Students from across the globe are taking Business English lessons and the reasons are obvious. In today’s globalized world, English is the language of choice when it comes to conducting business. Moreover, those who speak English, and speak it well, often have a competitive advantage over their business rivals. And those who seek better job opportunities also turn to Business English courses to increase their chances of success in today’s tough job market. These Business English students are very different from other ESL learners. You'll find they are highly motivated and will embrace the activities you set forth with great enthusiasm, as long as these activities are targeted to help them meet their communication goals.
So, without further ado, here are some great activities for the Business English class.
The best type of speaking activity for students who wish to polish their Business English involves role plays. All you have to do is place your students in real-life situations and roles.
1. The job interview
First have students come up with a list of some of the most common job interview questions. These may include any of the following:
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What were your responsibilities at your last job?
- What is your biggest strength?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Which skills and abilities do you possess?
- What are your qualifications?
- What motivates you to do a good job?
- Why should we hire you?
Ask students to brainstorm possible answers to each of these questions. Remind them of the usual interview strategies, like presenting a weakness that is actually a strength. Have students pair up and take turns being interviewer and job applicant. Walk around the classroom to offer assistance as needed.
2. Company rundown
For this activity, you'll need to use real-life, original materials. Ask students to bring in brochures, leaflets, or any type of sales literature from their companies, or bring some material yourself (you can print Web pages that clearly list a company’s services and products). Discuss with students what visitors to the company might want to know, what information they might seek, etc... With the help of the brochures and sales copy, students brainstorm different ways in which to present the company’s services:
- We supply quality Web design.
- We adhere to the industry's highest standards of quality.
- We provide IT solutions and offer live assistance 24/7.
Students take turns playing the roles of visitor and company employee. You may download the complete procedure for this role play, here.
The most successful writing activities for students of Business English, center on email writing, naturally, because it’s the type of writing that most students are expected to handle on a daily basis.
Fortunately, there are several worksheets available at BusyTeacher.org, from sample emails to email writing exercises. Also, a very useful worksheet to share with students is the one that presents the 32 Most Important Email Etiquette Tips. And don't forget to assign email for homework!
Reading and vocabulary building
Students of Business English need a great deal of vocabulary to feel confident enough to conduct business in English. You can supply them with endless vocabulary lists, but they need to practice these words in context. And there’s no better context than the current business events we read about in the newspaper every day.
1. Newspaper or magazine clippings
Choose short newspaper or magazine articles, or extracts. Give each student one short article or extract, with 3 or 4 questions they must answer. Students read and answer the comprehension questions. Students then ask each other: “Have you heard the latest about ABC Telecom?” And proceed to summarize the news.
2. Wikipedia entries and business blogs
There are countless reading resources available on the Internet, from Wikipedia entries to business blog posts. If the texts are too complex or too difficult for your students, you may choose to give them your own simplified version. Whatever you choose to have students read, each reading exercise must be accompanied by a series of steps, for a successful learning experience.
Here’s an example with this Wikipedia entry on the recession (first two paragraphs).
- Warm up to introduce the topic: Ask students what they know about an economic recession.
- Introduce key vocabulary: in this case, contraction, investment spending, employment, inflation, etc… and practice through examples.
- Ask students a general question about the text and have them skim the text for the answer: “What generally causes a recession?”
- Students read the text again to answer more specific questions.
Whether they already give presentations or not on a daily basis, it is essential for your students to be prepared to give them. It's also a great way to practice key vocabulary. In the following example, the teacher introduces the language of charts and graphs.
Charts and graphs
First go over the differences between a pie chart, bar graph, and line graph, and provide examples. Then introduce the language of charts: increase, decrease, go up, go down, rise, fall, jump, slump, improve, decline, slight, gradual, sharp, dramatic, major, etc…Present students two charts, for example, figures for the first and second quarter, and give them examples: “There was a gradual increase in sales” or “Sales increased gradually in the second quarter”. Students practice presenting the information on other charts, which may include market share comparison (Blackberry has captured a greater share of the market, while Palm has lost market share in the second quarter); sales figures; profits; taxes; etc…
To provide successful Business English lessons all you have to do is focus on your students’ needs.
Do they need to write in English? Speak English on the telephone? General business vocabulary or more specific ter ms? If you cater to their needs, you’ll not only be preparing them to face the business world with the right English skills, but also helping them on the road to success!
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