At first, the idea of teaching a professional business person on a one-to-one basis may seem extremely daunting.
You will be working directly with someone who has a professional career and for whom learning English is a top priority.
Nevertheless, such a working environment offers unique opportunities for teaching and learning, which you won’t experience with a larger class. Here are some practical suggestions for making the most of teaching business English on a one-to-one basis.
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Use Authentic Material Provided by the Student
Chances are that your student is already working for a company. Get students to bring in examples of the kinds of materials they need to work within English. These could be reports that they have to write, forms that they need to fill in, or even just documents that they need to read.
Using such authentic material has a couple of immediate benefits. Firstly, this will keep your student focused on activities because they are using material that is relevant. Secondly, you will probably be working on something that has an instant, direct effect on how well they can do their job.
Develop Some Knowledge of Their Job
You’ll find that the vast majority of one-to-one business English lessons will be with adult professionals. As such, they will probably have very specific tasks to do within their profession. Fortunately, this makes for a great source of learning material.
Although there is no way you’ll ever know as much about their job as they do, it’s a good idea to research their field and their company. If the company has a web site, search for useful information. This will help you plan relevant and effective activities for your student.
One thing that business professionals need to do is to describe their work to others. Your research will enable you to ask questions that your student will respond to both in your lesson and at work.
You’ll also have a better idea of how to discuss their profession and therefore prepare your students for the kind of conversations they will have regarding their work in other situations.
Give Lots of Feedback
As you develop a rapport with your students, you’ll notice that most of your lessons turn into pleasant, interesting chats and that time passes quickly. Indeed, many adult professionals will ask you for this conversation style of the lesson, and such discussions can be useful for fluency and listening practice.
Nevertheless, this approach is not particularly effective in dealing with errors in the use of grammar and vocabulary.
Come to an agreement with your student that you will have a piece of paper and a pen in front of you and that you’ll note down persistent errors as and when they occur. Set aside 10 minutes at the end of each lesson to go through these errors.
This approach gives the best of both worlds: you can allow for natural and fluent discussion, while also giving feedback on common mistakes.
Think Carefully About Location
If your lesson takes place in the classroom, don’t treat it in the same way you would with a group lesson. Don’t stand at the board, rather sit together at a table. Sitting next to one another is often good, but sometimes sit opposite to the student.
If allowed, try suggesting an alternative location; many find a cafe to be more suitable for learning, for instance.
Visual materials are really effective in one-to-one situations. These could be graphs, charts, maps, or even just photographs and pictures. Use these as a springboard for conversation and also to focus on particular grammar structures.
Maps, for example, are good for practicing introductions. You can ask questions such as ‘Where did you study?’, ‘Where do you live now?’ and ‘Have you ever been to…?’ Graphs and charts are good for describing trends in the business world; these may well become your best friends in one-to-one business English.