English is the language to know for business these days.
Though it may not always be the case, English in business is the reason so many internationals come to the U.S. or other English speaking countries to study this important language. If you have business English students in your class, even if they are studying at the beginning and intermediate levels, you will only help them when you include business themed activities in your class. And you don’t have to include business activities to the detriment of your other ESL students. Here are a few activities to make your lessons especially helpful for your business English students but still meet the needs of all your students.
Cater for Business Student Needs Expertly
Presentations are great to include in ESL classes. They challenge your students to speak clearly and use English while they are the center of attention in your class. You students may not like giving presentations, many of mine don’t, but that doesn’t mean you should just omit them from your lessons. You can tailor this activity for any ESL class so everyone benefits from the class presentation. The first thing your students will have to do is choose a product to pitch to the class. Pretend you are setting up a classroom store, and you will decide which products to sell in the store based on their product pitches. Dedicate a blank bulletin board to the project, and tell your students that you will choose half of the products the class presents to sell in the store. For beginning and lower intermediate students, have them choose an everyday item that would be of use in class for their pitch. In their presentations, they should show a picture of the product and they should talk about the uses of that product. If your students are high intermediate or advanced, have them present a product that they can buy in their home country but that they cannot buy in this country. In their presentations, the students should show a picture of their product and talk about the uses of the product and why it would be particularly valuable for the class. After the presentations, post a picture of the products you chose to sell on your “store” bulletin board to show which presentations were most effective.
Writing an E-mail
E-mail is a great writing assignment for any ESL student, even those at the beginning level. E-mails tend to be short and informal so they are easy for ESL students to manage, and they are probably the most common form of communication in business today. If your students get email addresses as part of their academic program, help them make sure their accounts are set up and working. If students don’t have an email account (particularly if they use an English name and don’t have one set up with that name) have them sign up for a free account (Google, yahoo, hotmail, and Gmail all offer free accounts). Review with your students how to write an email, including the subject line, a greeting, the body of the email, and the closing. For intermediate students, you might also review how to add an attachment to emails. Then, almost any assignment can do double duty when you require students to send you an email when it is complete. Have students read a story or article for class and then send you a two to three sentence response over email. Have students email completed essays to you rather than handing in paper copies. Have students email each other as part of a group project and then require that they print out the email conversation and turn it in for part of their grade. You can do so many things with email in your ESL class, it’s just a matter of thinking a little bit out of the classroom box.
It’s all a Part of Business
Did you know that there are several idioms in English that are commonly used in business settings? Whether you review idioms with your class once a year or talk about a few every day, why not make a point of including some business idioms in the mix? The following English idioms are often used in a business context: the ball is in your court, be in hot water, burn bridges, get the ball rolling, get your foot in the door, glass ceiling, in the black, in the red, learn the ropes, the long haul, put on the back burner, rule of thumb, set the record straight, and talk shop. To introduce your students to these idioms, give them a list and have them discuss the idioms in groups of three students. See if anyone already knows the meaning of these idioms or can guess their meaning. Then give your students a list of the meanings of the idioms but in random order. See if they can match each idiom to its correct meaning. Finally, talk about each idiom, give the real explanation, and see if your students can use it appropriately in a sentence. As a follow up activity, you might want to have your students write a dialogue using as many business idioms as they can.
If your students plan to be in international business, they are going to have to use English in a business setting. Get them ready for the future by including business themed activities in your classroom today. Not only will your future business people value the exercises, your academic English students will still get the practice and language use they need to succeed.