BUSINESS ENGLISH – What is it really about for the learner?

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There are millions of business people out there who are successful and want to be even more successful and know that English is their weak spot. They decide to register for a Business English course with the hope that the English they learn will really close those big deals they are dreaming of.  But from my experience I can see that this whole idea of Business English is so different from one course to another.

The common business English course consists of:

  • How to write business letters
  • How to negotiate in English
  • How to write for the international market
  • How to do English presentations

…and so on

These are all great courses and are really helpful, but my question is, where do you draw the line between learning management techniques to learning basic grammar. Business English teachers I know all talk of the same problem, you get that group of 20 eager business people together and have that 2 day course all geared up on ‘how to deliver a killer presentation in English’ and BANG you hit the ‘bad grammar wall’, as they put it.

At the end of the day anything you do must be grammatically correct or else you have lost any kind of professional credibility in your market. So what do these teachers do? They spend the first day of the class just teaching everyone the grammar from Present Simple through to Present Perfect. You can see the deflated look in the participants eyes and they can see the teacher has hit the core of the problem that they really would prefer not to face.

So what happens in the end? The Business English teacher takes the seminar for two full days, everyone has a great hotel lunch all paid for by the company, and the staff go back to work with some understanding of how to put together some formats, and turns of phrases but still have this gaping hole in their grammar that unfortunately hasn’t go away .

So what really is the answer?

  1. Managers can face the fact that their staff need a grammar course before a presentation course and be prepared to pay for it. (wishful thinking on the teachers part!)


  1. Clearly define what it is that the staff need first and let the teacher be prepared to tell them what they will ultimately be able to achieve without offering them the world.

In today’s world there are even courses in Business English for native speakers! So let’s not think this is only for non-native speakers. Most of the world whether you are a native English speaker or not suffers from a lack of confidence in public speaking, writing letters or closing deals and no amount of correct English will improve that, unless you are given the confidence.

So my ultimate answer to what Business English is about is not really just about giving staff lessons in grammar or strategies in using English in presentations or speeches, my belief is that it is all about building confidence in people to step forward, use their English as best they can, and motivate them to continue their own personal study in Business English on the job! There really isn’t much more we can do in 16 hours!

What do you think?


3 thoughts on “BUSINESS ENGLISH – What is it really about for the learner?

  1. Yes, Aiyshah, I agree! Confidence is what first needs to be developed. Don’t you think that to help build confidence, people need to learn that their public speaking doesn’t need to be in perfect ‘Standard English’? I think nonnative speakers of English actually have the advantage here, as their mistakes are perhaps perceived as less serious, since they are considered as due to their using a second language, while nonnative English speakers perhaps also suffer less from prejudice based on (mis)perceptions of lack of education or social class. However, native speakers who have less than perfect ‘Standard English’ skills need to have their confidence built to get themselves out there. They need to know that their local accent and even a little dialect can add colour and life to a presentation, and they they also need to know that they, like nonnative speakers with their imperfect Standard English grammar, have the potential to be far more effective public speakers than many of those with more standard styles of speech.

    • Yes confidence is the key and those odd local ‘English-isms’ can be very endearing, however I do think that a certain level of English competency needs to be reached before they can successfully compete in the international market. I have found that often this level of competency is seriously lacking as they think that they just need a few key phrases and more vocabulary and they will be fine. In fact they often need to start from scratch, and often sadly it’s a bit too late, the bad habits have already formed, and can lead to a lot of confusion if not corrected.

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