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What to Do Before Teaching a Business English Course

Nowadays there is an increasing amount of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and a great amount of English language teaching to business people.

In this article, you will learn more about teaching business English, its ways, problems, some suggested solutions, and what to do before teaching any business English course.

What is Teaching Business English?

Teaching business English involves teaching English to professional people. For example teaching hotel staff the type of language that will be useful to them professionally, or teaching the language of the law to lawyers.

While knowledge of the business is very useful, it is definitely not a prerequisite to teaching English to business people.

The type of language that learners need is often in areas such as telephoning, introductions, presentations, etc.

Remember that you are not there to teach them to be business people (they already are!) but to teach them English.

Teaching business English often take place in the following ways:


One-on-one lessons are usually less formal, and the teacher will often be the partner of the learner, helping, prompting, and working with him/her.

In-company group

An in-company group may study before work starts, during the day or after work.

In-school group

A group of business people from the same company or from different companies may come to a language school to study.


For all of the above, “clients” (a common term when referring to learners from a company) may study intensively or over a longer period of time.

The type of clients you are likely to meet can vary immensely. Ages can range from the early 20s to mid-50s, and quite often, the older generation has little or no previous language learning experience.

Younger learners not only tend to pick things up more quickly, but they have usually learned some English at school.

Problems of Teaching Business English

  • Clients are often tired.
  • The material and the input may be challenging.
  • Clients may be pulled out of a lesson at any time.
  • Homework may also be difficult for them due to the pressure of work, family, etc.
  • The levels of language ability within a group may be diverse.
  • Not all learners will be motivated to study English, although the vast majority will be.

Suggested Solutions to the Problems

  • Make the material less challenging, and/or cut down on input.
  • Turn your lessons into conversation classes.
  • Challenge the stronger learners, so they don’t get bored and at the same time try to motivate the weaker ones.

What to Do Before Starting a Business English Course

Before starting any business English course, you have to:

  1. Find out what the clients want and what they need.
  2. Balance the client’s wants and needs with those of the company.
  3. Start with a grounding in English rather than anything too specific.
  4. Draw on their own work environment to make the course relevant to them.
  5. Have a general understanding of the client’s job to know the areas of English that they require.
  6. Prepare authentic context where they can use the terminology and vocabulary that relate to their work.

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