Business English Coach or English teacher?
Don’t waste their time! It’s precious.
What do business people want? To do their business, better? They do not have much time so why do a session on gerunds, infinitives, phonetics or whatever is next in the book/course, just in case they need it? In fact much text book English is not really used in real life. For example, the past perfect or third conditional. Likewise, why do a lesson on Marketing when they work in HR? Rather, we teach them what they really need to use in their business lives, just when they need it. This is ESP. English for Specific/Student’s Purposes. We elicit real situations from students and teach them real language. Language people really use. Again, very often text book English is not usually used in real, daily life.
If you spend some time actually listening to what people say in real life, you will see the following examples are usually true.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea if we ….
I’d like to introduce my colleague …..
I was hoping you could ……
Can I have a moment to talk to you about ……..?
If understand you correctly, you’re saying …………. Is that right?
Why don’t we ……?
This is ……….
Could you …………….?
We need to discuss ………
You mean ……….?
All Business Professionals have skills. They know about business. They know the technical jargon (ergolect), like engineering, IT, Medical etc. So, in the real world a good knowledge of grammatical structures can never compete with 20 years business experience. The ESP teacher’s job is to help students make maximal sense from minimal resources. Irrespective of whether the teacher is a mother tongue speaker or not. This does not really matter as the goal is to help students to, simply, do their work better in the target language, rather than focus on accuracy.
How? This is how I do it.
As a Business English Coach, first I always ask students about what they do and why they need to use English. For example: “I’m an HR manager and attend meetings, sometimes in English”. So in an oral expression session on meetings: I ask about their meetings, take their real situations/functions/roles and help them do it better in English. Or, -quite often the case-, I do realistic simulations to help them improve on what they already know. With Oral comprehension I always use authentic audio/video examples on the subject. You see, in real life people don’t adapt to the students level. So, we help them to, first identify sounds then, connect the sounds to meaning and words. Much like how babies learn to communicate. Or, using schemata -helping them to understand the big picture with a few words. We then practise using this newly identified language with different nuances and contexts based on their own.
ESP teachers are Coaches
So, overall, Native & Non-Native ESP teachers are more coaches nudging and urging students in the right direction. Helping them to enhance their hard skills – language amongst others. Of course an ESP coach with a background in the student’s field is a highly sought after commodity, being able to coach both soft and hard skills. But what are soft and hard skills? Hard Skills are Intelligent IQ skills easily taught and quantified, Languages and professional skills etc. Soft skills are Emotional EQ skills or “interpersonal skills” which are more difficult to acquire e.g. tact, teamwork, customer relations, leadership. So, Soft skills are about not what you say, but how you say it. Now that’s a very useful tool for any business professional. Don’t you think so?
Mark Powell talks about this in this 5 part video at the IATEFL conference in Besig:
Acerca de Todd
Over 20 years experience in different countries working with professionals to improve their communication skills in English. I offer continual training & coaching programs for professionals, and intensive soft skills workshops.