The importance of speaking English for business

There are over 7.9 billion people on this planet, and around 1.35 billion of those individuals speak English, but only 360 million of them as their native language. Although Chinese is the language that has the highest number of native speakers, English is the most widely studied language in the world.

This should not come as a surprise, as English has been the common language, also known as lingua franca, of trade, technology, and business in general for the last few decades. Therefore, becoming fluent in English has become an essential skill for those seeking a successful career, whether it be in their own country or abroad.

The advantages of speaking English in business

What are the practical benefits of being able to conduct business in English?

  • First of all, it allows the parties involved to communicate effectively with potential clients, suppliers, and staff.
  • Secondly, it equips them with the skills to advertise and engage with a wider audience and to carry out transactions in a clear and straightforward manner.
  • Finally, it enables them to add those final touches that make their business stand out – like building customer relationships by checking and monitoring customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, conducting business in fluent and accurate English brings benefits on a psychological level as well. It shows determination and dedication, demonstrating a personality that strives for success and aspires to be better and do more.

Given that around 13% of the global population use this language to communicate, it is expected that the demand for teachers of English as a foreign language continues to grow. This is especially true for teachers of business English.

Business English vs General English

The key differences between Business and General English are the topics covered during the course, the vocabulary involved, and the final goal.

While with General English (GE) the focus is on the ability to communicate in everyday situations, Business English (BE) takes a different approach. This is because BE is introduced in work-related scenarios that are often specifically designed for the course participants. Because of this, learners of BE tend to progress in their learning faster and more confidently than their GE peers.

Although the structure and the mechanics of the language are the same in GE and BE, the vocabulary and the register isn’t. There are specific expressions used in business that would not be used in everyday conversations. This specific type of language will enable the learners to take part in meetings and express their ideas and opinions in an assertive yet tactful manner; to write well-organised and concise reports and emails; to be able to negotiate with confidence; to understand and be understood in-person and over the phone.

Teaching Business English

As you might have guessed, teaching Business English is quite different from teaching General English in many ways:

  • Your learners are likely to be adults who have a clear professional objective in mind. They might be seeking a promotion or looking to make a career change. Whatever their goal, they are usually highly motivated and willing to go the extra mile to succeed.
  • BE courses are often funded by the learners’ companies. This means that you might be required to write students’ evaluation reports and to update their supervisors on their language progress.
  • Your environment is likely going to be a meeting room set up as a classroom. BE lessons are often carried out at the company’s premises, not at school – keep this in mind when you choose your outfit for the day, even if you are teaching online.
  • Your working hours might be unusual. Your learners might be attending your classes before or after work, so be prepared for early morning or evening lessons.

The most important thing, however, is to understand the participants’ needs and what they want to achieve by the end of the course. For example, you might have a group of learners from the same company who have different roles. In this case, you might want to start the course by doing a needs analysis in the form of a speaking (and/or writing) activity. This will give you the chance to understand:

  • who they need to speak English with (e.g. colleagues, managers, clients)
  • what do they need their English skills for (e.g. writing reports and/or emails, responding to customers’ queries, negotiating with clients)
  • what their current language level is (as well as their confidence level)
  • what they want to be able to do by the end of the course (e.g. improve writing or speaking skills, organise their ideas in reports and presentations).

Where to teach Business English

In theory, you could teach English, even Business English, anywhere in the world. However, there usually are more job opportunities in large cities. Furthermore, there are certain countries where BE language skills are particularly sought-after. In Europe, for example, consider the Czech Republic, Germany, and the UK, and China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea in Asia. However, you don’t always need to relocate to teach Business English, as you can always deliver your lessons online.

Having a university degree is desirable, but it’s not necessary to become a Business English teacher; however, a TESOL course from an accredited course provider is a must. This course will give you a foundation of what teaching English as a foreign language is all about and will give you the confidence to start teaching.

In the teaching industry, continued professional development is strongly recommended, especially if you decide to specialise in one area and to find your ‘niche’, like Business English or teaching online. Usually shorter than the initial TESOL course, these additional courses will show you the tips and tricks specific to your niche and will help you deal with specific concerns.

All in all

Teaching Business English is quite different from teaching General English, from the learners’ goals to the hours of the lessons. As a BE teacher, you will be required to have the necessary qualifications and skills to teach in a highly professional environment. It’s a demanding job and the stakes are high, but so are the rewards. You’ll never forget when your students tell you that they’ve finally got that promotion they’ve been after for a while or they’ve landed the job of their dreams, and they thank YOU for that.






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