By Neya Abdi & Paola Pascual on Oct 9, 2018 3:20:27 AM
What is Business English and why do you need to learn it? How can you practice a new language on a busy schedule? And without a conversation partner? I have the answer to all these questions, plus our TOP 5 best seller tips with the best way to learn a new language.
What Is Business English And Why Do You Need To Learn It?
You’ve likely heard the term “Business English” several times, and each time you’ve probably wondered, “What makes Business English so different from general, “regular” English?”
On a technical level, Business English is part of a larger category called English for Specific Purposes or ESP for short. Other types of English that fall into this category include Simplified Technical English, English for tourism, and Scientific English. Within these categories students find:
- Specialized terms that only exist within a certain industry, or
- Everyday terms that have precise and specific meanings within that industry
English for specific purposes is actually a non-native English speaker’s best friend for language learning. These languages impose limits to increase clarity and limit ambiguity. That way, if scientists from around the world come together to conduct research, they are communicating their ideas using a controlled language instead of sprinkling their sentences with obscure slang or regional phrases.
Business English is a bit broader, but it typically includes the kind of vocabulary vital for trade and commerce. It helps individuals pick up the vocabulary they need for business meetings, correspondence, executive summaries, sales presentations, and more.
Unlike Standard Technical English, which is a trademarked, controlled language, Business English does not have a global standard, but it’s generally expected to cover specialized terms needed to conduct business, and it can be further specialized based on industry such as oil and gas or finance.
Individuals with a solid understanding of Business English can confidently participate in business meetings, write business letters, draft executive summaries, give sales presentations, and more.
Native English Speakers Have to Learn Business English, Too
Based on that description of Business English, you’ve probably picked up on something interesting: native English speakers need to learn Business English, too. It’s not something they 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.
Business English Is Useful for Humans AND Machines
As we’ve mentioned before on the Talaera blog, non-native English speakers often have an easier time understanding each other than they do understanding native English speakers. This is because non-native English speakers learn “textbook” English, following a shared grammar and vocabulary. On the other hand, native English speakers use regional slang, funny expressions, abbreviations, and they speak quickly.
Interestingly, this doesn’t just pose a problem for non-native English speakers. It poses a problem for computers as well, and as our world becomes more connected to devices, it’s essential that we make integration seamless.
The Semantics of Business Vocabulary and RulesTM (SBVR) formalizes complex business language like compliance or operational rules. Computer systems can then interpret and apply those rules. Learning SBVRTM is not essential for learning Business English, but it’s a fascinating example of the necessity to establish specific meanings in language.
English Is The Lingua Franca of Global Commerce
Hiring choices are no longer limited by geography (Click to Tweet). Project managers set up remote teams filled with global talent while companies that have the money cover the cost of relocating desirable candidates. Communication is vital to the success of these international endeavors, and English is quickly (if not already) establishing itself as the lingua franca of global communication, innovation, and commerce.
How Can You Boost Your Business English Speaking? Follow These 5 Powerful Tips
'I have learnt English for many years. I can do grammar activities well, I can read and write correctly, but now I need to present my company and negotiate with customers, and speaking is too difficult. Why are my speaking skills so bad? How can I understand foreign people better? How can I improve my Business English?’
- Comment from English student on Quora
Have You Ever Found Yourself In Any Of These Situations?
I often get students who have learnt business English for a long time, but still struggle: they can understand texts easily, but when they have to communicate in day-to-day business English situations, they don’t feel confident enough.
These are the main problems they often face:
- Unsuccessful communication: ‘I do not know how to say what I think, I cannot express all the ideas I have.’
- Cultural barriers: ‘I was misunderstood, we communicate differently in my country.’
- Accent and pronunciation: ‘I do not understand foreign people when they speak English, or they do not understand my accent.’
- Lack of confidence: ‘Speaking on the phone is too difficult and makes me anxious,’ ‘Job interviews are just too scary.’
If you said yes to any of them, especially if you come from countries like China, Japan, Russia or South Korea, you’re not alone. And you're also in the right place! In this article you will find 5 powerful tips to boost your speaking and listening skills for business English .
But first - Why is it that investing so many hours in learning English still feels like it’s not enough?
The Reasons Why You Keep Failing At Spoken Business English
Let’s look at the main reasons why your spoken business English skills are not as good as your writing or your reading:
- Lack of practice in the ineffective traditional teaching methods
- No time to prepare
- Anxiety and lack of confidence
1. Lack of Practice in the Traditional Teaching Methods
We know why you keep failing at spoken business English! And the reason is... because you haven't spoken enough! Easy, right? At school we spend most of our time reading and writing, and we don’t spend that much time speaking.
This lack of practice is the main reason why your written skills are (way) better than your speaking or listening. The traditional teaching methods focus far too much on the books, and very little on real life situations.
2. No Time to Prepare
If speaking and listening seem difficult it is also because they’re live. They’re about performance. There is no undo. No revision. We can’t go back and check that word we didn’t understand. We can’t delete that sentence with poor grammar we just said. It can be a bit scary, especially if we are talking about Business English.
3. Anxiety and Lack of Confidence
Anxiety is your biggest enemy! When we write, we can take our time and think about the words we want to choose. We can use a dictionary or ask somebody for help. With speaking and listening, there is no time to think, and this causes anxiety. This can make you lose confidence, which makes you speak (or understand) worse than you would. The workplace is not always the most relaxed place, and business English can feel daunting at times.
So now you understand why, what can you do to improve your speaking and listening skills? Follow the next 5 powerful tips.
Tip 1. How Active Learning Will Help You Communicate More Effectively in Business English
The first thing you have to do is to ‘learn how to learn’, that is, memorising a list of words or follow complex grammar rules is definitely not the road to fluency.
- Switch from passive to active learning. Would you learn how to cook by reading a recipe book? Probably not. You would most likely learn by cooking, and by burning a few dishes, using too much salt, and messing up. It’s the same with Business English - we need to step into the kitchen and get a little burnt sometimes. By this I mean, practice whenever you have the chance, don’t be scared of making mistakes, and don’t worry too much about getting it perfect the first time. We learn much more from from doing than from reading and listening.
- Use it or lose it. Get rid of all the things you learnt that aren’t helping, and make a list with the specific things you actually need (phone conversations, writing emails, negotiating, giving presentations, understanding a conference, asking a girl out, you name it). Once you have your goals, your direction, then you can collect the most common phrases that native speakers use in those situations.
- Join a class. There are countless options out there, but there is no faster and more effective way than having a personal teacher to help you out with the specific points you need to improve.
Active learning: start using the language as much as possible, remember only the most useful things you need, and join a Business English class.
Why: you will learn faster how to communicate effectively, more like a native speaker.
Tip 2. Why Context Is The Key To Boost Your Communication Success
When we learn, we need a situation, a meaning, we need to make sense of what we learn. If you learnt all the words in the dictionary, would you know how to speak the language? Probably not. This is because you need to know how words are connected, how you can link them, and what combinations are usually used together.
- Learn in context. When do you use that word? In what situations?
- Use the right collocations. Collocations are combinations of words that go together. We don’t do the bed, but make the bed. If you master these, you will be much closer to sounding like a native speaker. Learning how words are combined or using a collocations dictionary will make you sound like a pro.
- Learn in chunks.
Instead of learning a list of words with no context, try learning your vocabulary in a sentence. This will help you remember them better.
Context: learn the words within a sentence, and in the situations you will use them.
Why: they are easier and faster to remember, and people will understand you better (hence higher success rate!)
Tip 3. Why Shadowing Is The Easiest Way To Increase Confidence
Shadowing is a very powerful technique to improve your business English. It consists of repeating a piece of English audio as you listen. You should repeat after the speaker as soon as possible. Don’t let the speaker finish the sentence, and try to speak almost at the same time. It’s similar to when you sing along your favourite song! It’s much easier if you have the script, as you can read it at the same time you listen. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you’re saying, this is just about imitating a native English pronunciation. This will help you improve your pronunciation, rhythm and intonation, as well as your listening skills. Once you’ve mastered this, confidence will go up and up.
Any audio would do, but ESL LAB offers dialogues organised by level, where you can choose among very basic and common topics. They have the transcripts, that you can read as you listen, and there are comprehension quizzes available.
Shadowing: listen to an English audio file (or video) and try to repeat after, trying to imitate the speaker.
Why: you will considerably improve your pronunciation, intonation and rhythm, as well as your listening skills, which will help you gain confidence.
Tip 4. How Speaking Will Help You Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work
We’ve talked about learning how to cook by cooking, and learning how to speak… by speaking! Communicate as much as possible in English, find colleagues you can speak English with, and pay attention to the way they speak, and how it is different from your culture. Join a tandem Facebook group, use Meetup to find people in your area, meet travelers on Couchsurfing, or meet people at conferences; the options are endless. These are all awesome opportunities, but the fastest and most effective way to overcome those barriers is to join a course with Talaera, where you will be carefully matched to a professional teacher, and have tailored training to your specific needs. Tell them your goals, and your teacher will help you get there.
Speak: Speak English! With colleagues, friends, or travellers, or find a teacher.
Why: learning by doing is the most effective way to understand how a language and its culture actually work.
Tip 5. How To Boost Your English Accent By Recording Yourself
And last but not least, if you want to sound more like a native speaker, recording yourself will boost your accent. For this, choose an English audio file with its transcript, listen to it carefully, and then record yourself while reading it (with your phone, for example). Then, listen to your recording and find the differences between the original and your speech. Underline the words that you mispronounced and try repeating them until you get them right. You might have to repeat the process a few times, but once you get it, your accent will be much better!
Record Yourself: record yourself while reading an English text, listen to it, and practice the words you mispronounced.
Why: you will realise exactly what you have to improve, and your accent will sound much more like a native speaker.
Google Docs has an amazing feature called Voice Typing that can become a very good friend of yours to improve your pronunciation, especially if your speaking level is still very weak. Open a Google Doc, click on Tools – Voice Typing and set the language to 'English'. Choose a text or a series of sentences you would like to practice. If you pronounce them correctly, the system will recognise your voice and will type it automatically. If it types something you didn't mean, it means you should work a bit harder on them. Awesome for when you don't have a native speaker to help you out, right? :-)
How To Practice English On A Busy Schedule?
Life is about priorities. It doesn’t matter how busy your day is. You still manage to brush your teeth, go to work, and eat something. You may not spend a full three minutes brushing your teeth. You may not have the best work week or eat the healthiest meals, but you make sure to squeeze in those three things.
This is how you should approach learning a new language. Waiting for the perfect stretch of time to learn is unproductive. Instead, when things get busy, look for even the smallest way to incorporate practicing English into your daily routine. To get you going, we’ve pulled together seven great ways to help you do just that.
Turn Your Down Time Into Language Learning Time
Tonight when you get home and all you want to do is crawl under the covers and watch something online...be sure to watch it in English.
It doesn’t have to be educational or informative. If you want a guilty pleasure, find a reality TV show online. The point is to watch something in English, even if it’s just to unwind.
Read News Headlines in English
Most people quickly skim the top news stories in the morning. If English is your second language, skimming entire news articles isn’t very easy. Since you want to quickly know the day’s news (and you don’t have time to translate an entire piece) find an English language news site and read the headlines. You’ll know what’s happening in the world while learning a lot of useful nouns and verbs.
Workout To English Pop Songs
Listen to songs in English while running on the treadmill or commuting to work. Don’t be embarrassed to choose popular, top 40 songs. They are repetitive, rhyming, and catchy - the perfect combination of factors for memorization. The lyrics will get stuck in your head, teaching you pronunciation and prompting you to look up what they mean.
Take a Mental Vocabulary Quiz
Stuck in traffic? Are you one of a dozen people on a boring conference call? Making breakfast? While your mind wanders, play a vocabulary game in your head. Think of how many objects you can name in English or how many related verbs (“to drive”, “to listen”, “to toast”) you can remember. In this way, you can turn mindless tasks into useful memory exercises.
Download Language Apps (Even If You’ve Progressed Beyond Them)
Language learning apps are great for picking up the basics of a language, but if you’re at the point where you can practice conversation they are a bit too basic. So why download them? Well, apps like Duolingo are quick, convenient, and user-friendly. They also send you reminders of how long it’s been since you used the app. Playing on one of these apps for a few minutes when you’re super busy does two key things:
- Keeps you in the language learning headspace, so you don’t go long periods of time without any practice
- Boosts your confidence with the relatively easy activities that motivate you to challenge yourself even more
Think In English
You’d be surprised how useful this is for language learning purposes and for de-stressing. Thinking in English is helpful for obvious reasons. You have to search your memory for all sorts of verbs, adjectives, and nouns. The psychological benefit is that you’re forced to prioritize your thoughts, slow down those anxious racing thoughts, and mentally tackle each matter one at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be planning out your grocery list and thinking about errands entirely in English.
Host English Speaking Guests Through Home Sharing Sites
This piece of advice comes from Benny Lewis, polyglot and founder of Fluent in 3 Months. If you use sites like Couchsurfing or Airbnb, he recommends choosing guests who speak whichever language you’re trying to learn. It’s a pretty cool idea. You wind up meeting new people and practicing some of the most important useful kinds of conversation: introductions and directions. Couchsurfing is free, but if you’re using a site like Airbnb, you make a little extra money on the side. This is also interesting to consider when you travel if you are trying to decide between Hostel or Couchsurfing.
People do this all the time as guests by spending time in the country that speaks the language they wish to learn. But if you don’t have the time or money for this, doing this as a host is a great alternative.
No matter how busy you are, it is entirely possible to carve out some room in your day for practicing English.
How to Practice Your English Without a Conversation Partner
Chatting with a native English speaker is the best way to practice the language. But what if you don’t have a conversation partner? Should you just throw in the towel? Absolutely not.
Look for the next best thing. In fact, look for several variations of the next best thing. There are a lot of alternatives to practicing with a conversation partner who’s fluent in English, and you can start with these five suggestions.
Talk to Yourself in English
The simplest solution to having no language partner is making yourself your language partner (Click to Tweet). Just talk to yourself. Play the role of two people by posing questions to yourself and then coming up with the responses to those questions. This is a useful way of identifying your weak points. Some language learners are great at answering questions but struggle with asking them or vice versa. And if you’re worried that talking to yourself is unhealthy, don’t be! Talking to yourself actually has motivational and instructional benefits.
Quit Obsessing Over The Details
Let’s say you’re talking to yourself in English while you’re getting dressed or cooking a meal. While you’re doing this, don’t obsess over small mistakes. If you forget the word “comb”, don’t stop your external monologue in order to look it up. See if you can work around it, the same way you’d have to if you were talking to someone at a restaurant or at the bank. Your priority should be making yourself understood, not perfecting everything you say. Once you’ve reached a conversational level, then you can move on to being precise.
Read Famous Speeches Out Loud
The most iconic speeches are famous for both their words and their delivery. The cadence and pacing of the orator and the style and rhythm of the speechwriter are what give a speech its power. Listen to famous speeches online, print out the transcripts, and practice reciting them out loud. You should do this whether you have a language partner or not since it helps in several ways: You learn new words, practice your pronunciation, and improve your public speaking skills all in one go. Now that’s a beautiful trifecta.
Learn a Couple of New Expressions Each Day
If you want to sound like a native English speaker, dedicate some time to learning new phrases and expressions every day. Perhaps the most frustrating part of a conversation in a second language is failing to understand the intended meaning of a full sentence, even though you know every word in the sentence. For example, someone may know the words “barking”, “wrong”, and “tree”, but have no clue what “barking up the wrong tree” means. There’s no shortcut for learning idioms. You’ve just got to dive right in.
Write Scripts For Yourself
Come up with possible scenarios and write a script. Pretend you want to pitch an idea to your manager. Script it out and practice. This way, you can present your ideas clearly and confidently. Most conversations take a predictable path with a few variations. Include those variations and appropriate responses in your script. You can add to your different scripts every time you encounter new expressions or scenarios in your day-to-day life.
A conversation partner makes for nice company, but you don’t need one in order to perfect your English.
What is the best way to learn a new language? Our 5 Best Seller Tips
Is second language fluency one of your New Year’s resolutions? Fabulous. You probably don’t need a recap of how important it is to learn a new language , but you may want a bit more of direction to ensure your language learning ambitions don’t fizzle out and die. So let’s get started with our 5 tip for learning a new language.
1. Humble Yourself
Come to terms with the fact that mastering a language takes hard work and perseverance. Despite what movie montages would have us believe, learning a new language isn’t as simple as listening to tapes while running on a treadmill. Who has a treadmill in their apartment? Who even has tapes?
The sooner you recognize this process will take work, the sooner you’ll start making progress.
2. Make a Language Learning Schedule
One mindset that should be actively discouraged is the one that says you don’t have enough time. If learning a new language is important to you, carve out a little time each day to devote to practice. The trick is to be realistic and consistent.
But here’s the thing: Goal setting tends to make us a little over ambitious.
“Starting next week I will commit five hours a day to practicing French.”
Between a full-time job and human necessities like eating and sleeping this can be extremely difficult to pull off and doomed to fail. Instead, commit to small chunks of time. Listen to a French news broadcast online while eating breakfast or do half an hour of grammar practice before bed. Using the commercial breaks of your favorite show may work as well. The point is to be realistic, because being realistic will allow you to do the second thing which is…
To be consistent. Setting an unrealistic time commitment can lead to disappointment when you can’t keep up. Setting a manageable timeline can help you reach milestones sustainably and consistently and encourage you to add to your daily practice time.
And keep yourself accountable. Find a free time tracking app or simply create an Excel spreadsheet. This will give you something to refer to and an easy way to track your progress.
3. Relish in the Power of Repetition
Remember how you learned something new as a child? You did something over and over and over again until you figured it out. Whether it was learning to read, figuring out subtraction, or riding a bike there was an adult there to ensure you kept trying.
When we’re older we forget the power of repetition. We no longer have an authority figure to keep us going when we lose patience. We’ve also been trained to believe that you either get something on the first try by virtue of natural talent or you should give it up altogether.
Not at all. Find ways to reinforce your learning by learning 5 new vocabulary words a day, using 10 new verbs in a sentence, or working through a piece of text from a foreign news site or magazine little by little until you understand it.
If it sounds a little boring, it’s because it probably will be at first. But not for long. Practice is a funny thing. At first it sucks, but the more you do it the better you become. And as you get better you’re motivated to keep working at it. It’s a very productive and positive cycle, and if you’re willing to power through the initial resistance the reward is worth it.
4. Make It Fun and Incorporate It Into Your Life
It’s hard work, but learning a new language is fun (Click to Tweet). Constantly remind yourself that this is something you’ve chosen to do. The brilliant thing about learning a new language is that it can be incorporated into other things you enjoy doing. If you want to procrastinate by surfing the internet, switch your browser’s language settings. Look for trashy reality TV shows in the language you’re studying.
Most importantly, incorporate language learning into your life. And get a little tacky with it if you must. Raid your desk for post-it notes and label everything in your house with vocabulary words. Try to think of how you would say specific things in French, English, or Arabic.
Getting excited about learning a new verb tense can be difficult, but realizing you can navigate another city on your own because you have basic phrases down pat is something to be thrilled about.
As you try out different learning styles and learning methods, don’t get discouraged by the number of times you switch strategies. So long as you stick to it each and every day, you will eventually find a routine and style that works for you. But it means sticking to that schedule we talked about.
5. Look for Language Partners and Opportunities to Interact
There’s only so far you can go on your own. Eventually, you will have to get out there and interact with other people who speak the language. Setting up dates to join a group for an hour of conversation practice or logging in for a session with a tutor on Talaera can jumpstart your language learning and take you from experimental to conversational to fluent.
25 Must-Have Sites To Improve Your Business English
- Would you like to improve your spoken English but you don’t know how?
- Is it difficult to find the best resources to boost your English speaking and listening?
- Are speaking and listening the most difficult English skills for you?
If your answer to any of those questions is 'yes', then you are in the right place. Finding the right resources online can feel overwhelming sometimes. That's why we have compiled a list of the 25 most useful websites you want to bookmark to improve your English listening and speaking skills. It also includes resources to improve your Business vocabulary and help you feel like a pro in an international workplace. So, here we go:
The 4 Online Dictionaries You Want To Use
First of all, four awesome dictionaries most of my students could probably not live without. That’s it, just four. Here are the ones you want to use when you want to know the definition of a word, how to say it in another language, a synonym, or how to pronounce it.
Very comprehensive online dictionary with English definitions, synonyms, and bilingual translations into +15 languages (Spanish, German, French, Korean, Chinese, Swedish, Arabic, and more). It also includes a discussion thread about more specific meanings.
Collocations are combinations of words that usually go together. For example, even though 'do' and 'make' have similar meanings, we don’t 'do the bed', but 'make the bed'. The same way, we don’t eat 'quick food', but 'fast food'. Maybe these are obvious to you, but it gets tricky sometimes. Mastering these will help you sound much more like a native speaker.
Click on the link, type your word, and find the most common combinations with that word, organized by category (that is, the nouns, prepositions, adjectives, etc. that are often combined with it).
Idioms are groups of words that happen frequently in a language, and whose meanings are not deductible from the individual words. This means, that even if you know the meaning of all the words when they are put together, the meaning can be absolutely different. For example, to be over the moon doesn’t mean that you are thousands of kilometers above the Earth, but to be extremely happy. In this dictionary, you will find the meaning of this kind of phrases.
Find out how any English word is pronounced. The coolest part about this dictionary is that you can find how males and females across the world pronounce different words, thus being able to understand English speakers across the globe.
Learn English Online - The Best Resources To Improve Your Business Listening & Speaking
Here are the best online courses, videos, audio files, and vocabulary resources to boost your speaking and listening. Check them out and feel more confident with your international team.
The fastest and most effective way to improve your listening and speaking skills from home is to learn English with professional teachers and tailored training to your specific needs. Have a look at the website, book a trial, and start your personalized course online.
6. Ted Talks
Improve your listening skills with these inspirational and interesting talks. They also come with transcripts, that you can use to read as you listen, and practice the Shadowing Technique.
7. Ted Ed
Education platform where you can find lessons and videos about ‘ideas worth spreading’. The video is usually an animation with questions and conversation topics to reflect on.
8. ESL LAB
Short dialogues with transcripts and comprehension quizzes organized by level to improve your listening skills and expand your vocabulary.
With this App, you can listen to short versions of 2000+ bestselling nonfiction books, at the same time as you read. For this reason, you can recognize how words are pronounced and how to speak with the right intonation.
Animated series by BBC that focuses on English communication in the office.
Improve your pronunciation with these video series that show you how English is really spoken. The videos are usually short and dynamic, and easy to understand.
This is another video series to practice common day-to-day situations and activities.
British Council provides videos, audio files and texts related to business and work, that you can download or use online.
Create a free account to access this audio English course. You can use this resource in combination with others in this list to improve your general English.
Learn English watching movies and TV shows.
Amazon audiobooks are an easy way to ‘read’ books. You can either just listen to the audiobooks, or listen to them as you read them.
17. Video Vocab
Short videos that teach vocabulary in specific business areas like human resources, accounting, marketing, project management, and technology.
App with lessons for conducting meetings, giving presentations, negotiating, and communicating by telephone. (Free with in-app purchases)
The Best Websites To Go Social
Social website and app to meet people in your area. Join a meetup or organize your own. From language tandems, to hiking days or drinks with other entrepreneurs - find your hobby and use it to meet people and practice your English.
Meet travelers from all around the world visiting your city. The website started as a source to find places to sleep for free, where people offered their couch or spare room. However, you don’t need to offer your house to meet people. Show travelers around or meet for a coffee and learn about their culture and ideas.
Find people who want to learn your language, and are willing to practice English with you in exchange. For this, you need a combination that is interesting for you -if you are Korean, find someone whose first language is English, and wants to learn Korean. Or if you are Spanish, find someone who would like to learn Spanish. This quid pro quo system where everybody helps and receives can help you boost your confidence in English.
Some Easy-To-Read, Effective Articles
If you feel your communication in English is still unsuccessful, you keep facing cultural barriers, accent and pronunciation are sometimes a problem, or you lack confidence in English, this is your article, because these 5 powerful tips will make your life much easier.
Read about these 11 useful idioms and expressions that you’ll hear (and also use) at work when there is an international team.
Learn the difference between exact and exactly -it includes examples, rules, and exercises for you to practice.
Small talk is such a common aspect of English, both at work and in any social situation, and it can sometimes be somewhat intimidating. Read this article to learn how to feel more comfortable in these situations.
Talaera is an online platform that provides one-on-one English language training, anytime, anywhere, with 100% personalized lessons, HD video quality, and qualified teachers that will help you achieve your learning goals.