Business English “English is used in 80% of the

“English is used in 80% of the world´s international business communication and most of the world´s trade and financial dealing.”(1)

Although I have no experience of teaching English as a second / foreign / additional language, I have enjoyed the ITTT course (2) enormously. I have no immediate plans to put my new knowledge into action – but at some point I hope to teach adults – potentially within a business or professional setting.

Business English is a rapidly growing part of the TEFL sector – and requires some basic and some more significant modifications to the generic TEFL methodologies. Increasingly, Business English (BE) is becoming differentiated into ‘English for Specific Purposes’ - for example – “Hotel Reception Language Skills”; “Legal English”; “Scientific English” etc.

Many courses (3) are tailor-made for executives who need to improve their professional language skills and who require specialised vocabulary with technical terms, in areas such as medicine, engineering, law, computing, architecture, tourism etc. Some TEFL companies carefully select families for their clients to live with, matching the student´s needs and trying to provide a teacher of similar professional background to the student. It is also interesting to note that such course are often combined with sporting and other activities and may only involve a single hour of language tuition per day!

A critical starting point for any teacher is that these learners are not attending your course to learn about their jobs – you’re not going to have to teach them about how to be a good lawyer or businessman or doctor. Your job is to improve their proficiency and confidence whenever they require to use the English language. Generally, BE students – or ‘clients’ will be taught one-to-one, or in a group at their place of work, or attending a specific institution – and coming from one or more places of work. There are two main types of BE learner – firstly, those still training or perhaps waiting to start a job – and secondly, those already in a job who need to be able to work in English. Each has very different needs but they are both very focused and need English as a tool, not as a subject of study.

In BE courses, grammar and vocabulary will of course still play a part. However most will focus on skills such as Meetings, Presentations and Negotiations and on Work-related contexts, such as Marketing, Human Resources or Finance. Most of the course materials should be very relevant and authentic or specifically-designed for the student or work sector.

Additionally, a BE course of high value should encompass the techniques of management training in addition to English language training – where possible, including simulation, case study, team- building, problem-solving, coaching and mentoring.

Ideally, though not essentially, BE teachers should have some experience of the business world so that they are able to “speak the same language” as their students. The best BE teachers often have qualifications in other areas such as Economics, Science, IT or Law which enable them to handle specific needs. Although ‘Total Quality’ is a business concept, it should also apply to (particularly the more exclusive and expensive) BE courses.

Additionally, a good BE course should be student-focused throughout, rather than just follow a course book, an examination syllabus or a teacher’s preferences. This means that there should always be a diagnostic assessment and a needs analysis before a student arrives – followed by early needs negotiation and continuous monitoring and feedback throughout the course.

Business English students will (almost) always be highly motivated – though they may be tired at the end of a working day – and may even have to miss key lessons because of work-related commitments. They may also have unrealistic expectations of themselves and of the course in terms of rapidity of progress – they can be tough customers!

Interested' I am and intend to study the ITT Business English module as soon as possible. There are many such courses available. A typical, 40 hour Business Language Teaching (4) course might have the objective of providing the skills necessary for teaching English and international business affairs to executives – and is likely to be aimed at teachers who have completed a TEFL Certificate Programme. Such a course would be specifically focused on what the needs of Business Executives are likely include, for example:

•Preparing a business plan

•Marketing research and promotion

•Business writing skills, letter writing, and internationally accepted resumes

•Management skills

•International banking and money

•Comparing business practices internationally

•Conducting business and telephone meetings in English

•Presentation and Negotiation Skills

There’s definitely a new career out there waiting – wish me luck!


1Business English UK.2007.

2ITTT International TEFL Teacher Training - Unit 19. 2006.

3HLI – Home Language International. 2007.

4Vancouver Language Centre – Mexico. 2007.