Teaching Business English

Business English
How does one approach teaching Business English? What if students work in totally different industries and spheres? And how can I teach it if I’m not a businessperson myself?

Alright, Teaching Business English! Let’s define this collocation first, since I’ve noticed many misconceptions behind it. What is “Business English”?

Business English is the type of English used in business contexts, such as international trade, commerce, finance, insurance, banking, and many office settings. It entails expectations of clarity, particular vocabulary, and grammatical structures.

As we can learn from the definition, it’s simply the English language used in a work context. There are some features that make it distinct from, let’s say, regular spoken English, but the fundamentals are the same – it’s the same language after all!

So how does one approach teaching Business English? What if students work in totally different industries and spheres? And how can I teach it if I’m not a businessperson myself?

I know nothing about finance, accounting and all that jazz…

Firstly, relax… When coming to a course of Business English, students don’t (and shouldn’t) expect you to be an expert in accounting, marketing and corporate law – there are other experts for that. Your main task should be the language!

  • What vocabulary do your students need to express their ideas more clearly at work?
  • Which grammar aspects are weak?
  • Do they have troubles writing e-mails or making presentations?

That is something you can focus your attention on, not professional knowledge in their field.

So how is teaching Business English different from just General English then?

In reality, not so much! It’s English after all, with its vocabulary, grammar and logics. For speaking at work in informal context, your students probably need various colloquial expressions (e.g. with the verb “GET”) and just a solid overall level of the English language. Therefore, there is almost no difference at all, except a few “business English” expressions once in a while.

The big difference comes when teaching writing, especially e-mails. Depending on the cultural background, your students may not be familiar with all the formalities and ethical aspects of a business e-mail. That is something to pay close attention to during the classes.

Another big distinction would be the topics themselves: typical business course focuses on work-related subjects, such as recruitment and interviews, companies and their structure, sales & marketing and so on. Make sure to cover the most fundamental ones with your students, as they will be practical for any specialist.

  • Company structure
  • Finance
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Advertisement
  • Production
  • Services

etc.

Naturally, a business English course also focuses on techniques needed to perform work-related tasks: giving presentations, negotiating, making phone and video calls, attending and chairing meetings etc. Your classes should cover these, at least briefly.

Can I teach Business English with no “business” experience?

Well, you can, of course! The simplest way would be to pick a solid textbook and follow it. You will definitely have to spend more time preparing for the lessons though! I remember teaching technical English to oil engineers, oh boy! I had to spend 2-3 hours preparing for each class, just because of the industry-specific knowledge which I felt I was missing.

Of course, previous experience in any business-related sphere is a great bonus (I’m really happy to have got a Master’s degree in accounting!), but it’s not a requirement for a Business English teacher. There are many professionals with a background in Linguistics or Psychology.

I would strongly advise taking a course of teaching Business English or an extensive TEFL course. It would familiarize you with the demands of the students, skills to be taught and other teaching strategies.

If you are looking to teach Business English and would like additional guidance on how to get started, check out our counselling services. We can help you become an amazing Business English tutor!

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