10 Essential English Skills Your Students Need for the Business World

10 Essential English Skills Your Students Need for the Business World

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 35,423 views

Many students travel overseas to study English, and though they may be in a scholastic setting their real goal is advancement in the business world.

Many ESL programs offer classes and courses of study specifically designed for business English, but other programs place business English students into generalized academic English classes. Even so, your business English students can gain the skills they will need in the business world if their teachers are aware of what they need. Whether your business English students have their own course of study or they are studying in generalized English classes, here are some language skills they will need when they enter or reenter the business world.


  1. 1


    Meetings will be a part of any business setting. Whether they happen once a year or once an hour, your business English students will need to have their listening skills at top-notch level. By giving your students times for group discussion, especially group problem solving, they will acquire skills for listening to multiple people simultaneously and deciphering the meaning and intention of each participant’s words.

  2. 2


    Likewise, your business students will at times listen to others giving presentations. They may be analysis oriented, proposal based or informational. These presentations will challenge your students to have good listening comprehension and good vocabulary deciphering skills. Take every opportunity you can to invite guest speakers into your classroom, and check your students’ comprehension after each presentation. They will benefit from exposure to different speakers and speaking styles as well as different types of content.


  1. 3

    Giving a Presentation

    Your students will also have to give their own presentations, and you can easily prepare them in your ESL class. Giving your students opportunities to speak to fellow students will ease the tension that comes with public speaking. In addition, working on pronunciation and accent reduction can help your students be more confident when they speak to groups and help their listeners understand them better. If you want to take their presentations skills to the next level, look for opportunities to speak to an unfamiliar group of people.

  2. 4

    Small Talk

    Whether it is potential clients or coworkers at the water cooler, your students will have to make small talk with their colleagues. Give your students a chance to meet new people, in public settings or by inviting groups to class to get them ready. Lining up conversation partners is a great way to help with small talk, too. Make sure they know which subjects are appropriate for small talk (weather, entertainment, sports, and celebrities to name a few) and the vocabulary with which to discuss them.

  3. 5

    Talking with the Boss

    Your students will need to be comfortable speaking with their superiors in the business world. Many companies require weekly or monthly one on one meetings between each employee and his superior. They may need to discuss problems, give recommendations or set goals when talking to their employer. Make sure you give your students opportunities to do the same with you, the classroom authority figure, and they will have an easier time when they do the same in the business world. Schedule one on one teacher student conferences and allow your students to express their concerns, ask questions or offer suggestions.


  1. 6


    We live in an electronic society, and many offices are making strides to go paperless. This means that email is essential in the office. If your school offers email accounts, make a habit of communicating with students via email. Send out details on homework assignments, field trips or test reviews. You may even give student evaluations via email. It will help them become familiar with the style used in email.

  2. 7


    Even in green companies, letters still seem to pile up. Make sure your students will be able to tackle the daily mail by discussing the format of a letter as well as the more formal vocabulary used to write them. Your students may also benefit from familiarity with formal letters and how they are used in the business world.

  3. 8

    Non-text Reading

    Where business is, money is also, and many financial figures are reported in charts and graphs in the business world. In addition, business students will have to manage their own schedules as well as departmental calendars, so giving your students practice reading non-text items like charts and graphs is important. Use realia found in the newspaper or online, and challenge your students that reading is more than what comes between a capital letter and a period.


  1. 9


    Just as your students will have to read email on a regular basis, they will also have to write their own electronic communications. Ask your students to submit items to your email account. Homework is the natural go to, but try asking for feedback on field trips or class activities, too. Your students may also benefit from typing exercises, especially if their language uses a different writing system than English.

  2. q


    Though not as common as they once were, letters are still a part of the business world. Your students should have the tools they need to write the occasional letter when necessary. You can find step by step instructions in this lesson on writing business letters.

When a teacher is aware of her students’ needs, she is halfway to meeting them. If you are teaching generalized ESL classes, you should make a point of including activities in your classroom that will help your business students get ready for the corporate world.

They will appreciate the comprehensive education especially if they would prefer to be in a business specific program. Business skills are easily incorporated in the ESL classroom, and they are beneficial for all of your students to learn.

What percentage of your students are interested in business English?

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