Teaching Business English

Teaching Business English

Sharon de Hinojosa, Korea

Sharon de Hinojosa holds a BA in Liberal Arts from the USA and an MA in TEFL from Spain. She started teaching while in university and since then she has taught in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Sharon is currently an assistant professor at Sungkyunkwan University in Suwon. E-mail: sharondehinojosa@gmail.com

It can be a bit daunting to teach Business English as most of the students have had many teachers and a firm grasp on the English language. In addition, some of the terms and vocabulary that you come across might be new to you. However, with a bit of planning and work, you’ll find that Business English classes aren’t that difficult to teach. English seems to be fast replacing other languages as the language of business and is becoming a necessary requisite to many jobs around the world. The desire to communicate and exchange ideas and products has long been etched into our beings. By teaching Business English you are not only helping students further their English skills, but also teaching them about different cultures in order for them not to make a faux pas when doing business in other countries. By adding this humanistic element to the classroom, you will make Business English more fun and enjoyable for both you and your students.


  • Have a solid curriculum. Whether you use a book or not, you’re going to need a solid curriculum to follow. Businesspeople have high expectations, so running off to class and expecting to wing it simply won’t cut it. There are many Business English books out there aimed at a range or levels and different types of Business English. If you’re going to work with a book make sure you find a suitable one for your class.
  • The four skills. You need to work on all four skills, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, as well as vocabulary and grammar.
  • Weaknesses. All students have them, even those that have been studying for years. Whether you ask your students directly about their weaknesses or simply observe them, you should try to give your students help both inside and outside of class so that they can better their English.
  • Practice makes perfect. Make sure you give ample practice time in class. Business people often have a better passive knowledge than active knowledge of English.
  • Dress appropriately. Jeans, t-shirts, and sandals are simply not appropriate. When teaching Business English, you should dress like a business person. Which means a dress shirt and pants for men, and nice pants/skirt and a blouse for women.
  • Do research. If you have a background in business, you may be familiar with all the vocabulary, companies, and themes that you discuss. If not, you’re going to have to do your homework and do a bit of research on the subject you’re teaching.
  • Be a professional. Come prepared and a bit early to class.
  • Give feedback. You’ll find that when teaching a high level class, while students are often fluent, they still make simple mistakes. You need to make them aware of their mistakes. There are a couple of ways, while speaking and after they speak. While speaking you can slightly raise your hand when they make a simple mistake and they should notice it and correct it. You can also note down their mistakes while speaking, and then go over them at the end of class.
  • Set phrases. Set phrases are part of normal vocabulary. Things like „how do you do”, „I’d like. . .” and „I’m afraid I can’t” are just a couple of examples of set phrases that we use. If you are using a text book, you might find some at the end of the book. If not, you’ll have to come up with some on your own. Stick with the theme of chapter and try to find suitable phrases. Try brainstorming and asking colleagues for phrases as well.
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