How can I tailor my language lessons to business language students?

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Teaching business language is in many ways quite different from other, general language courses. Although the main objective is the same – to develop the student’s communication skills and vocabulary – business courses have their unique characteristics. Here are the main differences, including a number of useful tips to make your lessons focused on business language.

Students and their motivation

At our school, students are always working professionals. Therefore, we have to tailor our methodology to their needs and keep in mind that their motivations are diverse. They usually have a specific career-oriented goal, and the courses are often paid for by their employer. This means that they are much more motivated to succeed quickly in language learning.

A different approach

Our students are working adults, so they are often quite exhausted after a long day at work, or may feel anxious about their tasks ahead. Empathy and patience play an important role in our methods. We need to be able to help the students overcome their worries so that they can concentrate in the language lesson. They often don’t have time to study at home, so we need to plan lessons so that they learn as much as possible during the 90 minutes. Homework is mostly optional. In addition, students may sometimes cancel or postpone their lesson at the last minute due to their busy schedule. Flexibility is another key word alongside empathy.

People involved

They are not just students. Companies often pay for business English courses to help an employee get a promotion, or to prepare them for a new position that involves international travel or communication, or to better assist international clients. Managers keep track of students’ progress, which in itself can be a strong motivation for students.  

Location

In addition to the student profile, business language courses may also differ in terms of location. When teaching in person, we typically meet our students at their workplace. The location may be a large office building, a conference room or a meeting room. For this reason, our dress code should be chosen accordingly. Even if we are teaching online, our appearance and outfit must match what is acceptable in an office.

Content

The course material is tailor-made; in all cases, it is related to the workplace or the business world, on topics such as global business cultures or a day at work. In addition to general business language, there is a high demand for business communication skills such as expressing opinions, giving presentations, talking to clients, telephone etiquette, dealing with colleagues, the language of meetings, negotiation, writing emails, reports, just to name a few.

Of course, the most useful course books are those that focus specifically on business language. For English, for example, the recently published and fully digitised Business Partner series is a great solution, but you can also teach fantastic, complex business language with the Market Leader series as well.

Sometimes, at the request of the students, we use a course book they have already purchased prior to the course, which happens to teach general language. In such cases, it is very important to adapt the topics and make them focus on business language, to find the business implications and to learn them from that aspect. For example, if the topic is travelling, we might focus on business trips, in case of eating out, we may teach useful language for a business lunch, on the topic of leisure, it might be work-life balance, with friends: colleagues, cooperation, and so on.

In our lessons, we also use interesting resources such as current business magazines, industry-related podcasts or videos about news on the market to diversify the lesson.

The business language teacher

An open mind, a curious attitude to what is happening in the business world, a broad general knowledge, professionalism and a coaching mindset are all key factors. Business language teachers act almost not as language teachers but more as instructors, facilitators, working in partnership with the students. They build a team and develop collaboration. Like a great coach, they enhance the students’ strengths and develop the language areas that have to be improved through discussions, conversations and questions that support the students at work.

If you want to teach interesting and useful content, make sure to keep up with the events of the industry and the economic world, as this is the only way to be authentic in a business language lesson. You don’t have to be an expert – after all, the experts are the students! However, an effective business language teacher brings up-to-date, exciting and engaging online resources to their lessons. They keep the students’ needs in mind and support their development by always focusing on the business language skills needed.

Teaching business language has a unique added value for the teachers: whether they want to or not, they are constantly developing and learning, and in the course of their work they themselves acquire a business mindset and a businessperson’s approach. This gives them a whole new perspective on the world, their insight broadens and they may become more empathetic and tolerant. Being a business language teacher is one of the most beautiful professions!

Last but not least, remember that a business language teacher always has a rich set of tools to make their lessons unforgettable. Fortunately, there are many resources on the Internet to choose from. To name just a few examples:

Vocabulary, listening comprehension, reading comprehension exercises: https://www.businessenglishsite.com 

In addition to vocabulary, business language skills, meeting, presentation, email, etc. exercises for teachers, practice exercises for language learners: https://www.businessenglishresources.com/ 

Youtube videos for learning business vocabulary in many topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/bizpod 

Listening comprehension skills development, awesome conversation-invoking podcasts from the programmes of BBC and American National Public Radio: https://www.englishpage.com/listening/ 

Illés Csilla
Illés Csilla
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