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February 11, 2007

Q and A- Do I need to have a Business Background?

Hello Readers,

This month, we have a question about teaching Business English from Samantha.

"I've recently been asked by my school to teach Business English to a group of students who work for a well-known company. At this point, I don't know what their specifics job titles are or what their level of English is like. I like to try new things and would like to gain some experience in teaching Business English...

... because the pay tends to be higher than what I'd get teaching General English. The problem is, I have no background in Business. Am I qualified to teach them?"

Hi Samantha,

This is a common question, one that many Business English or other ESP teachers often ask themselves. Although having familiarity in a subject like Business would obviously enhance your teaching, your job as a Business English teacher, in my opinion, is to teach about the language, not the subject matter. Since you are open to new opportunities, I have no doubt in my mind that you'll be able to teach the class without a problem.

There are a few things you should do before you start teaching. The first thing you might want to do is to get some more information about the students: names, ages, job titles, English background, level of English, and perhaps a questionnaire about what kinds of things they'd like to learn (eg. speaking on the telephone, giving a presentation, and writing/reading emails are all common topics in Business English). Getting this kind of information is also referred to as a needs analysis. Many business English books will include a few samples of these in their books.

Secondly, you'll need to find a few good Business English books that you can use for your lessons. Based on what you find out from your needs analysis, you can pick and choose lessons from books, the internet, and maybe even write your own if you feel that you can.

Thirdly, you'll have to develop some new strategies in dealing with situations where you might feel that expertise in Business would be useful. You will have students asking you questions that you don't have the answer to because of your lack of knowledge and experience in Business. But don't worry. Here are some things you can do to deal with that:

* Get the student who asked the question to give more information about the necessary background. "Can you tell us a bit more about that?"

* Invite other students to give more information. "Can anyone else answer that question? Have you heard about that?"

* Provide references in the classroom (ie. Business English Dictionary might be useful) so that you can ask the students to find the answer right there and then as a project.

* Ask students to answer that question for homework.

* Tell the students that you will look into it for the next class.

Finally, if you decide to specialize in Business English, then you might also want to consider buying a Business 101 textbook to teach yourself a few things, subscribing to a Business English teaching newsletter, and reading up on the Business sections of the newspapers.

Hope that helps!

For a general introduction to Business English with practical resources, read: "Teach Business English" by Sylvie Donna (2000), Cambridge University Press.

For more information about IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language), which has a special interest group just for Business English teachers, go to: http://www.iatefl.org/

For information about a free email service from Macmillan that will send you lesson plans and activities for Business English weekly, go to: http://www.businessenglishonline.net/profile/emailservice.asp

If you have any other tips or tricks about teaching Business English, feel free to add your comments here!

Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*To read more ESL Questions and Answers, please click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker who hails from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, and lived and worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked with students that range in age from three to more than sixty years old. She worked in universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, as well as private tutoring. Besides teaching, she also worked as a head teacher, an education manager, and a material development manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she currently writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing. Carol is also currently working on her MA in TESOL at the Oxford Brookes University in England. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at February 11, 2007 09:43 AM

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