Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘business English’

Teaching the same thing all over again (paragraph blogging)

This week I’ve taught six 90-minute classes at a company, working through needs analysis and getting examples of speaking and writing as we are working with them for the first time. I had the same plan for all six lessons, covering every level from elementary to advanced, but it panned out completely differently in each group. The general structure was:

  • Students write questions for me and their teacher (who was observing and data collecting), then ask them.
  • Annotate a copy of the contents page of the book they’ve been using for lessons before we started teaching them, to show which things they’ve done, what they’d like to do, and what they’d prefer to avoid.
  • Individually, divide up 40 points between the speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation to show their course priorities (an idea I adapted from Teaching English One-to-One [affiliate link] by Priscilla Osborne and now use all the time!). Write this on the back of the contents page.
  • Write a paragraph about their job, roles and responsibilities, when/if/how they use English at work, their hobbies, and anything else they choose, also on the back of the contents.
  • Extend the paragraph by finishing various sentence starters from a choice of 10, such as:
    • I prefer English lessons which…
    • I am confident/not confident about ____ in English because…
    • I generally have good/bad memories of learning English/Russian/German/… at school because…
    • A good English teacher…

Pretty straightforward, right? None of the lessons are encapsulated in that plan though! At various points this week, I (sometimes with my colleagues) have done error correction based on questions, looked at the grammar of questions in general, created indirect questions, discussed at length good places to visit in London, talked about the etymology of Wolverhampton and Chichester, discussed learning strategies and how to make English a habit, shared websites that can be used in addition to doing homework, explained various Polish/English differences, discovered all seven students in a single class prefer dogs to cats, encouraged (elementary) students to speak up so that I can give them feedback and then praised them a lot for speaking pretty much only English for 90 minutes, and probably many more things that I’ve forgotten. It’s a reminder, if one was needed, to teach the students, not the plan 🙂

Lady Wulfruna statue

Lady Wulfruna, the source of the name of Wolverhampton – Image by David Stowell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Language courses at companies – language teaching or language coaching? (guest post)

Victoria Toth contacted me because she has a few questions about business English teaching, and she thought the readers of this blog might be able to help. Let’s see what ideas we can offer her…

I have been teaching English to Hungarians in Budapest for 15 years now. I have taught kindergarten pupils, teenagers, adults, seniors, and prepared my students for different examinations such as the TELC, IELTS, TOEFL exams.

Nevertheless, I have always found corporate courses to be the most complex ones. First comes the ambience of the company. Right after the very first lesson, I can tell whether it is a workplace where the employees can generally work in teams and are devoted to contributing to the success of the firm or whether I will have problems creating the relaxed atmosphere that is essential to be able to learn efficiently. Then comes the hierarchy. The awkward moment when your boss is in the same language group as you. The inevitable comparison between you and your boss’s knowledge may spoil the enjoyment of the learning process. The same applies to colleagues who do not get on well with each other. How can you make them cooperate with each other? I have already come across groups in which members deliberately skipped the class if their colleague was around. What can I do in these situations? It definitely has nothing to do with me as a person or my teaching abilities. However, I really would like to sort things out and hold enjoyable lessons at these companies as well.

And last, but not least comes the learning process itself. At level A1, A2, and let’s say B1 it is quite easy. I choose a pretty good and modern student’s book I enjoy teaching from and hope that my students will also like the book and find it intriguing. I teach them the basic grammar and vocabulary so that they can start communicating with their foreign partners or clients. The difficulties arise when they reach level B2. They know enough to get by, but still they do not feel that their language knowledge is at an acceptable level. One has the desire to be more grammatically correct. Others are not intimidated by their grammatical mistakes but would like to extend their vocabulary so that they can communicate and express themselves more fluently and be able to understand native speakers more easily. As a language learner, I agree with the latter, but understand those who want to put the emphasis on grammar, because, for instance, they only communicate in written forms. How shall I, as a teacher, incorporate a bunch of students like them into one group? In my experience, in this case, one-to-one lessons are the most effective way of teaching at this level. This is what I call language coaching. I either help my student review his or her, usually crucially important, presentation for the following day or revise some grammar topics and try to answer specific questions. In other cases, my students simply would not like to forget the language knowledge they have already acquired, so I bring along some interesting articles to talk about whilst teaching some new vocabulary. Some people say, it is simply teaching and calling it ’language coaching’ only sounds good in terms of marketing. Oh, well, of course, you can always sell your product with terminology that sounds good, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, during those private lessons, when I listen to my students telling me the most discrete pieces of information about their company, I feel as if I was a psychologist or a personal coach rather than a teacher.

I keep telling my bosses that we should consider advertising our corporate courses as ‘language coaching’ and focus on teaching one-to-one at firms. Regarding the financial aspect, of course it is more costly, so language schools in Budapest are afraid of taking it on, even if I think it is well worth the money. What do you, my fellow teachers think? What’s your experience? How does it work in other countries? I’d really appreciate reading your points of view.

Bio

Victoria Toth
I have been an EFL teacher for 15 years. I graduated from the University of West Hungary in 2003 where I received a BA in English Language Teaching. Since graduation I have been teaching for language schools as well as doing private tutoring in Budapest, Hungary. I hold in-company courses and teach the employees of the companies general English, Business English or Business Law. I also prepare students for examinations such as TELC, TOEFL, IELTS. Currently, I’m teaching for Babilon School of Languages in Budapest and Rian 4 You Hungary Language School in Dunakeszi, which is 5 kilometers from Budapest.

Apart from teaching English I occasionally do translations and proofreading.

Crisis at Clifton – Richmond Mazes

Richmond have recently released a series of readers with a difference, called ‘Richmond Mazes’, written by Alastair Lane and James Styring. They are:

  • based on the idea of choose your own adventure, where you make choices that determine what happens next in the story.
  • available as a book or an app. If you choose the book, you can download the audio to accompany it.
  • aimed at young adults and adults learning English, with the first four titles set in work situations.
  • currently available at elementary and intermediate levels. There are two books at the moment:
    Escape from Pizza Palace (Elementary) – book / app
    Crisis at Clifton (Intermediate) – book / app

I was given a code to try the app version of ‘Crisis at Clifton‘ out, thanks to Ela Wassell. This is how Richmond describe the story:

You have just started a new job at a fashionable advertising agency in Sydney. From the first day you learn that the company is in crisis. If your client doesn’t sign a new contract, the company will go bankrupt. You must create a successful new advertising campaign, keep your client happy, deal with your colleagues… and save the Clifton Creative Agency! You will find lots of useful business vocabulary presented in a natural context in this maze. As well as improving your English, you will learn lots of interesting things about the advertising industry. Good luck finding your way through the maze!

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It took me about an hour to go through the whole story, and I found a lot of things I liked about the format, not least the fact that even though it was quite late, I kept reading because I wanted to know what would happen next. I used to love choose-your-own-adventure books as a child for exactly this reason!

The story is illustrated throughout, with characters looking straight out at the reader, so it seems like they’re talking to you. This is the first page, which sets the scene for the story. It’s one of the longest texts in the version of the maze I went through, with never more than a single iPad screen’s worth of text before you make a decision or click on ‘continue’.

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At the end of most sections, there is a box offering you a variety of choices about what should happen next. This means students have to think about what they’ve read to be able to make the right choice, instead of just reading passively. They have to pay attention to key language to help them understand. You click to go to the next section, and you can click ‘back’ at any point.

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If you make a different decision after clicking ‘back’, the app notifies you and asks if you’re sure. You can see all the decisions you’ve made in a handy summary by clicking on ‘My route’ at the bottom of the screen. You can go back to any of these decisions by clicking on it.

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The stars show bonus points, which are available in every chapter for making the best decisions. In the book there are special pages where you can record any information you need to, including your bonus points and extra information that will help you later.

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If you make a bad decision which will cause problems for the company, you see a message which tells you the problem, and takes you back to the start of the chapter.

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I only got 5 bonus points through the whole story (out of a possible 16), so when I got to the end I was told “To improve the ending you have to win more bonus points”. This takes you back to the start, so you can try the story again.

I like the fact that you can try the story again and again and it will give you a different outcome each time. I think it would be quite a challenge to find all of the bonus points, and could be motivating for students.

Words which could cause problems are all clickable, with simple definitions appearing. They are underlined throughout the story, not just the first time they appear.

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All communication which is referred to is presented in the relevant format. For example, an email looks like an email:

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There are also newspaper articles, memos, and other text types business English students might expect to encounter. Voice messages are recorded, not written out as text. There is also the option to show a tapescript if students need extra support.

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The voices are a mixture of Australian and other accents, including German. It’s refreshing to hear voices which aren’t just standard British or standard American pronunciation.

The story is written in the second person (‘you’), but I didn’t notice until I was on chapter 4, meaning it was very natural.

My only reservation is that the title and style of the story may not seem serious enough for some professionals. I think it would be particularly suitable for business English students who are still training, for example at university.

Overall, I enjoyed using the app, and I think it would be a motivating way for students to practise without realising that they’re working and learning at the same time. I’d really like to see something similar for general English students in the future.

Update (in response to a question): the app is ÂŁ4.99 from the Apple store. I’m not sure if it’s available on Android.

Business: a lesson plan

On Monday I had a cover class with an upper intermediate business group I had not met before. I decided to start with a word and see how the lesson developed. This was the result:

business

We started with just the word ‘business’ on the board. The class discussed what this word meant to them, then added the results to a brainstorm on the board. We talked about any problem vocab and added a few extra words. One student wrote ‘Dow Jones’ so we added the names of other financial indexes and talked about how they worked. Using as much of the vocabulary on the board, students then worked in pairs to create a definition of business.

business?

I then added a question mark, and the students talked about what business should be. They came up with five categories in which businesses should bear responsibility:

  • strategy
  • sustainability
  • people
  • fair trade and money (they felt both were smaller categories)
  • society

Each pair took responsibility for one category and brainstormed specific areas of responsibility within their category. We then set up an onion ring system. [One person from each pair stands in an inner ring facing out, and the other stands in an outer ring facing in. To start with everyone faces their original partner (from the previous activity). One ring then moves round to face the next person in the circle. They share ideas and try to add to them for a specific time, before the whole ring moves round to the next people. By the end of the activity, one person in the inner ring should have spoken to every person in the outer ring and vice versa.] After speaking to five people and hearing about all of the other categories, the pairs sat together again and fed back on what they head and anything which they added to their own category.

The final step in the lesson was to create a short mission statement based on the ideas. We had a quick look at Ben & Jerry’s mission statement and chose some useful sentence stems to put on the board. The pairs then turned their notes into sentences for the mission statement. I typed them up after class, and the resulting statement is now on the board, and below for you to see (click to enlarge):

MIssion Statement of B2 business class

MIssion Statement of B2 business class 2

You can also download a copy.

If I had continued to teach the class for longer, I might have used this mission statement as the first in a series of lessons in which we set up a class company. The mission statement would form the foundation of any ‘decisions’ we made during the project.

I did feel that although there was a lot of speaking and a little writing in this class it wasn’t as challenging as it could have been for an upper intermediate class. I would be grateful for any suggestions to improve it.

Online resources for Business English teaching

One of my colleagues, Katy Simpson-Davies, is moving to Dubai, where she will be teaching business English. She asked me for some links to give her some ideas about how to improve her teaching for business, and we decided it would make a good blog post too.

The list is by no means exhaustive, just what I could find in my bookmarks and on Twitter when I was emailing Katy. She added more links once she’d had time to investigate, so this post is a joint effort. It is not intended to be a list of materials (although some of the sites include them), but rather ways to find out how to teach business English. Feel free to add other ideas in the comments!

Methodology and Resources

For learners

  • Christine Burgmer’s blog for business learners is a great resource, full of short and sweet posts to keep students interested.
  • Business Spotlight is a German-based magazine which also has an online arm. The website includes a number of blogs for business learners.

All of these links and more are on my diigo (social bookmarking) list for business English. It’s worth checking the tag too as I’m not sure if I remembered to include everything on the list!

I found out about all of these links through Twitter, where there is a huge community of teachers from all over the world. They are supportive and always happy to help other teachers out. To find out how to join this community, click here.

So now, grab a drink and something to eat, and get surfing!

Coffee, a snack and the internet

Photo taken from eltpics by @aClilToClimb

P.S. Good luck Katy!

How to give presentations in English

I created this set of resources for an Intermediate-level group. We used them over a series of five 1-hour lessons, with opportunities during the lessons for students to personalise the phrases. After each lesson I used Edmodo to share the part of the presentation we had done so that students could go over it again at home.

Notes:

  • Although it looks like it says “an Internet”, when you download the presentation you will find “an Internet connection”
  • The video links should all take you to youtube.
  • The ‘structure’ slide is also clickable and takes you to the relevant section of the presentation.
  • The slides with the phrases look messy here, but when you download it you should see that they work as a series of elicitation prompts. To see the phrases without downloading and clicking through the entire presentation, you can look at the ‘Did you remember?’ slides. These are also the best ones for the students to print as they should contain all of the most useful information. I know that having completely gapped sentences is difficult for students that first time they see the presentation, but in the lesson I skipped past them to the ones with the first letters and told students they would be more useful when they looked at the slides again.

We finished the unit yesterday, and next week they will do their own presentations for assessment. I will record them and give feedback based on language and technique.

Feel free to download the materials and adapt them as you see fit (crediting the source please). They are designed to be a cross between teaching materials and a presentation that could present to your group, demonstrating the techniques.

I would be grateful for any feedback you can give me so that I can improve them for future groups.

Enjoy!

Describing graphs

Here is a set of worksheets I made last year. I used them over a series of lessons with various groups at Intermediate and Upper Intermediate level. (They may take a while to load on this page)
Some of the activities are taken from other sources, in which case they should always be credited. If you believe I have used something which is uncredited, please let me know.
Feel free to use and adapt the worksheets however you see fit. They can be used in whatever order you see fit. I have tried to arrange them here with the more specific items at the beginning and the general summaries at the end. If you think any of the answers are missing or any of the information is incorrect, please let me know too.
Enjoy!











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