Business EnglishIn this article I would like to take under consideration the main issues that an EFL teacher could face when starting a new course with a student who holds a high position in an important Company. I had the opportunity to meet an EFL teacher who works in a famous Company of Luxury leather goods, and interview her. On the basis of her experience it seems that teaching business english
to a high professional, often involves having to deal with a kind of reluctance which is peculiar to people who hold a high position in the Company. The reluctance is usually due to the fact that this kind of student is a well-educated person, often graduated and with a lot of experience, and he would also be used to run important departments and to manage teams. For this reason, the “student” one would be a difficult part to play. This could raise discipline problems and deeply effect the quality of the course. This kind of reluctance is the first thing the teacher needs to get rid of in order to teach a successful course and lead the student to good results. In the following paragraph, I will try to outline those that turned out being some fundamental aspects of the teacher’s behavior when starting a new course with this kind of professional.
1. Meeting the student’s superior.
As a first thing, the teacher needs to get as much information as possible about the company’s needs. A good solution could be to meet the student’s Boss or the Responsible of Human Resources: sometimes the Company’s needs would not match the ones of the student. In fact, the student could be not totally aware of the results his Company expects from his english
course. In other words, it is not unusual for a professional to think that his level of english
is appropriate for a particular task (I.e.: to chair a decision or an information meeting, conference calls, etc) whereas the Company is not totally satisfied for what concerns his accuracy, or his vocabulary. The teacher should therefore have a good knowledge of the Company’s needs before meeting the student, in order to compare their expectations and find the way to match them in the course planning. This would help him to overcome the student’s reluctance when he gets to meet him for the first time, since he would be prepared to kindly introduce the possible specific purposes of the course the student is not aware of.
2. Building a good rapport with the student based on mutual respect
On that basis, to build a good rapport by choosing the right teaching behavior and being prompting but respectful of the student’s position, is a fundamental step in ESP teaching. From this point of view being prepared on the Company’s needs would enable the teacher not to ask too many questions and let the student talk and feel at ease during the first meeting.
3. Evaluating the student without making him feel “ at school”.
At this stage, the teacher requires a Needs Analysis in order to outline both the student’s needs and his level of english
. In fact, in order to avoid student’s reluctance, it is better to organize a Needs Analysis that would enable the teacher to evaluate both all skills related to the knowledge of the language and professional needs. This could be done by means of a Needs Analysis where the parts related to grammar, writing and comprehension are adapted to the working areas of the student: this could make all questions and exercises more challenging.
4. Learn something about the student’s job.
Taken that an EFL teacher’s expertise is english
language and not Architecture or Design, it is anyway a good idea to learn something about the student’s job. This would make conversation and activities more interesting and challenging. Anyway, getting back to the student’s reluctance, this should be kept to the minimum: imagine the reaction of a head stylist if you make him feel you know more than him about his job!
5. Be determined and professional
Beyond any reluctance problem, the teacher should bear in mind that he is the one who guides the course, and, if necessary, he would have to kindly remind it to his student.