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Let's Talk Business: Vocab for ESL Students

written by: Nikei Meade • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 9/11/2012

Do you want to learn how to effectively teach vocab to ESL students interested in business? It seems like a daunting task, doesn't it? Don't worry. Careful preparation and research will help you, and your students, tremendously.

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    Overview

    As the de facto world business language, learning English has become increasingly important for ESL students. Hence, it is vital for ESL teachers to understand methods for teaching ESL students the lanuage of business. Before you embark on teaching a course in Business English, you must have a firm idea of what you are going to teach and how you are going to teach. Creating a course outline and a guide for teaching ESL business vocabulary are crucial first steps.

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    Making a Course Outline and Syllabus

    Well, you've got to be prepared. You can't just stumble into class and start talking about finance vocabulary in English without a plan! You want to create a course that starts by establishing a basis for English Business language, and then move into more specialized vocabulary. Be sure to suit the class to the level of the students and their personal interests. If you unsure of this, spend the first class doing a level assessment of the students and ask them what their expectations for the course are.

    Have a look at a sample course outline here. The course is based on 20 lessons. The one-to-one classes are just a suggestion, but I have found most students love this idea and take full advantage of the opportunity.

    Class 1: Level Assessment and Talk about Expectations

    Class 2: Business Socializing

    Class 3: Writing Emails and Making Phone Calls

    Class 4: Business Meetings

    Class 5: One-to-One Specialty Class

    Class 6 and Class 7: How to Make a Resume in English

    Class 8: Business Negotiations

    Class 9: Business Writing

    Class 10: One-to-One Specialty Class

    Class 11: Business Ethics

    Class 12: Cross-Cultural Business

    Class 13: Describing Types of Businesses

    Class 14: Doing Business on the Internet in English

    Class 15: One-to-One Specialty Class

    Class 16: Giving Interviews and Getting Interviewed

    Class 17: Marketing and Advertising in English

    Class 18: Business Presentations in English

    Class 19: Give a Business Presentation

    Class 20: One-to-One Specialty Class

    What you teach is ultimately up to you, but be sure that you cover the major areas of English Business language, such as email writing and the language used at business meetings. This is a must for any ESL business course. Feel free to focus in on the needs of your students, as well. Students, who work in the marketing sector, will inevitably want to work on improving their English marketing skills and English marketing vocabulary.

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    Teaching Methodology

    Now that you have a grasp of how to organize the class content, you want to focus in on how to teach it. While lectures will be needed to introduce the topic, the best way for your ESL students to truly understand how to use their newly learned English business vocabulary is to practice using it. This can be done in a variety of ways. (Note: Dave's ESL Cafe has a huge library of resources for teaching business English. In addition, Cambridge University has tons of recommended readings and information on teaching business English. These websites have great resources, which serve as a helpful guide for teaching as well as creating a well-constructed ESL business course!)

    For example, if you are teaching an ESL class on Marketing and Advertising in English you could, first, give them a lecture on appropriate language to be used in marketing a product in English. Teaching slogans of famous brands can also be a big help in getting ESL students in business to understand what type of language is effective to English-speaking consumers. Analyze famous ad slogans like Nike's, "Just Do It", Nokia's, "Connecting People" and Apple's, "Think Different". Then, you can discuss why these are so catchy for customers. After that, you can divide the class into small groups and have them create their own commercial and ad slogan, and then, act it out in front of the class. If the students work in the marketing sector, then spend several weeks creating an advertisement campaign. Presenting it to the class would be hugely beneficial to them.

    Here is another example. If you are teaching giving and getting interviews, first, go over questions that are typically asked in interviews as well as what are appropriate responses are. Then, allow time for students to ask and voice their own concerns about being interviewed in English. Lastly, have students role play, interview each other and practice.

    The use of role play in the teaching of ESL business vocabulary is highly recommended. Students should, first, listen to your lecture and videos to get an understanding of the business vocabulary being used in the given business topic. Then, you should hold a discussion about how to use such language in the classroom. Lastly, use activities to implant this English business vocabulary in their minds. Involve them and they will understand. If the lecture is slow, enhance it with videos, PowerPoints and questions for the class. Remember that students, regardless of age, will learn more if they are being active. So make it fun! Learning business English does not have to be tedious and boring.

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