Business English is under the umbrella of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), which is a subset of learning the English language in general. The specific purpose of Business English is to equip learners to communicate effectively in the workforce.
What is the importance of functional English in business?
Functional English enables professionals to communicate efficiently and successfully in any organization or company. Having functional English skills will help you understand what people around you are saying and how they say things. It also equips you to express yourself clearly and concisely when communicating with others.
As a learner, having good English reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills will help you on a personal, social, and professional level.
- Personal: English language learners who study business English becomes competent English speakers. Their competence gives them the confidence and motivation to expand their skill set.
- Social: Everyone is connected now because of the web and the internet. Since the primary language used in social media is English, learners who know the language have the advantage of widening their network and connections. Moreover, it also increases the possibility of English language learners communicating with a native speaker who can help them improve.
- Professional: English is a global language. The employability rate of a learner in various English-speaking companies is higher than those who do not speak the language. In fact, according to studies, improving your English results in an average 18% increase in expected salary across all countries and industries. Business English, therefore, allows you to be a global citizen and work in any part of the world.
Business English skills improvement overview
Improvement always starts with one’s initiative. After setting your learning goals, the next thing to do is put them into action by seeking ways to study business English communication skills.
There are various resources like an online course, classes at a local school, books, audio materials, and online tutorials. Whatever method you decide to use, make sure you put effort into improving your skills. Moreover, in the span of your study, make sure to maintain a positive attitude and enjoy your learning journey.
We will go in-depth below on how to quickly and effectively improve your communication skills in business English.
BEGIN NOW – Knowing business English and setting realistic objectives
Learning a foreign language at any point in life is always good for you. However, if you want to be able to speak business English fluently, then the best thing to do is start learning it now. You need to know the target language and set realistic goals for yourself.
What is Business English?
Business English is a language tailored for the professional lives of learners in the corporate world. It is characterized by using formal words and English phrases, also known as business jargon. Learners must focus on mastering these elements before moving on to other aspects of the language.
How to set realistic objectives to improve your business English skills?
Setting realistic learning objectives gives you direction and helps you stay motivated. Begin by taking a test that measures your current level of English language skills. This way, you will get a clear idea of where you stand.
After knowing the level of your English skills, follow the SMART method and set achievable goals:
Specific. You should focus on one topic or skill only.
Measurable. There should be a way to track and measure your progress.
Actionable. The tasks to achieve your identified goal must be clear.
Realistic. Your goal should be possible to achieve.
Time-bound. The task must be doable in a fixed time frame.
Here are examples of SMART objectives:
|Target Skill||Learning Objective|
|Reading||In one week, I will improve my business English by reading three blog posts about phrasal verbs and listing ten commonly used phrasal verbs.|
|Writing||I will study the structure of business emails for one month and write one email weekly.|
|Talking||After two weeks, I should be able to know how to make formal introductions by practicing introducing my friend to a colleague.|
|Viewing||I will improve my business English comprehension by watching a business presentation tutorial twice and answering five guide questions.|
DIVE DEEP – Practicing with real-life situations in your field
Native and non-native English learners alike will benefit from real-life tasked-based scenarios when improving their business communication skills. Practicing using concrete applications of their knowledge in actual business situations will help them to improve their language proficiency, as well as their confidence and self-esteem.
Here are a few real-life situations in a business context that learners can exercise according to their English language level:
|initiating a small talk||job interview||conducting a business meeting|
|making introductions||cold calling||presenting a product or service|
|placing an order||giving instructions||expressing an opinion|
|talking about jobs||addressing complaints||negotiating an agreement|
|greetings and saying ‘goodbye’||scheduling appointments||assigning action items|
READ – Establishing foundations of business English for successful communication
Reading is one of the simplest ways to absorb knowledge, especially when learning a second language. Language shapes our thinking, and reading books written in the target language trains your brain to think in English.
Why is reading important in acquiring skills in business English communication?
It’s simple – reading allows you to understand what others say, which is essential for effective communication. Through reading, you will understand the culture of your industry, build a strong English vocabulary, and know how to use expressions in the business context.
Aside from developing your comprehension skills, you will extract knowledge of English grammar concepts and gain exposure to different writing styles and formats.
How do I select reading resources to improve my professional English?
You have many options when it comes to selecting materials to read. However, your choice should depend on your reading preference. As a starter, it is best to read light reading resources like English blog posts, business news articles, and short stories.
Learners can also subscribe to business websites for their constant source of industry articles they can read.
As you advance in your studies, you may want to move towards more complex material such as novels, textbooks, and academic papers.
To build your foundation in communication through reading, it would be beneficial for you to have a personal business notebook or document where you could record your vocabulary list, key phrases, and reflections. Start building your reading habit by committing yourself to read regularly.
WRITE – Using written English to show professionalism
Writing is an integral part of any profession and the key element of business communication. Business professionals use their writing skills not just in writing emails but also writing complex materials like proposals, memos, reports, speeches, and manuals.
Words to sentences: Gradual improvement of business English writing skills
A sentence always starts with a single word. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, you can start by picking one word in your vocabulary list and writing down three to five words connected with it. After that, you can start to write simple sentences from the words you picked out.
For example, your main word is “job,” and the five related words you listed are: apply, experience, work, write, and position. You can write your first sentence as: I want a job. However, you can express more using the related words as I am writing to apply for this position. I believe that my work experience and education qualify me for this job.
Once you feel comfortable with this process, you can try more complex writing exercises where you can use English phrases and business jargon. Eventually, you will develop your writing skills and produce various types of content.
Simplify your language
When you are writing, make sure to simplify your language. Use short sentences and paragraphs instead of long ones because, in business English, brevity is a must. Here are a few examples of simple words you can use:
- Near instead of close proximity
- Start instead of commence
- Follow instead of comply with
- Meet instead of convene
regularly instead of on a regular basis
When writing emails, keep your paragraph one to three sentences long to avoid a block of text. If possible, use bullet points instead of full sentences.
Avoid using a literal translation
Non-native speakers usually start their English learning by translating words from their native language to their literal English equivalent. That process is a good start but in professional English, it is best to use business contexts when translating.
Look up English phrases
There are three main reasons why you should look up English phrases. First, they help you write naturally, second, they will help you know the meanings of the phrases, and lastly, searching would prevent you from misusing commonly used English words.
Create a structure and write coherently
Mastery of English grammar helps in writing coherently, but more than that, a learner must grasp proper paragraph structure. For example, when writing a blog, there must be an introduction, body, and conclusion.
The introduction serves to catch the attention of the reader. It contains three things about the topic: an interesting opening hook, relevant details, and a thesis statement. The middle part of a blog is the body where the writer explains his ideas or shares information. The conclusion summarizes the salient details of a blog through a powerful statement.
When writing an email, ensure that you have a subject line, salutation, email body, closing, and signature. A subject line gives the recipient a clue about the content of the message. Meanwhile, a salutation is a polite greeting, such as Dear Lilly or Hello Tad. The email body gives the recipients all the necessary information about the subject line. Lastly, a closing statement is a call to action that encourages the recipient to respond to the email.
Proofread your written output using free tools
Proofreading is the final stage in the editing process that ensures all spelling errors have been corrected and any grammatical mistakes have been fixed. There are many online proofreading services available, including Grammarly, Google Docs, and Microsoft Word. These tools will automatically detect errors and suggest corrections.
LISTEN – Practice by listening to Spoken Business English
Listening is a macro skill that English learners use to assimilate or adapt to the accent, intonation, and rhythm of native English speakers. But more than that, listening helps learners unlock context and gather information about business topics such as finance, marketing, or sales.
It is recommended that learners practice listening to spoken business English to get familiar with the way people speak in real life.
Listen to Business English Podcasts
Business English podcasts are a platform for business leaders that is great for improving your listening skills. They provide authentic examples of spoken business English, allowing you to learn new vocabulary and listen to conversations between native speakers.
Tune in to a podcast for entrepreneurs and practice active listening to gather best practices, dissect opinions, and improve your critical thinking in English.
Listen to Business Audio Books
One downside of reading is being familiar with a word but not knowing its proper pronunciation. With business audiobooks, learners can easily access the correct pronunciation of difficult words and phrases.
Learners gain theoretical and practical knowledge about their industry because listening to audiobooks builds advanced listening comprehension skills.
Listen to English Business News
A challenge for learners is to be a business person who listens to news to stay updated with trends and current events. Listening to business news helps learners initiate daily communication with their colleagues during small talk.
Knowing the latest developments in politics, economy, sports, entertainment, and other areas develops learners’ decision-making.
Listen to English Business Radio
Aside from understanding formal business phrases, learners are encouraged to know the business humour that commentaries on business radio provide. Business radio also provides feature about successful people and business stories that helps motivate learners.
VIEW – Watching media to improve your communication skills
Viewing is another way to develop your business English skills. Visual media will help learners understand how people communicate in different situations. Visual media familiarizes learners with business etiquette and gestures demonstrated in the material they will view. Thus, adding more context to real-life business English practices that they learn through reading, writing, and listening.
Watch movies and documentaries
Movies and documentaries are excellent sources of business English learning. Watching these materials will give learners a better understanding of the business world and the role of professionals in various fields.
Watch YouTube videos of Business Presentations
YouTube videos are great alternatives for English courses and language courses in general. All you need is an internet connection to access a wide variety of tutorials and how-to’s of business English. One of the most-watched presentations on YouTube is TED Talks, where successful people share their ideas.
Watch Business News
In addition to watching YouTube videos, movies, and documentaries, learners can watch business news to get updates on trending topics. It provides them with the avenue to keep up with the latest happenings in the business world.
TALK – Growing confidence and building fluency through real-life conversations
After acquiring knowledge through the other skills discussed above, talking in English becomes easier. Talking in English frequently makes learners get used to the language and sound more natural. Ultimately, speaking the language develops learners’ business English communication skills.
Learn Useful business terms and phrases
Business English communication requires knowing terms and phrases usually not used in daily conversations. Learners should have a basic knowledge of business terminologies to express themselves better in all various business scenarios. Here are ten business terms and phrases learners can add to their vocabulary list:
- cut to the chase: go straight to the point; avoid unnecessary details
- keep me in the loop: involve someone in an activity and update them about its progress
- to expedite: accomplish a task quickly; to speed up a process
- back to the drawing board: go back to the planning stage because the first plan or output is unsuccessful
- ballpark figure: a guess or estimation of figures
- action item: task to be accomplished
- touch base: to connect or meet with someone for updates
- going forward: from now on or in the future
- drill down: to examine thoroughly
- take it off the table: remove something from consideration
Practice your Pronunciation
Learners can practice their pronunciation on their own. However, it is better to do so under the supervision of native speakers. The best way to achieve this is by attending classes or watching tutorial videos made by native speakers. It is also advisable to participate in online forums where a community of learners interacts with each other.
FEEDBACK – Improving your business English skills through a more knowledgeable other (MKO)
Mistakes are unavoidable when learning any language, but correcting those mistakes must happen to avoid poor performance. Feedback plays a crucial role in the language acquisition of business English learners.
The more knowledgeable other (MKO) who can guide the learners are coaches, instructors, or teachers. While the best way to improve business English is by attending English classes or hiring a 1-on-1 business English tutor, not everyone can afford it.
However, there are mobile applications that learners can use to guide them in learning business English. Moreover, autonomous learners can be their own coaches.
Record yourself speaking
One method of feedback is recording oneself while speaking. Recording and listening is a form of self-assessment that learners can do to improve their speech. By listening to recordings, learners can identify areas they need to work on and correct their errors.
Use credible and relevant business English resources
When learners encounter difficulties on their journey, they usually refer back to their resource material like textbooks, modules, courses, or tutorial videos. It is, therefore, crucial for those materials to reinforce credible information.
GROW – Advancing business English skills for effective communication
Growth is the result of feedback and consistent practice. Learners maintain their progress by committing to study business English every day.
To grow as a learner, learners must keep track of their progress. They can do this by writing notes after each lesson, reviewing lessons at least once weekly, and keeping track of their weekly goals.
Business English is the widely used language in the global landscape. Students and professionals in different industries could use business English to upskill and enhance their careers.
Improving your business English skills for effective communication can happen quickly and effectively when you dedicate time and effort to learning, keep a positive attitude, and study consistently.
Frequently Asked Questions
Build the habit of learning by creating a study routine. Your aim should be a holistic improvement that’s why you must include the following activities in your study plan:
-Read one business English article per day.
-Write one sentence, paragraph, email, or essay a week.
-Listen to English podcasts and business news.
-Watch tutorials, movies, and documentaries about the business world.
-Talk and communicate with native English speakers and your co-learners to practice your skill.
Understanding real-life business English dialogues are the best way to learn office English. You can start learning office English by reading business English textbooks and then expanding your knowledge by watching videos of office interactions
Language skills help businesses communicate with various people their clients, business partners, and investors. Businesses that train their employees to have proficient language skills are more likely to succeed and expand their operations globally.
Professional English speaking skills can be improved by seeking opportunities to practice the language. After knowing the foundations of professional English, participate in activities that will help you improve your speaking skills like debates, giving presentations, and conversing with native English speakers.
Reading is the first step to developing your business English writing competence. Observe the grammar structure and the tone and flow of various texts. After that, try to write about a topic (e.g., sales) and copy the style of the resource you read. Write consistently and build your own writing style until you can write competently, from instant messages, and emails, to elaborate articles.
Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts
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