How to Teach Business English

12 Things to Keep in Mind When you Teach Business English

How you decide to approach teaching Business English will ultimately  turn on your students. What area of business are they working in? What is their actual job title and responsibilities and how does English fluency play or factor into that? Do they for example, have lots of business meetings, business lunches and business conferences to attend and need intensive preparation in a short span of time? How will they use the language? In what context? What is their objective as far as English training? Is it just a question of polishing up their C1 to get to a C2 level? Are they beginners who are trying to learn the basics?   Is this a one on one situation? Is it a small group? Are you teaching a large group of university students?

The thing is that “Business” is such a wide field that encompasses a lot of ground. You have so many sub-groups in so many fields such as marketing, advertising, accounting, civic, media, law, finance, banking, management, entrepreneurship, technology, and more. If you think that a one size fits all approach would be appropriate to all these different groups, think again. There are some common elements but on the whole, be prepared to create some bespoke lesson plans that are adapted to the particular student or industry.

Keep in mind also that when teaching business professionals, their time is really valuable to them so you have to thread carefully and DELIVER quickly on their expectations lest they sulk away and accuse you of wasting it.

To teach Business English well you need to do the following:
  1. Do a needs analysis at the beginning of the session to assess the student’s level and to get a sense of what their expectations are for the course.
  2. Have a  frank discussion with the student to get a sense of what they want to prioritize and what they think they can get out of the course making sure to explain what is feasible and realistic in the time frame you will be working with.
  3. Get a clear understanding of the context in which the student will be using English.
  4. Create lessons for Speaking and Writing first of all and reading comprehension should be a distant third prong. That is to say, don’t overload them with too much boringness as far as long, hard to digest articles – unless you think in your subjective judgment that this is going to be helpful to the student.
  5. Even though reading comprehension should be a distant prong, do use articles from reputable publications to encourage discussion. The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the New York Times Business Section and other journals relating to business are great sources of articles for business students.
  6. Focus on a lot of business vocabulary that is relevant to the context the student will use the language.
  7. Use videos that are related to business and busines issues – relevant to the student’s work – for discussions and role plays.
  8. Give the students a lot of opportunity to do Business English role plays of scenarios likely to occur in their day to day activities.
  9. Do not ignore grammar just because the students may think their grammar is already perfect. When you teach Business English, keep in mind that a lot of times grammar is a problem for many English learners. Indeed the issue with getting past their blocks has to do with fundamental grammar issues almost 100 percent of the time. So you should be ready to mix in a little bit of grammar to your classes to help move the students’ level upwards.
  10. Almost all business English students will want some practice with their email writing skills so be prepared to do a few interactive lessons on writing emails when you teach Business English.
  11. Do not overlook other social communication such as English text messages, and social media such as tweeting and Facebook posting  practice as this could also be relevant for the student’s work.
  12. Keep things lively and entertaining and relevant while at the same time you should think of yourself as a “facilitator” and not so much as a “teacher.”