Q&A with the authors of ETpedia Business English – John Hughes and Robert McLarty
1. Where did the idea to write ETpedia Business English come from?
After the success of ETpedia we realised there was scope for more titles covering specialist areas of English Language Teaching. In recent years, very few new resource books have been published on the area of Business English so it made sense to include it as one of the new titles in the series.
2. How did you go about writing the book?
We brainstormed the areas we wanted to cover, then planned the contents in detail. After that we divided the chapters up and wrote them into a single document. There are 50 units and each unit has 10 points making the layout clear and easy to reference.
3. Who have you written the book for?
New teachers looking for inspiration, experienced teachers looking to refresh their ideas, school managers looking for ideas for in-service training.
4. What did you learn from writing your book?
General English and Business English have a lot in common but BE is much more driven by individual needs, has immediate takeaway value and requires the teacher and class to work very closely together.
5. What's your favourite activity for teaching business topics?
Any activity is useful when it gets students trying to express quite complex concepts in English. In other words, saying what they really want to say. One useful tool for this kind of activity is a framework. A framework can take many forms such as a flowchart or a series of dialogue boxes. Frameworks help students to plan what they want to say and to make their communication more effective by giving it a structure; so when preparing a presentation for example, or planning a phone call, they work really well in the classroom. Unit 26 of ETpedia Business English has ten ideas on using frameworks.
6. What advice do you have for teachers planning to move into Business English teaching?
Be prepared to learn a lot and listen actively. That’s because you’ll often be teaching people who are highly qualified and experts in their own professional field so in return for you teaching them English, they will often share their knowledge. The more opportunities for increasing your content knowledge of business from your students, the more you will develop as a Business English teacher.
7. What do you think is best way to develop students spoken communication skills?
Spend time getting them to tell the sort of stories they would normally tell in their own language and to ask the kind of questions they usually ask. Whenever you can encourage use of the language they use in the everyday work, the closer you get to fulfilling their language needs; that’s always your primary aim in Business English.
8. What do you think is the biggest challenge in teaching Business English?
Attendance can be a problem as can the stop-start nature of the classes. Business English classes are also often run just to maintain learners' English so progress per se is hard to judge. It’s these kinds of practical challenges that we address in some of the early units of the book and suggest ways to deal with them.
9. What do you think is the biggest challenge for students learning Business English?
People who work – as any teacher also knows – are always short on time. They have busy careers and they probably also have busy home lives. So having the time to practise every day, even for just ten minutes can sometimes be hard for students. As a teacher, you can’t underestimate the amount of classroom time needed for revising and recycling new language. Somehow you have to build in practice-time to the student’s working day without it become too onerous. One tip is for a student to have a set of small cards or his or her desk. Whenever a new words comes up in class, they write it on one side of the card and then write a definition, or gapfill sentence with the word missing on the other. Then, during the day when they have a few minutes at their desk, they can pick up the cards and test themselves.
10. As well as ETpedia Business English, where else can teachers go for more tips on teaching Business English?
IATEFL has a special interest group for Business English teachers www.besig.org and they produce regular newsletters and have conferences and webinars. It’s a great way to find support and develop as a teacher.
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