’s lives, you are likely to have engaging and exciting classes, increased job satisfaction and a window into other people’s worlds. You may also see and uncover opportunities in other areas of work.
The CertPT BE accredited Business English teaching course
If you would like to grow as a modern educator and become a Business English teaching specialist, find out more about the Trinity CertPT BE accredited Business English teaching course.