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How to Learn Business English - 10 Top Tips You Need To Know

For non-native English speakers working in an English-speaking environment, mastering Business English is crucial for career advancement. This article provides valuable tips to enhance your English communication skills at work, even if you're on a tight schedule or lack a conversation partner.

What is Business English?

business English meeting speak up

You’ve likely heard the term “Business English” several times and each time you’ve probably wondered, what makes Business English different from general English? What do you learn in Business English courses?

On a technical level, Business English is part of a larger category called English for Specific Purposes (or ESP). Other types of English that fall into this category include Simplified Technical English, English for Tourism, and Scientific English. What's special about these categories is that they have:

  • Specialized terms that only exist within a certain industry, or
  • Everyday terms that have precise/specific meanings within that industry

Generally speaking, Business English is a type of specialized English that is used within companies, in finance, international trade, banking, and other professional settings. Learning Business English helps you communicate effectively in different business environments, such as meetings, emails, sales presentations, or negotiations.

If you don't feel comfortable speaking in business contexts, don't worry. Business English is a skill you can learn. In fact, native English speakers need to learn Business English, too. It’s not something you grow up learning since there are specialized terms that aren’t used in day-to-day conversation. So don’t be surprised if you see a fluent English speaker in your Business English class.

Why is business English important?


Hiring choices are no longer limited by geography. Project managers set up remote teams filled with global talent. Multicultural teams hold virtual meetings across borders. Effective communication is vital to the success of these international endeavors, and English is now the global language of business. English has become the lingua franca of global communication, innovation, and commerce.

More and more companies worldwide are establishing English as the common language for their business, both in internal and external communications. Back in 2012, Harvard Business Review already reported that companies such as Nokia, Renault, and SAP (among others) had already mandated English as their common corporate language. Imagine now!

Why are companies, especially those in non-English-speaking countries, shifting to English-only policies? The answer lies in the enabling power of English. Using one unifying language streamlines operations: it makes all corporate documentation readily accessible to every employee, eliminating the need for translation. This fosters smoother communication between managers in India and their counterparts in Germany, enhances collaboration among geographically dispersed teams, and expands the reach of sales efforts to global markets. English is no longer just beneficial—it is essential.

Challenges with business English

Challenges with business English

Many learners struggle with:

  • Expressing ideas clearly and accurately.
  • Cultural misunderstandings.
  • Anxiety during phone calls or meetings.
  • Navigating accents, pronunciation, and industry-specific vocabulary.

Many non-native English speakers who have been learning  English for a long time still struggle with Business English. It's not that easy to communicate professionally. Many people can understand texts easily, but when they have to communicate with colleagues and customers in day-to-day business English situations, they struggle.

Unclear or unsuccessful communication, cultural barriers, lack of confidence, accent, and pronunciation, and lack of business-specific vocabulary are some of the most common challenges that learners experience when they need to communicate in business English.

Let's look at some of the most powerful tips to boost your communication skills for work. 

Tips to improve your business English skills... Even on a busy schedule

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Life is all about setting priorities. No matter how packed your schedule may seem, you consistently find time for essentials like brushing your teeth, attending work, and eating. Even if you rush through brushing your teeth or don’t always have the best week at work or the healthiest meals, you ensure these critical activities are done.

You should adopt a similar mindset when learning business English. Waiting for the perfect opportunity to study is both impractical and ineffective. Rather than seeking large blocks of time, the key is to integrate English practice into your daily life, no matter how small these opportunities might be. Here are some practical tips to seamlessly incorporate English learning into your routine, keeping you progressing, regardless of how busy you may be.

1. Prioritize learning business English

1. Prioritize learning business EnglishYou can't learn all the business expressions all at once. Focus on identifying and prioritizing the language skills you truly need and forget about what is not relevant for you. 

Begin by listing the specific scenarios where English is essential—whether it’s for phone conversations, writing emails, negotiating deals, delivering presentations, participating in meetings, or connecting with colleagues from abroad. Setting clear objectives will guide your learning journey. Instead of trying to memorize every expression, start with one or two key phrases for each situation and expand your repertoire as your confidence grows. Use these phrases in real contexts to help cement your knowledge.

If you're considering business English lessons with a teacher, discuss your specific needs with your instructor to tailor your learning experience effectively. This focused approach ensures that you spend time only on what's most relevant, enhancing the overall effectiveness of your training.

2. Choose the Business English resources that work for you

2. Choose the Business English resources that work for youWe all learn differently and have unique schedules. Do you prefer learning through videos, or do you like to read? Are you able to attend various events, or do you only have a few minutes each day for practice? Take a moment to consider what suits you best and choose resources that match your style.

If you're still unsure, start with these three business English resources:

If your schedule only allows you to practice English while watching Netflix, opt for shows set in a business environment. Our top recommendations include "Suits" and "Succession" for a more serious tone, or "Silicon Valley" and "The Office" for a touch of humor.

When you're winding down at home tonight, consider diving into a show in English. It doesn't need to be overtly educational. Even indulging in a reality TV show can be beneficial. The goal is simple: make English a natural part of your relaxation time. Explore these tips to turn your viewing habits into effective English language practice.

3. Prepare for different Business English scenarios

3. Prepare and practice different Business English scenariosSpeaking and listening in real-time can be challenging because they're live performances—there's no opportunity for edits or revisions. You can't undo what's already been said, nor can you go back to clarify a misunderstood word immediately. This reality can be intimidating, especially during high-stakes meetings.

To build confidence and proficiency, write scripts for different business scenarios. Prepare in advance by scripting potential conversations, such as pitching an idea to your manager. Practice these scripts to refine your delivery and ensure you can articulate your ideas clearly and confidently when it counts.

Remember, many conversations follow a predictable pattern but may include some variations. Incorporate these variations and potential responses into your scripts. Continuously update and expand your scripts as you encounter new expressions or scenarios in your daily business interactions. This proactive approach helps you handle real-time communication with greater ease and confidence.

4. Reduce anxiety with Business English communication

4. Reduce anxiety with Business English communicationAnxiety is a significant barrier when speaking a foreign language, particularly in professional settings where time to think is limited. Unlike writing, where you can deliberate over word choice or consult a dictionary, speaking and listening demand immediate responses, which can heighten anxiety and undermine confidence.

To combat this, prioritize clarity over perfection. Remember, even native English speakers make mistakes and do not speak flawlessly. Instead of fixating on minor errors, concentrate on being understood. If you forget a word, find alternative ways to express your idea. Made a grammatical error? Correct it simply by saying, "Oh, I meant [insert correct preposition]," and move on. If something isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Let go of the obsession with details. Small mistakes are normal and can be valuable learning opportunities. The goal is to communicate effectively, not perfectly. Start by ensuring that your message is clear, and as you grow more comfortable in business settings, you can gradually refine your accuracy and precision.

By shifting your focus from perfection to effective communication, you can significantly reduce anxiety and improve your confidence in using Business English.

5. Improve your Business English through active practice

Copy of IG Mascot Series (6)A common reason for not feeling fully confident in speaking English is simply not speaking it enough. To build confidence, shift from passive learning to active engagement. Think of learning English like learning to cook: you can't master it just by reading recipes. You need to get into the kitchen, make mistakes, and learn from them. In the context of Business English, this means taking every opportunity to practice, embracing mistakes, and not striving for perfection right away.

In traditional educational settings, the focus is often on reading and writing, with less emphasis on speaking. This approach doesn't prepare you adequately for real-world interactions. To improve, it’s crucial to use English actively and frequently. Engage in conversations with English speakers, participate actively in business meetings, join English conversation practice sessions, and initiate discussions during virtual hangouts with international colleagues.

Additionally, explore platforms like Meetup to connect with local groups who share similar interests, or consider professional English language courses that focus on practical application. These settings provide real-life opportunities to practice and hone your Business English skills. Ultimately, the best way to learn a language and its cultural nuances is through practical application. Engage actively, communicate as much as possible, and watch your proficiency grow.

Business English courses for career success - Talaera

6. Think in English

6. Think in EnglishEngaging in conversations with native English speakers is a fantastic way to practice the language and pick up new phrases. However, if you find yourself without a conversation partner, don’t give up—become your own partner!

Talking to yourself might feel awkward initially, but it’s an effective and private method to enhance your language skills. Role-play different characters in various scenarios, ask yourself questions, and then answer them. This practice can highlight your strengths and weaknesses—perhaps you're good at responding but find it challenging to initiate questions. Remember, speaking to yourself isn’t just harmless; it’s beneficial, providing both motivational and instructional value.

Make a conscious effort to think in English as often as possible. This practice is not only excellent for language acquisition but also helps manage stress. As you search for the right words and structure your thoughts, you slow down your mind, prioritize your ideas, and tackle issues methodically. Soon, you’ll find yourself planning projects and organizing tasks effortlessly in English.

7. Learn Business English within context

7. Learn Business English within contextUnderstanding Business English—or any language—goes beyond memorizing a list of words; it requires learning in context. Knowing individual words is useful, but the real power of language comes from understanding how to connect those words, form phrases, and use them appropriately in various situations.

Whenever you encounter a new word, focus on the context:

  • In what situations is it used?
  • In which phrases does it appear?
  • Does it form part of any common collocations? For example, we say "do business," not "make business." Mastering such collocations can significantly enhance your fluency and make you sound more like a native speaker.

Instead of rote memorization, integrate new vocabulary into sentences tailored for specific scenarios. This method—learning phrases or "chunks" of language—makes it easier to remember and use English effectively. When you communicate using well-constructed phrases, you’re more likely to be understood correctly, increasing your confidence and success in using Business English.

8. Read Business English speeches out loud

8. Read Business English speeches out loudIconic speeches captivate audiences not only with their words but also through their delivery. The cadence, pacing, and rhythm crafted by the speaker and speechwriter play pivotal roles in their impact. To harness the power of such speeches, listen to ones delivered by renowned business figures like Warren Buffet or Sheryl Sandberg. Obtain the transcripts and practice reciting them aloud.

This exercise offers a trifecta of benefits: it expands your vocabulary, sharpens your pronunciation, and polishes your public speaking skills. Engaging actively with these speeches allows you to mimic professional communication styles effectively.

For those looking to deepen their practice, consider shadowing. This technique involves repeating English audio immediately as you hear it, akin to singing along with a song. It's helpful to have the transcript handy, so you can read as you listen. Don't worry if you don't catch every word; the goal is to practice the native rhythms and intonations of English. Through shadowing, you'll improve not only your speaking and listening skills but also gain confidence in your language abilities.

9. Improve your business English by reading news headlines


9. Improve your business English by reading news headlinesFor many, the morning routine includes catching up on the latest news. If English isn't your first language, fully comprehending detailed articles may be challenging. To stay informed and improve your English simultaneously, start by reading the headlines on an English-language news website. This approach allows you to quickly grasp the day's major events while learning key nouns and verbs. Reading headlines is an efficient way to build your vocabulary and gain familiarity with the language in a real-world context.

This method not only keeps you updated with global events but also helps you understand the structure of English sentences and familiarize yourself with common journalistic expressions. Over time, you may find yourself more comfortable diving into full articles, enhancing your reading comprehension and deepening your language skills. This gradual approach is less daunting and encourages consistent language learning without overwhelming you with too much information at once.

10. Learn one expression each day

Copy of IG Mascot Series (11)To enhance your fluency and sound more like a native English speaker, commit to learning a new phrase or expression daily. Engage with social media platforms that offer vocabulary tips—like our daily tips on Instagram—or tune into our podcast, Talaera Talks. Alternatively, keep a personal list of interesting expressions you find. Practice using these expressions promptly to reinforce your memory and ensure they become a part of your active vocabulary.

Understanding idiomatic expressions can often be challenging, particularly when you're familiar with all the individual words but still miss the overall meaning of the phrase. For instance, knowing the words "barking," "wrong," and "tree" doesn't automatically convey the meaning of the idiom "barking up the wrong tree." There’s no simple path to mastering these idioms; immersion and regular usage are key. By actively learning and using new expressions each day, you'll gradually overcome these hurdles and deepen your understanding of the language.

11. Join Talaera's Business English training

11. Join Talaera's Business English trainingTo take your Business English skills to the next level, consider joining Talaera's comprehensive Business English training. Our program includes weekly English speaking practice sessions where you can engage with other professionals. These sessions are not only excellent for boosting your confidence but also provide opportunities to expand your professional network and learn about diverse cultures.

In addition to group practice, Talaera offers a range of business English online courses designed to cater to various aspects of business communication. For a more tailored learning experience, you can opt for our premium 1:1 training. This personalized approach allows you to focus on specific areas of improvement and receive individualized feedback, accelerating your progress in mastering Business English.

By integrating Talaera’s training into your routine, you'll gain practical skills and insights that are directly applicable to your professional life, enhancing both your communication abilities and cultural competence.

Business English courses for career success - Talaera

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[Article originally posted in October 2018 and recently updated to make it more relevant to you.]