>Business English lessons for low level students? Don’t do it

>A teacher asks for some material to teach Business English to low intermediate students.

I suggest that it is not in the students’ best interest to begin studying Business English at that level for two reasons:

1. They really should get grounded in some basic English before trying to learn a specialty English like Business English. About 95% of their communications will be basic verbs and basic vocabulary.

2. There are no Business English books that can give the students the help they need in basic English at a low intermediate level.

At best they can only learn a McEnglish. This is what I call the English that McDonald’s order takers have around the world. Here in China you can ask the girl for a Big Mac, fries and Coke without any problem. However, if you ask her if she thinks it will rain today she is lost.

Giving a Business English too early makes the student aware of SOME business vocabulary at the expense of a broader grasp of the language.

A great general English book is New Interchange in 4 levels from 0-3. A good approach would be to get the student up to at least the level 2 (about mid-intermediate) and then instead of doing 3 with them it would be safe to introduce Business English.

There is a world of difference in teaching college/university students and business people or professionals. The first group is quite intrigued about business and are eager to learn it. I have even been asked by these students to teach more business and less English.

The second group deals with the language of their business constantly. They actually excel at all the little buzzwords and company language of their business. My Chinese Proctor and Gamble English students used to carry on whole conversations in English in their P&G lingo and I could hardly understand a thing. However, this group invariably needs help with basic vocabulary as well as the grammar patterns to create correct proper sentences.

For example, here is the last Email sample I received as part of my needs analysis of a logistics company where I have begun teaching. It is very typical:

“Pls refer to blw details,payment has been settled by our agent. Pls kindly arrange remit to head office asap TTL:USD141.00. Tks to release cargo accordingly.”

I would say the key business vocabulary here is: details, payment, settled, agent, remit, head office, release cargo; all used quite well. However there are lots of grammar errors.

Business English for pre-employed students is much different than for students who are professionals.


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