Students from across the globe are taking Business English lessons and the reasons are obvious. In today’s globalized world, English is the language of choice when it comes to conducting business. Moreover, those who speak English, and speak it well, often have a competitive advantage over their business rivals. And those who seek better job opportunities also turn to Business English courses to increase their chances of success in today’s tough job market. These Business English students are very different from other ESL learners. You'll find they are highly motivated and will embrace the activities you set forth with great enthusiasm, as long as these activities are targeted to help them meet their communication goals.
So, without further ado, here are some great activities for the Business English class.
The best type of speaking activity for students who wish to polish their Business English involves role plays. All you have to do is place your students in real-life situations and roles.
1. The job interview
First have students come up with a list of some of the most common job interview questions. These may include any of the following:
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What were your responsibilities at your last job?
- What is your biggest strength?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Which skills and abilities do you possess?
- What are your qualifications?
- What motivates you to do a good job?
- Why should we hire you?
Ask students to brainstorm possible answers to each of these questions. Remind them of the usual interview strategies, like presenting a weakness that is actually a strength. Have students pair up and take turns being interviewer and job applicant. Walk around the classroom to offer assistance as needed.
2. Company rundown
For this activity, you'll need to use real-life, original materials. Ask students to bring in brochures, leaflets, or any type of sales literature from their companies, or bring some material yourself (you can print Web pages that clearly list a company’s services and products). Discuss with students what visitors to the company might want to know, what information they might seek, etc... With the help of the brochures and sales copy, students brainstorm different ways in which to present the company’s services:
- We supply quality Web design.
- We adhere to the industry's highest standards of quality.
- We provide IT solutions and offer live assistance 24/7.
Students take turns playing the roles of visitor and company employee. You may download the complete procedure for this role play, here.
The most successful writing activities for students of Business English, center on email writing, naturally, because it’s the type of writing that most students are expected to handle on a daily basis.
Fortunately, there are several worksheets available at BusyTeacher.org, from sample emails to email writing exercises. Also, a very useful worksheet to share with students is the one that presents the 32 Most Important Email Etiquette Tips. And don't forget to assign email for homework!
Reading and vocabulary building
Students of Business English need a great deal of vocabulary to feel confident enough to conduct business in English. You can supply them with endless vocabulary lists, but they need to practice these words in context. And there’s no better context than the current business events we read about in the newspaper every day.
1. Newspaper or magazine clippings
Choose short newspaper or magazine articles, or extracts. Give each student one short article or extract, with 3 or 4 questions they must answer. Students read and answer the comprehension questions. Students then ask each other: “Have you heard the latest about ABC Telecom?” And proceed to summarize the news.
2. Wikipedia entries and business blogs
There are countless reading resources available on the Internet, from Wikipedia entries to business blog posts. If the texts are too complex or too difficult for your students, you may choose to give them your own simplified version. Whatever you choose to have students read, each reading exercise must be accompanied by a series of steps, for a successful learning experience.
Here’s an example with this Wikipedia entry on the recession (first two paragraphs).
- Warm up to introduce the topic: Ask students what they know about an economic recession.
- Introduce key vocabulary: in this case, contraction, investment spending, employment, inflation, etc… and practice through examples.
- Ask students a general question about the text and have them skim the text for the answer: “What generally causes a recession?”
- Students read the text again to answer more specific questions.
Whether they already give presentations or not on a daily basis, it is essential for your students to be prepared to give them. It's also a great way to practice key vocabulary. In the following example, the teacher introduces the language of charts and graphs.
Charts and graphs
First go over the differences between a pie chart, bar graph, and line graph, and provide examples. Then introduce the language of charts: increase, decrease, go up, go down, rise, fall, jump, slump, improve, decline, slight, gradual, sharp, dramatic, major, etc…Present students two charts, for example, figures for the first and second quarter, and give them examples: “There was a gradual increase in sales” or “Sales increased gradually in the second quarter”. Students practice presenting the information on other charts, which may include market share comparison (Blackberry has captured a greater share of the market, while Palm has lost market share in the second quarter); sales figures; profits; taxes; etc…
To provide successful Business English lessons all you have to do is focus on your students’ needs.
Do they need to write in English? Speak English on the telephone? General business vocabulary or more specific ter ms? If you cater to their needs, you’ll not only be preparing them to face the business world with the right English skills, but also helping them on the road to success!
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A lot of the time people who teach business English will have core text books that they need to stick to, but the learning process can be made a little bit easier by adding in a few extra activities. It will keep the students’ attention focused and as well as this, it will also allow them to relax. Whether it be a warmer, something to fill the gap or a relaxing activity at the end, here is a list of activities that most Business English students will enjoy.
Everybody loves to play games in class. Many of us will remember times during school when the teacher would play a games on the board in order to keep the class interested. It seemed a lot more fun than doing normal work, and with adults this is no different. Hangman involves the students having to guess a particular word. You think of a word, and draw a line of blank boxes on the board which indicate how many letters the word has. Students then ask for clues to the word, and then add letters. For every letter they get wrong, a body part is drawn. Once the picture is complete, the man is “hanged” so to speak and they lose. If they win, however, the entire word will be spelled out on the board. Undoubtedly this is a great way of practicing English and getting the class involved.
Another way to get the students’ minds going is a game of Chinese Whispers. A lot of people might think of it as a childish game, but it is important to remember that even adults need to unwind sometimes. Come up with a specific phrase, give it to one student, and then they have to whisper it to their partner and it is passed along like this. It will definitely be interesting to examine the end result compared to the beginning.
Job Skills Interview
For those who are interested in reviewing their own skills, setting up a mock interview is a great way of helping the students to become more confident. Get them to come up with their own questions for the candidate, and then let them find a partner with which to practice. This will build up their own confidence and allow them to get better with conversational skills.
Telephone Role Play
This is a fairly simple one which everyone will love. Get the class to divide into pairs and write up a small conversational piece. When practicing this role play, the students need to sit back to back in order to simulate talking on the phone. This will get to speak a lot more, since they have only their voice to rely on.
Call My Bluff
This is a very popular game which students will also enjoy. Divide the class into two groups or more, depending on big it is. Give each group a specific word, and also give them the correct meaning of it. The groups then attempt to fool one another by having a list of meanings for that one word, only one of which is true.
This can be quite a humorous game to play and definitely will get a few laughs from everyone. Have somebody sit in front of the board, and write the name of a famous person above their heads. They then have to ask the class questions about the person until they find out who it is.
Write a Story
This activity can be used for either the improvement of conversational skills or writing skills. It follows the same idea of the “story stick” whereby a student comes up with the first sentence of the story, and the second comes up with the next, and so on. This can turn into a very entertaining piece and can do wonders in helping the students to get better.
This game can be used to test a wide range of vocabulary knowledge, from parts of the body to objects which are in the room. Students have to listen to what the teacher says, and go over and touch that particular object when the teacher says, “Simon says… Go to the chair.” This is generally played with lower levels.
Quite similar to a role play. This difference is, the students set up their own scenario and have to act it out in front of the class. This means they have no set lines they have to adhere to, and therefore anything goes as long as they are speaking English.
Often this particular activity can be used as a warm up for the start of a new class. Compose a list of questions, such as “Who has a dog?” and other trivial pieces of information. Distribute them to students, and then get the students to go about filling in the answers from others. This will definitely help them to improve their conversational skills and get to know others in the class.
Use this activity to test out your students’ own knowledge by getting them to build sentences themselves on the board. A noun phrase generally works at the start, by simply adding, “The old woman.” Get the students to add adjectives, prepositions and other sentence parts to form something that is clear and makes sense.
Draw the Word
This is a particularly interesting exercises whereby one can test the abilities of their students. Get one of them to come up to the front of the class and give the rest of the class a word to describe. They cannot say the actual word, they must allow the person to draw it. Therefore, it must be a concrete noun of some kind, usually a complicated one which can be described in detail. This can be quite a lot of fun and everyone can participate.
Pick Out Words
This one is a little more complicated. When reading a text, jot down certain words on the board and have the students try and think of new words. Even if they don’t come up with much, it is a great way of teaching new vocabulary.
When studying a particular topic, Youtube clips or a video of some kind can be a great way to let the student practice their listening skills. Choose a video relevant to the topic at hand (such as a newscast) and play it. Afterwards, ask questions about it orally.
When studying marketing, this could be a great way of helping students break the ice in their first classes. Get them to survey each other on a wide range of topics, as it will get them talking in English and using it proactively.
Of course, these are not the only activities and it is often a good idea to take a look up on various Business English websites to find more ideas. Tailoring various games to suit business English is pretty easy, and it is undoubtedly a great way to boost the students’ confidence whilst helping them have fun at the same time.