How to Learn English for Business

With more and more businesses embracing the global nature of today’s world, the need for people who are skilled in using English is growing all the time. English for business falls under the category of English for Special Purposes (ESP) and as the demand for it grows, the range of options for learning English for business expands. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding English for business, particularly when it comes to the expertise of the teachers themselves as well as the quality of the materials available on the market.

In this article, we’re going to explore how we can go about learning English for business as well as the options available so you can make the right choice.

What does it mean to learn English for Business

It means you can have meetings like this!

I want to begin by clarifying what it means to learn English for business purposes. For a lot of people, there seems to be an expectation that doing ESP lessons focused on business will involve studying and learning a long list of business terms in English. There’s also the misconception that English for business lessons are boring and people can learn through translating the terms they use in their own language. Furthermore, some feel that learning English for business will make them better at negotiations and striking better deals. All three of these opinions surrounding learning English for business are at best half true.

English for business does involve learning terms that are meant for use in a business context. However, the vocabulary you learn in English for business classes are for general use and rarely go into specialized terms such as Information Technology jargon and accounting related words. Vocabulary isn’t always the main focus of business English lessons because words are better taught through context rather than outright memorized. When learning English for business, you will be mostly engaged with reading and listening material that will contain some vocabulary that will be useful in a business context. You will also spend quite a bit of time improving your speaking and, even more importantly, your writing skills. Through these activities, you will learn and practice a lot of functional language for business, meaning expressions and specific grammar patterns that are essential for formal contexts. These will likely include patterns that are good for making deals and negotiating and while they’re extremely useful, they aren’t enough to make you a negotiation wizard in English. Success in negotiation goes well beyond the language you use and there are a ton of factors that come into play, which are beyond the scope of this article.

What I’m getting at, essentially, is that learning English for business is more about developing your formal language skills. Formality doesn’t always necessarily speaking like the Queen of England. Rather, it has to do with speaking and writing in a way that is clear and respectful. A lot of this clarity gets lost in translation when our language skills aren’t sufficient enough. By learning English for business you will gain the ability to communicate with your English-speaking clients, partners, colleagues, and superiors effectively and with the respect that is expected in work settings.

Self-studying English for Business

You work hard enough already

The majority of people who want to learn English for business are those who already have a job and are likely looking to get a better salary, a promotion, or even more opportunities to travel abroad and interact with overseas clients and partners. I’d argue that it’s these people that have the most success learning English for business because their motivations are higher and they have the ability to practice what they learn in a live context. Since people who are already working have little free time, they often tend to choose to self-study their English. It’s a more flexible option as well as cheaper, which is great for fresh graduates and interns who aren’t making enough money.

Beyond these obvious advantages, self-studying English for business allows you to choose what you will learn and when you will learn it. Are you a marketer? You can focus your studies on marketing related language. Work in the accounting office? Then you can study for accounting and finance language and terminology. When self-studying, you’re the expert when it comes to your work field so you get to decide what you learn. Self-studying English for business also gives you a more immediate result because you can choose to learn the language that you use all the time. This can further serve as a confidence booster when you finally use your English appropriately in your job.

As for disadvantages, self-studying English for business carries the common downsides of studying on your own. In a business or work setting, making mistakes could have an impact on your overall performance as a worker, which increases the pressure of learning English well. This is why having a private tutor or online teacher is useful.

Private and Online English for Business Teachers

Just like a video conference

A growing segment of the online English learning market is ESP but none of the specializations are as big as English for business. Finding an online teacher or a face-to-face tutor shouldn’t be too hard considering how specific a need this type of English learning is. What you need to be aware of, though, is that English for business comes at a bit of a premium.

As English for business is a highly specific type of language learning, a lot of the teachers who do teach business classes are also in some way experienced with business or have some business background in their education. I, for example, have a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Information Technology Management. English teachers like myself at the very least have a familiarity with the topic which makes our expertise quite specific. Therefore, it stands to reason that English for business teachers may charge higher prices than their regular classes. The increase in price, however, has its advantages.

For one thing, you would be receiving direct and accurate feedback on the words and functional language you’re using. You would be exploring and learning parts of English that are suitable for your work or business context so you can have more of a guarantee that what you learn will be immediately usable. This also means that you may not need to be taking lessons for a very long time which could put the price into perspective. So, does this mean that you should be looking for a tutor with a business background?

Not necessarily. English is English, and as I’ve said in previous parts of this article, qualified teachers are equipped with the skills to teach you everything you need. They’re even expecting to have to prepare for vocabulary and other language aspects they aren’t familiar with or don’t use themselves often. The main difference would be that you wouldn’t get some extra examples or even stories that the teacher may have experienced in a business context. The quality would pretty much be the same.

Nothing quite beats the personalization of having your own online English teacher or private tutor who can work to your schedule and deliver you the results you need. There are of course other options out there.

English for business courses and study travel

You'll feel like you're on a business trip

It’s becoming a big business for language schools and companies to run courses for English for business. Even more popular are what are known as study-travel courses or study-travel experiences. Both of these options involve enrolling in a course with other students so you would be learning English in a classroom setting. The main difference between a course and a travel experience is that a course can either be taken in your own country or in an English-speaking country, which we’ve discussed in a previous article. A travel experience, on the other hand, would involve you joining a group from your own country and traveling together to an English-speaking country to learn the language. Some English for business travel experiences like these might also include tours of companies and networking events, which makes it likely for these trips to be sponsored by your employer. The main benefit comes to those who prefer a classroom environment. It’s also important to remember that courses like these can be at a premium which means they will be more expensive than the average English course.

One thing you must keep in mind is that some schools might advertise that they have English for business when in reality they only have a few extra lessons on the topic per week. Aside from regular English classes, schools try to add value to their customers by offering more specialized lessons, and that could include English for business classes. The problem here is that the business aspect of your course would be more like a small extra add-on. That also means that the school would not have a lot of resources and materials to teach English for business. Their teachers may also not be experienced enough. It’s important to ask how often you would be doing English for business lessons and make sure you’re taking a course that suits your needs.

Learning English for business is definitely something you can do if you want to improve your employability and your prospects for better pay and promotions. What is important to keep in mind is that taking the right option is a more costly endeavor but it pays off in the end. You just need to be sure that you’ve done your research and asked the right questions.

There you have it! I hope this has been useful. If so, share this article with someone who wants to learn English, follow us on Instagram and try making some examples in the comments below!

See you in the next lesson!

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