Teaching Adults English: Tips for Teaching Business English

Teaching Business English has some similarities to teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL); however, there are also some differences. If you are here, reading this article, you are on the right track as we are going to explore their similarities and differences by discussing 6 tips for teaching Business English.

1. Set Motivations and Goals

As with teaching general EFL, in Business English is it also important to know what your business students’ motivation is for learning English as well as their goals; i.e. what do they want to achieve.

For any Business English class, remember that your students are busy adults who deal with working towards goals as part of their daily work life; therefore, at the start of the course, your students need to be clear (with themselves and you) about what they would like to achieve realistically. But what does this mean? The answer: Break down their goals into skills, like writing more effective emails, how to better chair meetings or take minutes, and so forth. Use the needs of your students to set clear goals and also share the ‘needs analysis’ and use it to keep your students both motivated and engaged.

2. Be Business-Like

In teaching English as a Foreign language, and especially if you have young learners, you might find that you are or can be a ‘crazy’ teacher, super energetic, and try to get your students to laugh while you teach and they learn. In teaching Business English, you still need to have a good energy in the class while teaching; however, you also need to be very professional (read business-like) as you are teaching business professionals. This is not only for how you teach in class, but extends to what you wear, your behaviour, as well as what you say – in and out of class. And whether you are working in-company or not, you need to be punctual, competent, and professional.

3. Not a Teacher, but a Colleague

In any general EFL classroom, you, as the teacher, are seen as superior to your students. This is not necessarily true for your Business English class, as being or acting ‘superior’ might not be the best approach to teaching and gaining respect from your students. Similar to in the workplace, colleagues work together to achieve objectives; in this case, the goal is language learning and improving Business English skills. Your Business English students might be more receptive and more willing to work with you and towards their goals of becoming more proficient in Business English if you treat them as equals and as the professionals they are.

But still, even professional students want to have fun from time to time: Adults Want to Have Fun, Too! (Games for Beginners)

4. Assess Your Students

Not all of your Business English students will start their learning journey with you at the same level. Some students might be both beginners in general English and for any business-related English skills, while others might be at an intermediate level in general English and just lack Business English knowledge. Therefore, it would be a good idea to take time at the start of your journey with your students and do an assessment to see just how competent or proficient they are in the English language. Get some ideas on how to do so here.

5. Lessons to Fit Profession

A fifth tip for teaching Business English is to keep in mind that any business professional who studies English does so for a specific purpose that is directly tied to their profession. Thus, it is important that every lesson you teach relates to your students’ specific business environment. So, when you can, try to make use of actual business memos, proposals, charts, and manuals.

6. Be Flexible

You should be aware that your Business English learners could have high expectations and they might ask for (and expect) classes during their lunchtime, at the end of their workday, or even before they start work. In addition, due to unforeseen business-related problems or situations, they might have to cancel class at the last minute. This can be frustrating as work is (and should be) their priority. Therefore, to reduce stress on your end, negotiate for some kind of cancellation policy with the company or with your student if you teach individuals.

Furthermore, you may not always have the same number of students attending each and every class – you might have as many as 8 students in one Business English class and as few as one or two students. It is good if you can anticipate this – make sure that every class for would work for the maximum and the minimum number of students you can expect.

Bonus Tip

Student talking time in a Business English class should be much higher than in a general English class, and as such, it is good to make sure that there are more than enough opportunities for your students to do speaking practice and work on tasks collaboratively. Leave reading and writing for self-study and/or homework.

Still need help teaching adults? Maybe check this out: 3 Differences between Teaching Children and Adults

Last Thoughts

As you can see, Business English has many similarities with general EFL, from knowing your students’ motivations and goals to making lessons contextual, as well as differences in the times expected to teach, short cancellation notices, and that you should be more of a colleague than a (superior) EFL teacher. Nevertheless, by using these tips for teaching Business English, you can make your classes successful!

Want more teaching tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog. Are you a teacher looking for a new opportunity? Visit our recruitment arm at Saxoncourt Recruitment.

About the Author

Denine Walters currently works in the events industry and freelances as an EFL teacher, writer, and proofread/editor. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world, and before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In what free time she has, she likes to travel, watch Netflix, read, and do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes.


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