Some years ago, the ESOL industry began addressing the specialized needs of English language learners. Now, you can find teachers, training, and certifications aimed at teaching English to young learners (TEYL), English for specific purposes (ESP), English for academic purposes (EAP), English for travel (also known as EFL), English for proficiency tests such as IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL, and so on.
Today, we’re going to have a look at teaching Business English. We’ll identify business English learners in general, examine their overall purposes for English language development, and what we can typically expect from them. Then, we’ll share five points for teaching English as a business language classes. So, let’s get started!
Who Are Business English Students?
Business English students enter our classes to enhance their English skills for conducting business. But who are they? They’re people who own businesses so they want to know the bottom line when using English. Or, they run businesses, so there’s no need to beat around the bush when teaching them English. They’re people who interact with clients so they need to know courteous ways of addressing clients using English. And, they’re professional adults, not children, teens, or university students.
It’s all about business with them. And if we understand that, we may very well realize we need to be about business with them. We can also consider which aspect of English language learning fits them under those specific conditions.
What Are Their Characteristics?
The people mentioned above have characteristics that help us prepare targeted lessons and manage classes. Overall, business people are focused–they want to know what they need to know. But also, they are often educated professionals.
They’re serious, so they’re not always interested in the latest jokes. They’re capable and can do things we may not be able to do. Plus, they can sometimes be perceived as impatient, but they’re simply being themselves as they are in their business environment.
If you’ve ever taught business English students, you’ll recognize some of these traits. We need to keep in mind that just because they’re learning English doesn’t mean they’re any less of the characteristics mentioned here.
What Are Their Purposes?
When you get down to it, people learning English for business reasons are typically seeking to develop their English skills for promotions, to gain more business, to survive in the global market, to entertain clients, to interact with customers or colleagues, or to connect with new markets, customers, or other business ventures. With those purposes in mind, we may want to conduct classes that meet their needs rather than simply entertain or teach them about the language.
What Can We Expect?
Having examined who they are, their characteristics, and their purposes, there’s one more area to consider. We should be thinking about what to expect from them so we will be more prepared.
You may encounter them as being serious about learning. They may also want to know what they need to know (i.e. why do I need to learn this). Business English learners can be critical of their teachers– meaning, have high expectations of their teachers. In addition, they can be sometimes hurried because of deadlines or meetings. They’ll likely expect professionalism from their teachers–and why not: they’re professionals.
They may want to take charge of or give input into their learning though not intending to be rude. They will probably expect noticeable improvements since they operate with the same expectations. Business English students may not always be up-to-date on pop or modern culture. Or, they may use business or formal vocabulary or will want to learn it.
Armed with the points above, we have a better framework to pivot from when preparing and handling business English clients. But, how do we teach them? Read on for that.
Tips for Teaching Business English Lessons
Now, let’s look at how we can conduct business English lessons.
1. Be Professional
Treat business English learners with respect and courtesy–model it. You’ll also want to teach them as adults with purposes; as if their goals are your goals for them. Be professional, and everything else will fall in line.
2. Be Focused
Focus lessons on one point of the language, on the language they need, on the environments they encounter, and on helping them improve weak areas.
3. Have a Purpose
Find out what your business English students need and give it to them. Assess them and make suggestions. Ask them what they want from their classes and deliver it. Observe them and offer feedback.
4. Keep Things Interesting and Relevant
They may not care about the latest TV show or pop songs. But they’ll likely be interested in talking about the latest trends in their business field. They may also be uninterested in talking about home life though personal interests may come up. Discover how to keep things real for them and use it toward their goals.
5. Help Them See Their Improvements
Business people are used to seeing results, so they look for results. They need to measure progress and know their investments are paying off. If they can see their improvements, you will likely make long-term and or satisfied customers. Simply telling them what they used to do and how it’s better now is a good place to start.
Understanding Is the Key
Remember, with business people, understanding them is the key to teaching them. If you know more about them, your lessons will be focused; they’ll have a purpose. Your lessons will be relevant and match them. Your speech will be courteous and model appropriate business language. Plus, your class members will feel as if they learned something. In the end, you’ll have satisfied clients.
Wrapping It Up
Now you have a better idea about business English students. We’ve looked at who they are. We’ve looked at their purposes and expectations. And, we presented five points to consider when conducting classes with them.
Did we miss anything? What would you add to the discussion? Feel free to share your thoughts with us. We’d enjoy hearing from you.
At OnTESOL, you can get become TESOL certified and specialize in Teaching Business English. Visit our course page today to learn more. Or, contact us for more information, and someone will be in touch shortly to help you decide what course is a good fit for you.