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). Their category is ESP (not Extra Sensory Perception) 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 typically 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 language of business, which is further specialised by industry or activity (Finance, investment banking, insurance, corporate law, etc.). 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 attending 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 will teach. If they have not, performing the needs analysis during the first class is highly recommended. 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. As a result, your class might be composed of demotivated students, so you need to make your lessons 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 student’s individual requirements 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 per their needs. However, 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 that they will value.
  2. Business interaction: Quite a lot of Business English learners will want to gain speaking skills for work. Speaking over the phone, introductions, meetings, and negotiations are typical examples of English used in a business setting. Roleplay activities are an excellent way to practice everyday business situations. You should aim to make this as relevant to your students’ real jobs as possible so that they can better understand and relate to the material.
  3. Business correspondence: Writing letters, memos, and proposals are part of another common area. Again, use authentic business materials to make your classes accessible and engaging.

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.

You can do simple things to ensure professionalism, such as dressing smartly, creating business cards, developing unique and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) resources, and referring to activities instead of games in the classroom. Remember your audience and think of activities and ice-breakers suitable for adults. Some TEFL games created for children will likely not go 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

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


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

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 ________________ . This means that: This software is faulty; it has defects.
a bugs
b insects
c headaches

4. Their website really _________________. This 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

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

What’s next?

For all you English teachers out there with at least two years’ experience, this is an opportunity to get the Trinity College London Certificate for Practising Teachers (CertPT) to enhance your professional teaching skills and get the prestigious Trinity College of London name on your CV.

The CertPT is a new and innovative Level 6* qualification that supports the professional development of English language teachers. Promoting the development of pedagogical knowledge and skills, the CertPT enables practising teachers, including those with language proficiency below CEFR level C1, to access specialist training and certification that can transform their teaching practice.

The CertPT is for teachers seeking to update, improve and enrich their teaching skills. It draws upon qualified TESOL teachers’ existing teaching practice and theory knowledge while promoting the acquisition and refinement of the specialist skills needed to develop and use effective teaching resources. Course participants develop their ability to evaluate, adapt, create and reflect on the use of context-specific teaching resources. Teaching contexts include, for example, teaching young learners, teaching online, teaching English for specific or academic purposes, or teaching within CLIL (content and language integrated learning) settings.

Level 6* – The CertPT is a Level 6 qualification. To put this in context, Level 5 comprises TESOL certificates like the CELTA and the Trinity CertTESOL and Level 7 comprises diploma qualifications like the DELTA and the Trinity DipTESOL.