I teach English to adults in France. Less than 1% of my students begin lessons with absolutely no knowledge of English at all. Most are able to engage in a basic conversation; some are able to comunicate well, and a few take English lessons to really master their English communication. These students often need English to engage in international relations.
The obvious reason why most French adults speak some English is that English is taught in French schools. No suprise there! But what is also obvious is that the English language learnt at school is never really forgotten. This is true even if many years have passed since adult students attended school, for their learnt English language is placed in some dark corner of the brain, where memories reside, until brought out. As an English teacher, it is my job to help bring out this hidden, previously learnt, English language.
In fact, this happens with remarkable ease. Very often lessons begin with an adult student who hasn’t spoken a word of English for over twenty years. But it’s like taking an old car out from the garage where it’s been stored for a long time and not driven – if you’ll forgive the simile. Once the motor gets turning and the brain gets remembering, the hidden English language almost spontaneously appears. By the end of the first lesson students have invariably reached the level of English that they had many years previous. The difference in this case is that English language skills are now being ‘verbally’ produced – an activity little engaged in during their school days. Isn’t that true?
Of course, in the long interval between school days and present adult life, students have changed as people. They are now often parents and professionals, with wide ranging interests and experiences. There is, therefore, so much upon which adults are able to communicate and hence progress quickly in their English language studies. Communication, it is believed in the English teaching world, is the key to learning language skills.
‘ Business English’ relates to students’ professional needs. These are as wide-ranging as the professional world itself. Language instruction can be given concerning ‘telephoning, negotiating, presenting and meetings’, in a very generalized, though useful, way – but in ‘real life’, these general areas are handled within specific business contexts. Thus specific vocabulary and expression also needs to be learnt. That is often language that was not learnt at school.
How do we do it? We work together.
The business English language learner becomes the teacher, whilst the teacher becomes the learner. You explain how to do your job; the teachers listens and learns. That way, we explore the vocabulary and grammar required for your every-day professional needs whilst you dictate what these are.
Business English teachers do need to work hard in order to understand all that you are teaching. We also need to do our own homework to find, in our resources, all the specific English language that you may need. Personally, after nearly twelve years of teaching, my resources are large. These include videos, podcasts, listenings, internet links, dictionaries, grammar books, pedagogical books, English language for specific needs books etc. Such large resources are necessary. From experience I can assure you that those professionals working in pharmacology need completely different language than financiers dealing daily with stocks and shares.
As an English language teacher I prefer teaching to adults. It gives me a view into so many different companies and industries, and let’s me meet people from all walks of life. I like to discuss and hear your opinions. For me, the exchange of ideas and stories is central to the experience of life. And I promise you, I’ve also got a few of my own to tell!