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Adult English Lessons / Business English Classes / English Teaching

An Introduction to Teaching Business English Classes

How should you teach a business English class? Can any student take a business English class? Should you use a textbook? Teaching business English can be difficult, but it can also be very rewarding. Below we answer all your questions and more about teaching business English classes.

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In this article we are going to go over some various methods that you can use when teaching a business English class. We will try to provide you with some variations to the basic plan and we will also try to provide you information that will help you teach different levels of students business English. It is important to remember that there is not one perfect way to teach any class. The information that you will find here is simply some methods that we have found useful to us when teaching our own business English classes.First let’s talk about some basic objectives for these classes.

 

Basic Objectives

  • Business related vocabulary
  • Formal English
  • Listening skills
  • Role-playing
  • Business Reading and Writing Skills
  • Grammatical Patterns/ Sentence Patterns

 

Business related vocabulary

Words used in business conversations or in business related conversations are often very different from words that we use in everyday conversation. That means that we have to introduce these vocabulary words to our students and constantly reinforce them, review them and have our students use them in various situations and conversations.

 

Formal English

Of course it depends on the country that the student is conducting his business in but in general business English is much more formal than standard conversational English. Within formal English there are also many nuances and this can make it very difficult for many students to use it properly. We must teach our students the various patterns of formal English and we must also teach them when and when not to use it.

 

Listening skills

Many businessmen travel around the world and conduct business with a wide range of nationalities. These different nationalities all have different pronunciations and intonations when using English. As teachers we need to constantly give our students opportunities to listen to different dialects and pronunciation. This will help prepare them for any future encounter they may have regardless of nationality.

 

Role-playing

Role-playing activities gives the students an opportunity to use everything that they have learned in previous classes in a realistic situation. Without these role-playing activities the students will be severely lacking in experience using the English that they learn. It would be like training for a boxing match by practicing technique over and over but never actually stepping in the ring to spar or have a practice fight.

 

Business Reading and Writing Skills

A lot of business revolves around emails. It is very important for students to learn how to correctly read and interpret emails that they receive and how to correctly write emails so that they are easily understandable.

 

Grammatical Patterns/ Sentence Patterns

In the case of lower-level students you may have to include beginner grammatical patterns and sentence patterns in the lesson. In fact, if they are very low level then this will have to be the main focus of the lessons until the students make enough progress to move on to more difficult goals.

 

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Methods

Before we go over the basic plan for a business English class let’s go over some of the common methods used to teach the various objectives and goals. Here I split up the methods into two groups. The first is used for primary objectives of the lesson or as I will later refer to it as the key point. The second group consists of secondary objectives and I will go over each method individually. The main reason I want to go over all these methods is that your class and my class might be different in length and frequency. My class might be 50 minutes and yours might be an hour and a half. Also my students and your students are probably going to be different. I might have three students and you might have 10. Because of these variations in classes there is not one particular perfect lesson plan or way to teach a lesson. What you should do is look at the various methods that I will explain below and try to create your own lesson plan. Try that lesson plan out and then if you had some time left over in the class add a few secondary objective activities, if you didn’t have enough time to finish the lesson then take away a couple of activities. Let’s start with a common method for teaching primary objectives or key points.

Whenever you are introducing a new idea or concept in a class you want to have the whole class focused on studying and understanding that new idea. Let’s say that I want to teach my students various polite ways to make recommendations. This is my key point for my lesson. This is my primary objective. So usually I will follow this type of plan:

 

Primary Objective Method

Warm Up

Sample Conversation (with the key point)

Key Point Explanations

Key Point Simple Practice (Written)

Key Point Spoken Practice

Simple Role Playing Activity (with key point)

Review

For a detailed explanation of each of these methods click here.

Depending on the amount of time we have available in our classes or the number of students we may want to add some secondary objectives into our lesson plans. These objectives or goals are generally things such as learning new vocabulary words or practicing correct pronunciation or even different cultural attitudes around the world.

If your class is not very long, for example 50 minutes or one hour, then it might be difficult to add some of these secondary objectives into your lesson plan. If this is the case then I suggest you have one class primarily focused on teaching the primary objective of the lesson. Then in the next class you can include many more secondary goals. Then in the next class you can introduce a new primary goal. So something like this:

Monday Class:

Primary Objective: Polite Recommendations

Warm Up

Sample Conversation (with the key point)

Key Point Explanations

Key Point Simple Practice (Written)

Key Point Spoken Practice

Simple Role Playing Activity (with key point)

Review

 

Wednesday Class:

Secondary Objectives

Warm Up

Vocab Builder (related to Monday’s Class)

Listening Exercise (related to Monday’s Class)

Reading/Writing Activity (related to Monday’s Class)

Review Role Playing Activity (similar to Monday’s Class)

 

If you have a longer class such as an hour and a half or two hours long then you can easily teach a primary goal with other secondary goals in one lesson. So something like this:

Monday Class:

Primary Objective and Secondary Objectives: Polite Recommendations

Warm Up

Vocab Builder (related to Monday’s Class)

Sample Conversation (with the key point)

Key Point Explanations

Key Point Simple Practice (Written)

Listening Exercise (related to Monday’s Class)

Key Point Spoken Practice

Simple Role Playing Activity (with key point)

Reading/Writing Activity (related to Monday’s Class)

Review

 

Now let’s go over some different methods that you can use to teach secondary objectives for your business English classes. Secondary objectives can be added into your classes curriculum based on your student’s individual needs and weaknesses. With a little variation, all of these methods can be used in other classes as well.

Secondary Objective Methods

  • Vocab Builder
  • Listening Exercise
  • Pronunciation
  • Email Activity
  • Telephone Practice
  • Review Role Playing Activity
  • Reading Activity
  • Culture Focus

For more information on teaching secondary objectives click here.

 

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Cautions and Warnings

There are a couple things you have to be careful about when teaching business English classes. Like all classes you must understand the motivations of your students. If you have a class of 20 young factory workers who are being forced to study English either supervisors then you have to worry about their motivation level throughout the course. This means that you might want to sprinkle in more activities and games that might allow the students to practice their English but at the same time relax.

Another thing that you have to be careful with is when you are teaching individual students in private classes. Generally these students will be management and executive level. Many of these students enjoy having everyday conversations with the teacher. In certain situations this can be beneficial for the student but you shouldn’t do this every class or for more than 5 to 10 minutes. Remember that this is a business English class not a conversation class. While having these everyday conversations in English might be fun or enjoyable for the student there are better ways to improve the students English skills.

I can’t say it enough but review is extremely important. Students are going to need to review what they have studied and any new vocabulary words many time to for they will be able to easily produce them in a real conversation. As this is a business English class most of the students at some point in their career are going to have to use what they’re learning in your classroom. This is why I think doing role-playing activities can be so beneficial. This type of review is so much better than simply having the teacher right a couple sentences on the board. With these role-playing activities the students have to actually use what they learned.

 

Example Lesson

(link out)

 

Student levels

Understanding your student’s level of English ability is extremely important for all classes but especially for business classes. It certainly is possible to teach low level students “business” English. There will be many similarities with “standard” classes but certainly the vocabulary, role-playing exercises and level of politeness will be different. Of course if your school doesn’t have enough students to warrant creating a lower-level English business-class then you will have to tell lower-level students that they need to improve their English in normal “standard” classes for a little while before entering business classes or take a private class. At my own school business English student have to be at an intermediate or above level of ability. Occasionally I will have a student who slightly lower than intermediate and I will give them a more “basic” lessons as homework to try to bring them up to the same level as everyone else.

 

Textbooks

Finding a good “business” English textbook can make your classes much easier. It also will decrease the amount of preparation time that you have to do before class. But you also have to be careful because there are quite a few “business” English textbooks that are not very good. Click here to see some of our reviews for various business English textbooks available on the market today.

 

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Conclusions

Business English classes are very similar to normal conversation English classes but they differ in that the themes and topics are business related and that the students require more role-playing activities as they will very likely will find themselves in the very situations. It is very important for you to find a good textbook that you can use in your class.

 

 

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Randy League owns an English School in Japan and has been teaching English for 20 years. In his free time he trains MMA , plays video games and studies Japanese.

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