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Business Conversation Techniques for ESL Adult Learners

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 8/2/2012

Use classified ad clippings of situations - vacant and wanted, and real job applications and responses to pull words in order to teach business conversation to adults. ESL lessons focused on business English will enable adult learners to have real life experiences in English language learning.

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    Work synonyms

    Some people love to work, some don’t. Whether we like it or not, most of have to work in some way or another. Your ESL adults either already work or will work when they have completed their English course. They need business conversation. Work with these ESL adults to achieve a certain competence in business English.

    Start by using a thesaurus and point out to your students all the synonyms associated with the word "work." This will help to build their vocabulary. Here are some of the synonyms associated with the noun found in Roget’s Super Thesaurus: “daily grind, employment, job, occupation, trade, situation, office profession, vocation, assignment” Here are some associated with the verb: toil, put in effort, be employed, do business, earn one’s living, function, operate, run, perform and produce.

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    Synonym exercise

    After introducing students to some of the vocabulary, you can give them a little exercise to distinguish the different meanings of the words.

    Synonyms relating to work. Complete the following sentences with the correct form of the words from the list.

    o Situation

    o Position

    o Duty

    o Profession

    o Job

    o Work

    1. Marie passed her business exams. She will certainly get a very good…………….in a Company.

    2. John never finished his studies. He doesn’t have a …… He is looking for a fixed…………

    3. .However with the unemployment ………… it is not easy. He does little…. here and there.

    4. Mark has an important……in a large firm. He has many ……………He is Project Manger, Administrative Assistant and a member of several administrative committees.

    Answers: 1. position 2. Profession 3.job 4.situation 5. Jobs 6. Position 7. Duties

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    Dialogue 1

    Here are some sentences connected with work. After students have read and understood, you can jumble the sentences. Students can rearrange them to form a dialogue, which they can role play. The first deals with a greeting by a receptionist in preparation for a job interview.

    A. Good morning, my name is Anna. I have an interview with Mr. Sosa.

    B.. Please have a seat. He will be with you shortly. Would you care for some coffee or water?

    A..Some coffee, thanks.

    B..Great, help yourself; its right across there on the table.

    B.Oh, that’s Mr. Sosa calling. I’ll show you to his office. You may take your coffee with you.

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    Dialogue 2

    Here is another dialogue. This one deals with ordering office supplies.

    A. Excuse me, can you tell me how do I order the office supplies?

    B. Sure. There is a form which you need to fill out. I’ll get it for you. It’s right here on the internet. Which supplies do you need?

    A. Oh, I see. They are all listed there.

    B. Yes, you simply tick off the boxes next to the supplies you need.

    A. What do I do next?

    B. You click on "Add to Cart" for each item, and then you simply click "Finish" and submit your order.

    A. Thank you so much.

    B. You are welcome.

    Students can work at role playing several different types of dialogues for business conversations. Working with adults on this project is easier than with children, since the topic is more relevant to their needs.