TEFL Teaching Business English

With the changing nature of the world today learning English is becoming more and more important in the business sector. As such, numbers of people from non English speaking backgrounds, specifically, business men and women, to learn English that is appropriate in a business environment is increasing exponentially. Globalisation of the macro environment of business means there is an increseasing need for there to be one international language for businesses and more importantly, business people to communicate in. Companies are changing from being national to multi national and global. The are also seeking to outsource certain functions within their business structure to attempt to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. With enormous differences in labour costs globally, there are dollars to be saved and profits to be made.

There have long been discussions about the need for a globally accepted language. For example substantial investment in foreign countries in the 1980?s suggested to some that Japanese may be the language of the world in the future. Now, post 2000, it appears that China may grow to very influential size if not dominate the world?s business sector. Will Chinese be the global language? Would it be Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien or one of the other 100 dialects of Chinese? For this reason and countless others, the current and future language of communication for international business will be English.

People in the business sector have a strong desire to succeed and to do so on an international scale involves communicating with other organisations in other countries. They will need to communicate in a mutually understandable language which in the foreseeable future will be English. In ?Changing the paradigm in business English,? Jaiswal and Tata (2006), state, ?For the success of the organization, communication and mastery of business English was identified as one of the crucial competencies for all employees, (

As the nature of business continues to overcome distances and country borders there will be further increases in the demand for students who need to learn business English. ?What is business English? Quite simply, it is the English required to do business. It refers to the English needed for negotiating, socialising, making presentations, telephoning or for contributing in meetings, for example. The exact business English needs will vary depending on the student, hence the need for a proper, in-depth needs analysis early on.,? (

To learn English for use in a business atmosphere, a student must first learn the basics of the language. This will include but no be limited to grammar, tenses and vocabulary. Of course the vocabulary can be situationally specific. That is, an international sales manager from Thailand will not need to fluently ask ?could you open the window please? to help negotiate a sale but may need to request ?could you sign the contract please.? The needs of business English students vary form course to course. Some require fast and visible progress as they need English to do business in the real world. There are a number of words in the general business syllabus that business students will need in order to socialise and make small talk, but some language is very specialised and will only be appropriate for business people in that field, guide/BUSENG-01.pdf.)

Where an ordinary English student would learn very elementary vocabulary, the business English student can learn those phrases and words that are relevant to his / her personal business circumstances. A marketing manager may learn marketing vocabulary and a logistics or production manager may learn delivery or manufacturing language respectively.

The basic building blocks of English, that is grammar and vocabulary must always be the first step towards learning business English. Once a student can successfully use the third conditional in a correct way and insert a modal auxilliary verb into a sentence to change its meaning, for example, only then can the focus of the business English class be totally on business language.

As the use of English in an international atmosphere continues to rise, so will the need for English teachers to be skilled in business language and in the teaching of said language to speakers of other languages. Most teachers currently teaching English to non native speakers around the world are not from a business background but a teaching or other background. Their teaching skills are no doubt exceptional for the most part but there may be gaps in knowledge in the normal use of business English as it pertains to international business. Another problem exists in finding materials that are suitable for language instructors who may be new to business topics such as marketing and distribution, accounting, financial instruments, current management theory, and so forth (

It is here where the void must be filled if the use of English as the global language is to continue and succeed. Already there are shortages of English teachers in many countries around the world as demonstrated by the countless numbers of courses around the world that claim to teach native English speakers how to teach English as a foreign language. Vast numbers of schools run a substantial amount of courses training thousands of people to become English teachers each year. Then consider for a moment how many of those teachers will go on to become teachers and are asked to teach business English to high flying executives, merchant bankers, heads of multinational corporations and the like. The numbers may seem small and insignificant but as more and more businesses enter the realm of international business, three will be a great increase in the numbers of top level management people not just wanting, but needing to learn English in as quick a time as possible.

The need for trained business English teachers is rising and will continue to rise. There is a great need for any teachers with an interest or experience in the business field to step into the area of business English teaching. If the international business world is to continue to develop at the ever increasing rate that it currently enjoys, the need for communication in a universal language will continue to grow. Teaching business English to business people is as essential to the growth of the international business community as the businesses themselves.

Author: Nigel Doughan

Date of post: 2007-01-08