Expert tips on teaching Business English

Expert tips on teaching Business English

Business English is a form of English tailored to commerce, sales, finance, international trade, marketing, advertising, etc. Business English is a specific type of EFL/ESL teaching, just like EAP (English for Academic Purposes) or EOP (English for Occupational Purposes). They will fall under the category of ESP (not Extra Sensory Power) but rather (English for Specific Purposes).

Business English is the kind of English used in the following settings:

  1. project meetings
  2. sales presentations
  3. business negotiations
  4. business emails and other business correspondence
  5. business reports
  6. executive summaries
  7. profit and loss statements
  8. revenue projections

Business English is normally seen as a specialisation within teaching and learning English, and forms part of English for Specific Purposes. It is studied by many non-native English speakers who wish to do business with English-speaking countries or with non-English-speaking countries using English as a lingua franca (some estimates show that at least 75% of all business communication worldwide is conducted in English between non-native English speakers).


Business English categories

Business English is often categorised into two main sections:

  1. Functional Language: The study and practice of the language needed to conduct business functions such as meetings, presentations, negotiations in English.
  2. Vocabulary: To teach Business English, you need to study the vocabulary of business, which is further specialised by industry or activity (finance, investment banking, insurance, corporate law, etc.). Clearly, many of the English words used in business are specialised and would not be understood even by many native English speakers.

Business English covers English language speakers as well

Business English may also be taught to native English speakers. What do you think your company would do if you were invited to attend a business conference where most of the attendees would be bankers, financial managers, M&A (merger and acquisition specialists), etc. and you are not familiar with the vocabulary, jargon and acronyms that will be used to communicate?

In cases like this, you will need to be taught Business English specialising in Finance before you attend the conference.


How to teach Business English

Here are the fundamental steps to follow when you teach Business English.

Step one: Conduct a needs assessment of your student or group of students

This should be done before you teach your first lesson. Professional language schools or companies should have done a client needs assessment before Day 1 of the course you are going to teach. If they have not, it is highly recommended to perform the needs analysis during the first class. The purpose of a needs assessment is to find out why your students want to learn Business English and understand their goals. You will also need to know their specific objectives and current problem areas like clarifying vocabulary (including jargon and acronyms), pronunciation, grammar, false friends (cognates), etc. In some cases, students are obligated by their company to learn Business English and as a result, your class might be composed of demotivated students so you will need to make your classes more engaging, motivating, and lively.

Performing a needs assessment will also help you decide which areas on which to focus. For example, administration staff might want to focus solely on telephone skills, reading and writing emails, correspondence, etc. You should adapt the lessons to the individual requirements of the student or the group of students. Based on your needs assessment, you will be able to measure the progress of each student and design ways to better their learning.

Step two: Teaching Business English

Depending on the results of your needs assessment, you will teach your class in accordance with their needs. Here are some common areas for a Business English teacher to focus on:

  1. Business language: You should introduce your students to common business phrases and vocabulary. Researching their business sector will ensure that you are teaching them some sector related vocabulary which the will value.
  2. Business interaction: Quite a lot of Business English learners will want to gain speaking skills to use at work. Speaking over the phone, introductions, meetings and negotiations are typical examples of how English is used in a business setting. Role play activities are an excellent way to practice common business situations. You should aim to make this as relevant to your students’ real job as possible so that they can better understand and relate to the material.
  3. Business correspondence: Writing letters, memos, and proposals is another common area to focus on. Again, try and use authentic business materials to make your classes easily accesible.

Step three: Be professional

By its very nature, teaching Business English will require you to have a more professional approach than some other TEFL jobs  e.g. teaching young learners in summer camps.

There are simple things you can do to ensure professionalism, such as dressing smartly, creating business cards, developing unique and smart resources, and referring to activities instead of games in the classroom. Remember your audience and think of activities and ice-breakers that would be suitable for adults. Some TEFL games created for children will likely not go down well in a business English setting!


Some examples of Business English exercises

Below are sample Business English exercises you can start with:

Exercise 1 | Topic: General Business English

Choose the best response for each one.

1. When did Mike start working here? He was ___________________ about two months ago.
a hire
b taken
c hired

2. I can’t go out. My ___________________ is almost over.
a break for lunch
b lunch break
c food break

3. Management asked the accountants for last year’s ___________________.
a balance sheet
b money tree
c dollars and cents

4. In many offices, employees work in little areas called ___________________.
a cubicles
b boxes
c rooms

5. Do you have a dress ___________________ at your company?
a requirement
b code
c law

6. I’m going on a ___________________ next month. I’m meeting with one of our clients in Singapore.
a business trip
b work trip
c business travel

ANSWERS:
1- c
2- b
3- a
4- a
5- b
6- a

Exercise 2 | Topic: Sales Terms and Expressions

Choose the best response for each one.

1. Have you seen last month’s sales ______________?
a figures
b figurines
c figs

2. Sales are ______________ by 50% compared to this time last year.
a up
b higher
c high

3. We’ll be looking to hire a sales ______________ soon.
a rap
b rope
c rep

4. In much of the business world, the calendar year is divided into four ______________.
a quarts
b quarters
c cubes

5. To write up a contract = To ______________ a contract
a drought
b draw
c draft

6. The amount on the ______________ ( = an official bill) is higher than what we agreed on.

a invoice
b paper
c draft

ANSWERS:

1 a
2 a
3 c
4 b
5 c
6 a

Exercise 3 | Topic: Marketing Vocabulary

Choose the best response for each one.

1. When marketing specialists speak about a ______________, they are referring to a decline in an economic cycle.
a downsize
b downturn
c downtime

2. When marketers speak about “engaging” an industry, they are referring to creating an interest or ______________ within the industry about a product, service, etc.
a clientele
b buzz
c stupor

3. Unfortunately, this analysis doesn’t really show the ______________. ( = all the facts, what’s really going on)
a whole picture
b whole painting
c whole drawing

4. The ______________ new iPhone was launched last year.
a people waiting on
b awaited much
c much awaited

5. The salesman´s ______________ was adequate for the product he was selling.
a pitch
b track
c length

6. The ______________ for the high standard of the new CPT course was EBC’s current onsite and online TEFL/TESOL courses.
a target audience
b result
c benchmark

ANSWERS:
1 b
2 b
3 a
4 c
5 a
6 c

Exercise 4 | Topic: Information Technology (IT)

Choose the best response for each one.

1. Her programming skills are top-_________________. Means that: She has great programming skills.
a heavy
b notch
c hat

2. You can use this widget on more than one website. Means that: You can use this widget on _________________ websites.
a multi-level
b multiple
c multiplied

3. This software is full of ________________ . Means that: This software is faulty; it has defects.
a bugs
b insects
c headaches

4. Their website really _________________. Means that: Their website became highly successful.
a took off
b took out
c took away

5. It’s a _________________ problem. Means that: It’s a problem that happens over and over.
a reticent
b recurrent
c stagnant

6. This solution is alright, but it’s not the best (one). Means that: This solution is adequate, but it’s not _________________.
a optical
b optimistic
c optimal

ANSWERS:
1 b
2 b
3 a
4 a
5 b
6 c


What’s next?

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