Want Improve Your BUSINESS ENGLISH Quickly?
There are many reasons for wanting to improve your business English:
- To improve your speaking skills with bosses, clients, and colleagues.
- Wanting to feel more confident to speak up at work, to share new ideas, and get involved in meetings.
- Needing to give your confidence a boost by learning the best ways to communicate your message.
- To learn to write effective emails and secure your dream job with a well written C.V. and cover letter.
Below is an explanation of business English with some key tips for improving your skills.
What is Business English?
Business English, sometimes referred to as English for business or business communication, is a form of learning English with the aim of enhancing the English language skills necessary to communicate in a work or business environment.
Students who embark on a business English or business communication course, can expect to learn English language which helps them to improve their communication at work. Generally, these skills include email writing, report generating, making presentations, participating in business meetings, telephone conversations, and interactions with customers. This is referred to as “functional language”. The other part of business English is the “Vocabulary” which is often specialised, and not immediately understood by a non-native speaker. Advanced business terms like ‘oligopoly’ and ‘brand awareness’ rarely come up in general English courses but might be necessary for advanced business communication.
Business English is also changing with the evolving role of English in the world. The language is increasingly used as a lingua franca, and this is driving change with the focus now being more on successful communication than striving towards the pronunciation of a particular accent. This change is also reflected in course materials with blended learning bringing more of a focus on technology, self-study, and online courses.
Technological changes also mean more of a focus on email and instant messaging skills as opposed to more traditional forms of correspondence. This has meant that, as with the main English proficiency tests, many older texts and materials now seem dated or old-fashioned.
What will I Study in a Business English Course?
Business English courses should reflect the workplace needs of modern-day professionals:
Unsurprisingly, most modern business English courses include a heavy focus on email writing as this is arguably the key medium of written communication in the modern business world. A good business English course should recognise the difficulty students face in writing emails confidently and accurately. The accuracy and tone of emails are paramount as the target audience may often be a line manager or prospective client or employer. There are also many different types of business email. For example, internal and external emails can be very different in terms of tone, register, and style. Writing an email to a colleague in the same location is often much less formal than an internal email to a colleague overseas as distance often adds to the formality. In addition, there are many different functions which need to be taught (requesting, apologising, applying, selling, complaining, etc.).
Many students approach language centres saying that they only want conversation. Whilst speaking practice with native speakers is one of the most effective ways to improve your business English, lessons should still have a clear focus with overt learning objectives. This should include vocabulary in the form of key phrases as well as grammar. However, these sections can be kept fairly brief and accompanied by conversation classes with the focus on putting the students in realistic workplace situations where they need to use their business English.
Modern professionals often spend much of their time communicating with colleagues or clients over the telephone. These conversations are often high stakes and may result in positive or negative results depending on the speaker’s business English communication skills.
Large numbers of people these days spend the majority of their working time communicating over the phone, and they may benefit most from a course specifically designed to teach them the necessary skills. A well-equipped language centre will have the people and resources to put together a course specifically designed to teach business English for telephony. This is particularly useful for salespeople, help desk staff, and anyone working in a call centre.
Public speaking in a foreign language can strike fear into the hearts of those who’ve forgotten the grammar lessons of their school years. Delivering a confident presentation is difficult enough without having to worry about using the correct grammar and vocabulary. The best English for presentations or English for public speaking courses help to build the students confidence while also improving their language. These training programs should include real public speaking practice where the students have a chance to test their skills in a realistic situation. Courses should cover body language, visual aids, presentation structure, and effective phrases to ensure students can deliver hard-hitting business presentations.
Frequently, meetings are where the most important decisions are made, and revolutionary new ideas and practices are recognised. Standing out in meetings can change a person’s career for the better, resulting in more responsibility, pay rises, and even promotion. An English for Specific Purposes course focused on language for meetings can really help an employee to get noticed. Students frequently complain that they often have the best ideas but are too anxious about their English to express themselves in front of large numbers of people. A well-designed English for Meetings class can help them address these concerns. Some of the key skills can include: interrupting people politely, tactfully disagreeing, praising other people’s comments, and confidently presenting new ideas.
A good business English course should help students to improve their English grammar. A competent command of English grammar is important as it helps students speak and write with confidence. Business English grammar should focus on the element’s students are most likely to face in the workplace. It should be taught in an authentic workplace context, with practice activities designed to mimic real business situations. This authentic practice will help students to recognise the benefits as well as to apply the lessons more quickly in their everyday working lives. A practical example of this kind of grammar lesson would be teaching the present continuous for future arrangements by getting students to discuss meeting arrangements and timetables. An information gap activity is the ideal example, with two students discussing and filling the missing data in their respective timetables over an imaginary phone call.
Tips to Improve Your Business English:
- One of the best ways to improve your business vocabulary is to keep a record of all the new words you hear. This could be simply in a notebook or using an online vocabulary application such as Quizlet. Just the act of writing the word will help with retention, but to really increase the percentage of the new lexical items that you can remember and use, you need to review them frequently.
- In addition to recording individual words, try to learn key phrases because the best way to attain fluency quickly is to learn language in “lexical chunks” as Michael Lewis said in his famous book, “The Lexical Approach”. This means that writing down useful expressions in a phrase book or learning key phrases from a textbook can help a student reach fluency more quickly than by learning individual words alone. A good business English course will include the most up-to-date colloquial expressions for successful business communication.
- Another great way to improve your business English is to watch or listen to business related podcasts or radio broadcasts. This is good as passive business English practice, and students should try to listen at least once a day where possible. Watching movies or documentaries with the business focus can also be very advantageous with students benefiting from the option to add English subtitles. Viewing movies with subtitles can help students to learn new vocabulary as well as to improve listening skills.
- Proofreading any written correspondence thoroughly is also key to accurate business communication. Checking your emails before you send them might help you correct any of the errors and improve the vocabulary and tone. Proofreading also helps students to learn as the process involves thinking critically about the grammar, vocabulary, and tone.
- It is very important to get expert feedback on your writing and speaking. A good business English course will provide plenty of opportunity for teachers to assist students in improving their language. With writing, this often comes in the form of students submitting emails or letters for correction. It is important that the teacher gives constructive feedback by highlighting any repetitive errors and providing guidance on how to prevent them. Speaking correction should be done in class with teachers correcting grammar and pronunciation errors and adapting courses to focus on the more prevalent issues.
- Our brains are powerful monitoring tools capable of processing immense amounts of language every day. Try to be critical of your own language while at work and recognise the mistakes of co-workers (it is probably best not to correct them out loud though). Think about why the language is incorrect and what the correct form would be. This monitoring and correction of language is particularly effective when trying to correct persistent pronunciation errors. Breaking bad habits is hard, but perseverance can work wonders even with the most fossilised of errors.
- Make use of the time you have available. Most business people are incredibly busy these days, but there are some clever ways you can maximise your time. Firstly, use the commute to work to focus on your business English studies. This could be active practice with your business English textbook on public transport or listening to a business news broadcast on the radio in the car. Decide on what time of day you study best and either make time in the morning or the evening. Waking up 20 minutes early to watch the business news in English or reading the business section of a good online newspaper before bed will really boost your language.
- The best way to improve your language is with a good business English course with a native speaker. Many modern companies have sizable budgets for the professional development of their staff. You may think it unlikely that your manager would put you forward for a free business English course, but managers also have to provide evidence for staff development. Asking for a business English course to improve your performance at work could make you look proactive and will certainly improve your business English. Give it a try as you may just get a positive response.