English is now the international language and this is especially true in the field of business. As business becomes more global the English language has become the standard means of communication allowing German car manufacturers to talk to suppliers in China and enabling Brazilian coffee growers to negotiate prices with their customers in Japan.
English language skills are essential for all executives and senior managers and therefore in most companies the promotion and also the recruitment of staff depends increasingly on their knowledge of English.
Spending six months or a year in London improving one’s level of English can represent a future financial advantage and a broader range of career opportunities. In addition, a short educational period abroad demonstrates to potential employers that a candidate has a degree of commitment and independence; such candidates are also more likely to be adaptable and confident.
Is it better for a student to study general English or business English? The answer to this question depends firstly on the student’s academic level; most business classes are taught at a level of B2 or higher and for this reason a student at A2 level will need to improve their general English before they can expect to participate in a business English class.
The second factor to consider is what the student is going to do with their acquired language. Not every student will be using English in the workplace. Some students want to learn English in order to travel or to study at an English speaking university. For many students a general English course is quite sufficient for their requirements.
A student who wants to study business English can choose to join a class or opt for one-to-one lessons. With a one-to-one teacher the student can develop the exact skills that they require in their work. The lessons are learner-led and focus on a student’s particular area of interest.
A student who chooses to study in a business English class will be in a rather different learning environment. Business students are generally highly motivated and many of them will bring to the classroom their own professional experience. The teacher of business English should also have some years of business experience which they can draw on. A competent business teacher will also aim to constantly increase their skills and update their professional knowledge.
The business class offers a more varied syllabus and a much more dynamic learning environment. The methodology of the business class is not quite the same as classes in general English. The first, and most important aim of the business class is to teach effective communication and this is the case whatever goals the individual student may have with regard to acquiring other business skills and knowledge.
The secondary aim is to acquire an understanding of business vocabulary. There is a great deal of specialised language, for example the vocabulary connected to banking, finance, marketing, management, import and export, corporate structure and trade. In addition to developing vocabulary, business classes also aim to develop skills such as writing letters and emails, negotiating, preparing a CV and attending job interviews.
Finally, the business course provides an overview of the entire business sector. A typical 12-week course will cover topics such as management, production, marketing, finance and economics. The purpose of this overview is to allow the student to communicate with some authority about matters that might be outside their own area of specialisation. A business English course can therefore be compared to a highly condensed MBA programme.
Business classes use the most up-to-date resources and make a lot of use of authentic materials. Many lessons look at case studies or involve role-playing exercises. Although many students have a business background some students will have no work experience at all and are studying business English because they realise it will improve their employment prospects or simply because they appreciate the dynamic nature of the business class and the enthusiasm and motivation of the business English students.