I. Introduction

In today’s global economy, good communications is a key component in the success of any business. Because of these developments, business English has emerged as a specialized field within the broader discipline of English language training. Communicative teaching methods, such as using role-plays and case studies, are increasingly being used to ensure that learners develop the necessary skills for real-life business situations. This article will explore the benefits and techniques of role-play in Business English training.

People often say they don’t like doing role-plays, so why should I use them in my training materials?

In business, as in life, communication is key. While learning grammar and vocabulary is important, it’s equally crucial to develop the ability to correctly apply this knowledge in real-world situations. These real-life skills can be practiced by enacting scenarios from daily life. The use of role-play is a great way to do this, and it gives the learners the opportunity to practice scenarios in a non-threatening and safe environment. They are much better prepared for the real thing when they finally come to do it.

II. Role-Play: Definition and Benefits

Role-play, in the context of language learning, refers to an activity in which learners take on specific roles and engage in simulated conversations or scenarios like actors in a film. In Business English training, role-plays offer several advantages:

  1. Enhancing fluency and confidence: practicing conversational skills in a safe environment allows learners to rehearse authentic scenarios and gain confidence.
  2. Encouraging active participation: role-plays foster learner engagement and interaction, making the learning process more enjoyable and effective.
  3. Realistic practice in context: by simulating real-life business situations, role-plays provide valuable context-specific practice.
  4. Developing problem-solving skills: role-plays encourage learners to think on their feet and find solutions to challenges they may encounter in the workplace.
  5. Practicing intercultural communication: role-play activities can expose learners to different cultural perspectives, helping them navigate diverse business environments.

What is the difference between a case study and a role play?

A case study is a more complex and detailed situation that involves a well-documented, scenario Therefore, the case studies often involve different sources of information and require a lot more analysis, tasks and steps.

III. Role-Play Techniques for Business English Trainers

A. Choosing appropriate role-play scenarios:

Select scenarios that reflect common business situations and tailor them to the needs and goals of your learners. Examples include negotiations, presentations, meetings, networking events, and customer service interactions.

B. Preparing learners for role-play activities:
  1. Set clear objectives: define the purpose of the role-play and specific functional language to be practiced.
  2. Pre-teach the necessary vocabulary and expressions: introduce relevant terminology and phrases that learners may need during the activity.
  3. Scaffold role-plays with useful phrases, modelling difficult tasks, and providing tips.
  4. Offer background information: create an authentic context for the role-play scenario.
C. Conducting role-play activities:
  1. Create a supportive learning environment: encourage learners to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.
  2. Encourage active engagement and collaboration: promote teamwork and ensure all learners have the opportunity to participate.
  3. Monitor and provide guidance: observe the role-play, offer support when needed, and address any issues that may arise.
D. Post-role-play activities:
  1. Offer feedback and reflection: discuss the role-play, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement.
  2. Provide learners with further resources to help them improve on an ongoing basis.
  3. Extend learning through follow-up activities: assign tasks that build on the role-play experience, such as written reflections or further practice.

IV. Role-Play Examples for Business English Training

A. Negotiation role-play: simulate a business negotiation, with learners representing different parties trying to reach an agreement.
B. Presentation role-play: have learners prepare and deliver a business presentation, followed by a Q&A session.
C. Meeting role-play: simulate a business meeting where learners must discuss options, make decisions, and solve problems collaboratively.
D. Networking role-play: create a mock networking event where learners practice introducing themselves, exchanging information, and building connections.
E. Customer service role-play: simulate interactions between customers and company representatives, focusing on problem-solving and communication skills.

Example Role-Play:


Meet AutoWorks, an automobile manufacturing company that specializes in producing high-end luxury vehicles. AutoWorks has a longstanding relationship with its supplier, PartsRUs, which provides them with the spare parts needed for their production line. However, with the recent increases in production costs for their vehicles, AutoWorks needs to negotiate a new agreement with PartsRUs to ensure that they receive the necessary parts sooner and at a more reasonable cost.

AutoWorks has invited PartsRUs to a negotiation meeting to discuss the terms of their new agreement. AutoWorks is represented by their Purchasing Manager, Sarah Lee, and PartsRUs is represented by their Sales Manager, John Smith. The negotiations will focus on the prices of the parts, volume discounts, delivery costs.

Current Offer:

  • Ignition Coil Assembly: Current Price: $100 per unit, Volume Discount: 10% off for orders of 50 units or more
  • Brake Pad Set: Current Price: $150 per unit, Volume Discount: 15% off for orders of 100 units or more
  • Radiator Fan Motor: Current Price: $200 per unit, Volume Discount: 20% off for orders of 150 units or more


  • Orders will be delivered within 14 business days.
  • Shipping costs will be borne by the buyer for orders under $10,000, and by the seller for orders above $10,000.

Work in pairs, take a role and have the negotiation with your partner.

Role Cards:

Sarah Lee (Purchasing Manager AutoWorks)

  • Secure a cheaper price for the spare parts
  • Negotiate volume discounts based on bigger orders
  • Discuss and agree on better delivery terms

John Smith (Sales Manager PartsRUs)

  1. Offer competitive pricing for a new long-term agreement
  2. Negotiate small changes to the volume discounts
  3. Discuss and agree on delivery terms

Useful Phrases:


  1. We understand your need for a competitive price and we are willing to negotiate.
  2. Can we discuss the possibility of a long-term agreement to ensure stability and consistency?
  3. We are committed to providing high-quality spare parts that meet your specifications.
  4. How about we split the shipping costs to reach a mutually beneficial agreement?
  5. What kind of price reduction did you have in mind?


  1. We are looking for a cost-effective solution that doesn’t compromise on quality.
  2. Can you offer a higher volume discount if we increase the order quantity?
  3. On-time delivery is critical for our production schedule. Can we agree on a shorter lead time?
  4. We have received other competitive offers. Can you match those prices or offer something better?
  5. If we order more, will you reduce the unit price?

V. Conclusion

Role-play activities offer significant benefits in Business English training, providing learners with realistic practice, enhanced fluency, and improved problem-solving skills. By incorporating role-play into their teaching methods, trainers can create dynamic, engaging learning experiences that prepare learners for real-world business situations.

Bild von Gerd Altmann auf Pixabay 


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