How is teaching business English different from general English?

General English classes are commonly taught all over the world and in many language centers and private companies you will also find business English classes being taught to a wide range of corporate clients. The need for business English classes is driven by the continued march of English as the language of international trade and industry, and there are no signs of this slowing down anytime soon. So what exactly is business English and how does it differ from general English teaching?

Table of Contents

Business English classes

What?s the difference between business English and general English?

Business English resources

Business English classes

Business English is a unique area of teaching that comes under the banner of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Business English courses are designed for employees of any type of company who need to communicate using English in the workplace. Business English classes can cover a range of areas including:

  • writing emails
  • giving presentations
  • taking minutes
  • taking notes
  • preparing reports
  • negotiating
  • making sales.

A business English course often includes employees from all levels of a particular company, from salespeople and receptionists, to managers and executives. Classes are sometimes conducted on-site, either before, during, or after the normal working day, or in an off-site language center in the evenings or on weekends. Lessons usually involve groups of employees, although one-to-one lessons are also common.

What?s the difference between business English and general English?

A large percentage of the language taught in business English classes is the same as in general English, however, it is often more formal in nature and can include specialized language that is specific to the field of business the students are involved with. Many of the scenarios used to practice the language taught will involve specific business situations such as phone conversations, working with emails, and dealing with presentations and meetings, etc. Often, business English is taught at an advanced level and the students will need to master the basics of general English first.

Typically, a business English class will involve a more serious approach to learning, so there is less reliance on games and light hearted activities than you usually find in a general English classroom. Your students are professionals after all and they are likely to be highly focused on their studies and keen to make rapid progress. As improvements in their skills are likely to have an immediate impact on their working life, you should expect your students to be very cooperative and easy to manage.

Business English resources

As the language required by business English students will often be closely related to their own individual job, much of the materials needed for lessons can be found within the company you are dealing with. Students can be asked to bring along specific material such as company reports, brochures, powerpoint presentations, and company emails for use in class. A quick online search will also reveal a wide choice of business English resources from a wide range of sources. Some of our favorites include:

The Bloomberg Youtube channel

This is a great resource for business English lessons as it contains thousands of videos covering every conceivable field in the world of business.

The Tim Ferriss Show podcast

With over 1.5 million subscribers, the Tim Ferriss Show is widely regarded as one of the top business podcasts available.

Market Leader

This coursebook from Pearson/Longman is a useful resource as it is entirely focused on business English topics. It comes with some useful authentic materials and a number of case studies for you to utilize.

Business Builder

Another coursebook dedicated to business English that can add some interesting angles to your lessons. Used in conjunction with other authentic materials, coursebooks can be highly effective within business English settings.