Business language courses. Important tips for teachers

There are many different ways to learn a foreign language. Depending on the ultimate reason for learning the language, the teaching strategy, as well as the subject of the course and the manner in which lessons are conducted will differ.

In some ways, a foreign language course structured for business differs slightly from more traditional instruction. The approach of both students and teachers is more professional. Committing to learning a business language is often associated with the desire to develop a career, or strengthen/change one’s position in company. The development of professional qualifications — like learning an additional language — can play a significant role in making all that happen.

To prepare for teaching foreign language lessons for business, make certain you recognize the different approaches needed to teach a business language, as well as the specific nuances of this language type. Pay attention to details and this specialized course will be a professional experience suitable for the business environment.

Partner relations

Traditionally (and understandably), the teacher is considered superior to his or her students. By design, the teacher brings a wealth of knowledge that they want to communicate to their students. Those there to learn, on the other hand, expect advice and guidance from the instructor, not only when it comes to learning basic vocabulary and grammar, but also in grasping the cultural and business-specific aspects of using language.

Often, during a language course, the student-teacher relationship can become blurred as the instructor tries to approach the student in a friendly manner to best explain the linguistic realities and issues in a more accessible way. However, there can be a real benefit to keeping one’s distance. Because the language used in business contacts is loftier and more formal, and often contains specialty phrases, the instructor, by treating the student as a “business partner” from the outset, can actually better help the student absorb this variation in language.

Business dress code

Although the teacher is not an employee of the company, he or she should remember that one’s appearance in the business world is key, and that same focus on appearance should carry over to the classroom. Students expect a level of professionalism from the instructor not only in behavior, but also in dress. Observing a business dress code will be a sign to students that you respect them; that respect will, in turn be reflected upon you and your instruction.

Use professional materials

Participants in foreign language courses for business have high expectations, are paying well to have these expectations met, and require an appropriate level of instruction. For this reason, working with photocopies or obsolete textbooks is unacceptable.  Be certain that all materials used are as professional as those in your students’ regular work environment. Failing to do so can result in the loss of credibility in the eyes of the students.

Rate and decide

Not all students of a foreign business language course will enter at the same level. While some might come in already having limited experience with the language in question, for others it may be the beginning of an exciting and rewarding adventure.

Since our goal is to best meet the needs of our business students, take the time to determine how advanced your students are. Determine their needs in advance to avoid spending time on material they might already know. Keep in mind that some students will care only about exploring a specialized business language —not learning a language from scratch. It is also important to set specific short- and long-term goals for your students. Most often, businessmen who decide to learn a language do it with a specific business purpose in mind.

Decide together with the students what they require and what they expect from this course. This will allow you to better establish teaching methods, determine the order in which the material will be introduced, and focus on developing specific language skills. And remember: these goals can be different. Some students will be interested in the ability to negotiate business contracts, others on conversations with business partners or colleagues, and still others will limit themselves solely to the correct formulation of official emails and contracts.

When a language teacher intimately knows the needs of their students and prepares accordingly, he or she has the best chance to meet their expectations.

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