Tips for Teaching EFL/ESL Business English

Teaching EFL Business English comes under the heading of English for Special Purposes (ESP): the special purpose in this case is – business.

So, what should you, as a novice EFL teacher, be aware of when teaching Business English? Here are a few useful tips worth remembering.

As it concerns you – and I cannot stress this enough – DON’T try to play the businessman. You are not! Your job is to teach English – nothing more!

Make sure that you dress smartly: jacket, trousers, shirt and tie, and shoes should be the minimum standard of dress: don’t go dressed in a T-shirt, sneakers, and torn jeans as if you’re going to a gig. Make sure that you are punctual, organized, and professional: being late for lessons would be seriously frowned upon.

As it concerns the students, they will probably already have a good level of English: they will therefore be keen to learn how to express themselves in English speaking business settings.

You, as a novice EFL teacher, may find it particularly difficult to deal with such students since they will not be interested in merely learning routine grammar and vocabulary: almost everything that you teach will have to have a practical application in a business setting – don’t forget this.

If you can, research your class’s background BEFORE you start teaching: this will determine your teaching strategy, as it is highly likely – unless you are teaching a general business English course – that all the students will have the same business background, e.g., accountancy, banking & finance; the leisure sector; marketing, advertising & PR, etc. Once you have this information, you will be able to tailor your course to their specific area of expertise: this will best be achieved by making use of an appropriate ESP book, or failing that – you will have to make your own handouts. Damn!

Irrespective of the type of business English course, 5 topic areas will always have to be covered: correspondence, negotiation, listening, specialized vocabulary, and chitchat. Here are some tips for teaching these topics: correspondence work can be done by splitting the class up into pairs/groups for letter writing tasks. Negotiations and chitchat can be done using role-play activities. Listening exercises should be focused on business conversations and telephone exchanges. Finally, specialized vocabulary can be learnt using classified lists of vocabulary and cloze tests.

Don’t forget! Your business is to teach English – do it like a professional.