When starting out, many teachers might find themselves intimidated by these words. Business English undoubtedly sounds very professional, and appears to require a whole range of different skills and qualifications. This is not necessarily so.
Being a native English speaker or someone of near-native level will undoubtedly be one of the first steps with regards to this. When one steps into a business English class, it is important to realise the goal first and foremost. You will be there to teach people how to improve their English communication skills within a business setting. It is just like teaching English in any other sense, the only difference is that it is focused on doing it within a corporate setting as opposed to a casual, everyday set-up.
How to Teach Business English: Employment
Suss Out the Class
One of the first things to remember is that you will be teaching adults. Depending on where you are, this could be a single one-on-one class or a large group. Some of the students may be paying for the classes themselves, whilst other will be sent their by a company. Students who pay for their own classes tend to be more interested and motivated. For students sent by their employer, it is possible that they could see this as time off work.
Setting the Goal
Keeping the class interested and engaged will be one of the first things one needs to do. It is paramount that the students do more talking than the teacher. This is referred to Student Talking Time as opposed to Teacher Talking Time. When beginning, it will be you who is speaking the most. The aim of the class will be to gradually decrease one’s own amount of speaking and allow the students to take over.
Grab Their Interest
So in order to find a topic which might interest everyone, employment would be a good place to start. Students might start to “come out of their shell” so to speak, if you begin to ask them about their work and their hours. It is well known that most people like to complain, and this could be a chance for them to vent. In venting any frustration they might have, they will be using English and attaining the goal you originally set out to do.
Explore and Build Vocabulary
So to begin, a good idea would be to elicit words from the students with regards to employment. “Contract”, “pay check” and others could be written up on the board. A word of warning: don’t go prying into the student’s lives and ask them what their pay is. Rather focus on the aspects of being employed. It is also important to steer away from any negative comments about a particular employer. Rather, focus on the positive or the everyday aspects of the job.
Time to Develop
With a fresh bank of vocabulary now available, it might be a good idea to encourage the students further. One of the ways of doing this is to come up with an activity or a game. Perhaps even a role-play. Setting up a mock interview would also be a good idea. In doing this, the students will get a chance to speak to the imaginary “employer” and answer questions through English.
The Importance of Eliciting Words
From this mock interview process, we can then elicit more words from the students. Eliciting words will help the students to think, rather than being spoon-fed by their instructor. So to begin with, have the students pair up. Give them a topic, or make them come up with their own. Then, ask one to be the employer and one to be the candidate. Give the “employers” a few minutes to create some questions for the “candidate” to answer.
Allow Some Supervised Free Reign
Allow the class about ten minutes to practice their role-plays. Walk around and make sure that they are speaking English, and see if anybody has any problems. By keeping an eye on them, they will be more likely to speak in English to one another rather than slipping back into their native tongue. Listen and keep score until the very end, and then end the exercise.
Keep Focus on New Words
Ask questions of the students. What skills did X have. Try and elicit more words. For example, if a student mentions the verb “buy”, ask them if there are any other verbs which mean the same thing. This will definitely help to expand the vocabulary of the students, and allow their brains to get thinking.
Rehashing the Practice Session
Once we have collected a large amount of vocabulary, it is time to put it into use. Get two students to come up to the front of the class and act as a candidate and employer, echoing the previous exercise. Give them a few minutes to prepare, but this time they must use some of the new words that you have written out on the board and gotten from other students.
Everyone else will be able to sit back and watch the interplay. By coming up in front of the class, they will be encouraged to speak a little louder and talk more in English. If time permits, one could do this for all the groups present although this is not necessary. Alternatively, one could choose to simply re-do the role-play exercise but with the new vocabulary.
Always Remember the Goal
The key to business English is to teach the students how to use it within a business setting, and apart from that the addition of new vocabulary is always a plus. When students are familiar with grammar structures and how to use them, all one can do is to build on their bank of word knowledge, and teach them how to apply it to a specific scenario or situation.
Role-plays are an essential component of business English, as they allow the students to express themselves in a certain manner. Any activity, especially from the reading of a specific text, will also allow for more vocabulary opportunities to arise.
So when heading into one’s first business English class, there is no need for alarm. At the end of the day, business English is just giving people instruction in a specific manner of talking.
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