14 February 2009
Many EFL teachers have the misconception that they would need a business background before they could teach Business English. My experience in Germany and Austria confirms otherwise. While many classes or books are called Business English, this is basically general English with some business vocabulary and context. You would need to prepare yourself just as you would for any general English lesson. All that is required in addition is that you familiarise yourself with the business context; if you don’t know much more than that, that’s usually okay. Your students are the ones who know about their business and having them explain it to you in English is a realistic situation and gives you, as a teacher, a focus for your future lesson planning and delivery.
One Intermediate Market Leader lesson on Strategy, for example, includes a reading by a Cisco executive about the advantages and disadvantages of mergers. There is a short vocabulary section which includes such business terms as cost cutting, demerger, sell off, disposal, rationalisation, acquisition, and economy drive; the teachers’ book has a short explanation of each. Like many Business English course books, of which I have seen quite a few, the explanation and examples are so clear and thorough that, as a native English speaker, it is easy to grasp the context and choose the target language needed. We all already know how to socialise, do polite conversation, speak on the telephone, arrange a meeting, or book a hotel in English. To make a lesson work, all that is needed is to clarify the target language and role play. It’s as easy as that. You will be amazed how much you already know even though you haven’t worked in a corporate environment.
Many teachers report that they see differences in student motivation and attendance between general English classes and Business English classes. I found that some employees were happy to get an hour off work to study Business English, although some, where the company was paying for their lessons, were not quite as motivated as those students who were shelling out their own hard-earned money. Even so, if you make the class fun and as interesting as possible you won’t have any motivation issues. This is no different from what we meet in any general English class.
The joy of teaching Business English students is that you interface with very bright and able people who are stimulating (and can be a tad cheeky!). Wilting violets should not apply!