Although Business English is an attractive niche for most teachers, it presents unique challenges. A business English lesson is not just about teaching a few useful business phrases. It’s about giving students the tools they need to succeed at work, which means helping them improve their overall English skills, as well as teaching vocabulary and language points that are relevant to their specific workplace and industry. A lot of business English trainer redefine themselves as language coaches, offering services which go way beyond basic language training. This requires a much more tailored approach to language training.
In this blog post we’ll explore the key components of creating effective Business English lessons.
Firstly, what is Business English? Business English is a subset of general English, which means that all the normal language rules apply. However, there are some key differences:
- A key difference is specificity: business people use more specialized terminology than other groups (such as students or academics), so it’s important to be familiar with this vocabulary.
- In addition, business English requires trainers to be more familiar with the community of practice in which their clients operate. This could be a specific industry or company department which has a shared subset of vocabulary and methods of communication. For example, the oil and gas industry will have a lot specific practices and terminology.
- Business English requires a good understanding of the language of business, including functions like negotiation, presentation and networking. Students are expected to acquire the relevant skills and techniques of business.
- It is also essential for trainers to be familiar with core business topics and the activities of company departments like marketing, sales, human resources and legal.
- Business english takes place in a more formal setting, and provides a professional manner of speaking, in addition to informal communication which is universal.
- Business English requires a good understanding of cultural awareness
Setting Clear Objectives
A crucial first step in creating effective lessons is identifying the needs of your clients. Conduct a thorough needs analysis to understand pain points, personal goals, and industry specific language requirements. This will include conducting level testing and needs questionnaires with all your potential clients. Business English courses must address your learners’ specific needs. For example, if a client wants to improve their negotiation skills, then the aim of your lessons must be to equip them with the language needed to do so. Align the contents of your course to learner goals to ensure a clear focus on the learning objectives. Doing so will create better learning outcomes, and guarantee the efficacy of your English training.
Further information about needs analysis can be found in this article:
One of the main problems an English trainer will face is the fact that customising material for clients can be expensive and time consuming, and it is often impossible to recycle specialised material with another client. A solution to this problem, is to create different layers of training:
- business english (good coverage of the four skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing, including general business content, grammar and vocabulary)
- business skills training (networking, presenting, negotiating, leading meetings, selling etc.)
- english for specific purposes courses (For example: Technical English for the Plastics Industry)
The first two layers of training will attempt to be as general as possible, avoiding any niche content. The third layer will be much more specialist to the students community of practice, and as a result, be much less transferable to other clients. However, this might only be 20% of the total offering, so your effort and expense will be minimised, according to the economy of scale you are dealing with. Create a core business course, but offer your clients the possibility to buy a top-up course to cater for their more specific requirements.
Choosing the Right Materials
Picking materials that are relevant and engaging is a key element of any successful business English course. Incorporate authentic work materials such as reports, emails, and presentations to provide real-world context. A more complete list of these authentic resources:
- presentation slides
- company website
- company intranet
- financial reports
- promotional brochures
- standard operating procedures
- quality reports
- action plans
- meeting minutes or agendas
It is only possible to customize content if you are able to understand your clients specialised needs. As a trainer, you will have to approximate what skills your students will need, and you will need to find out what specific terms are used in the learners’ community of practice. This can only be achieved by encouraging your clients to share documentation, and by researching their industry in the internet. Ask your clients for copies of business documents (with any private or sensitive data blacked out). Ask your stakeholders for a more detailed description of the learners. Create learner profiles, so that you can approximate the needs of a wider audience. ESL textbooks and resources designed for Business English learners can also be a valuable source of material. Additionally, utilize online resources ike reports, podcasts and youtube videos to diversify your teaching methods and customise for each of your client groups. There are growing numbers of third party services which offer excellent interactive, multimedia-rich material to your students. It is not necessary to create everything from scratch.
Incorporating Real-life Scenarios
Engaging learners with real-life business scenarios enhances their understanding and retention of the language. It will be necessary to learn as much as you can about the different situations your students will need their English skills for. This is not so easy, as employers often purchase courses on the basis of a future need, not an existing one. This will require a considerable amount of research, and it will be difficult to create natural scenarios if you have never been able to witness the interaction first hand. For example, you might be asked to prepare a quality manager at a plastics plant for an upcoming audit. You will need to practice this scenario with you student to prepare for all the possible questions they might be asked. Utilize role-plays and simulations to practice common workplace situations, such as meetings, negotiations, and telephone calls. More extensive, case studies and problem-solving activities can also help learners apply their language skills to real-world challenges. Adopt a more task-based approach that mirrors the real world of business and requires higher-level thinking. Integrate technology to create interactive and dynamic lessons that keep learners motivated and engaged.
Developing the Four Language Skills
An effective Business English lesson plan should address all four language skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. Focus on reading and listening materials relevant to the business world, such as articles, podcasts, and news broadcasts. Teach writing skills that emphasize clarity, conciseness, and professionalism in emails, reports, and proposals. Encourage learners to practice speaking in various business contexts, like presentations, meetings, and networking events. You should aim to develop a broad range of skills.
Teaching Business-specific Vocabulary and Idioms
Business English learners need to be familiar with industry-specific jargon and idiomatic expressions to communicate effectively. Introduce relevant vocabulary and idioms in context, and provide ample practice opportunities. Implement strategies, such as flashcards, quizzes, and games, to help learners remember new vocabulary and use it accurately and confidently.
Incorporating Cultural Awareness
Understanding cultural nuances in business communication is vital for successful interactions in the global market. Teach learners appropriate etiquette and behavior in different cultures, and emphasize the importance of intercultural competence. Integrate cultural awareness into your lesson plans through discussions, case studies, and role-plays that highlight cross-cultural challenges and solutions.
Assessing and Evaluating Progress
Regularly assess your learners’ progress through formative assessments, such as quizzes, in-class activities, and self-assessments. Provide constructive feedback that helps them identify areas for improvement and encourages growth. Adapt your lesson plans based on student progress to ensure they are consistently working towards their goals. It is essential to record the progress of your students, so that you are able to report to stakeholder and show the success of your course.
Continuous Improvement and Professional Development
You never stop learning in this business, so keep yourself updated with all the latest business and technology trends. Join linkedIn business groups, read industry reports by leading management consultancy companies like Mckinsey, and become a knowledge leader. Keep learning more about Business English training and coaching by participating in workshops, conferences, and online forums. Networking with other Business English teachers can provide valuable insights and resources. Don’t underestimate the power of having a good network.
Creating effective Business English lesson plans requires a clear focus on learner objectives, engaging materials, and real-life context. By addressing all four language skills, teaching relevant vocabulary and idioms, and incorporating cultural awareness, you can help learners succeed in the global business arena. As a teacher, continue refining your lesson planning skills and stay committed to your own professional development.
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