Business English for Elementary students: is it possible?

Диляра Биктагирова

Сертифицированный (САЕ) преподаватель, методист, магистр мультилингвальной педагогики

Why do people learn English? There are so many reasons and for business is one of them. As not only Intermediate + students try to be successful, some teachers have to work with low-level learners who want to achieve their goals in business English. Teaching them isn’t that easy. Let’s talk more about the process. 

Is it possible to teach Business English while working with elementary-pre-intermediate students?

The answer is yes! How to organize it then?

  1. Everything starts with a course curriculum. Explain to your student that the Business course has to be taught along with the General one. It’s impossible to focus on specific English without general knowledge. So, you have to discuss a range of topics except for job interviews and negotiations. I believe that the best option is to combine lessons (e.g., 1 General and 1 Business per week).
  2. Use a coursebook adapted for low levels. My colleagues recommend such books as Market Leader, Business Result and Intelligent Business. But as we know, coursebooks aren’t always enough.
  3. Provide your student with the vocabulary needed. Use Quizlet. Many modules have been already created, but not all of them are suitable for low-level students (using hard words and definitions isn’t the best idea for these levels). You can create your own module using pictures instead of definitions or use a ready one that is quite easy (like this one). 
  4. Watch specific videos. Remember, they should be easy enough to understand.

Here are some of the examples:

Mark&Allie is the easiest one to start from. The story is about colleagues who work for a music company. So you can find videos about meeting colleagues, asking for permission, making suggestions and giving opinions in the playlist.

Essential Business English short animated videos cover important business cases like making a phone call, a job interview etc. 

English at Work BBC are animated series for those who want to feel confident while dealing with business cases.

5. Keep attention to your student’s field. It makes sense whether he works in design or medicine. Although it’s hard to teach difficult terms to low-level learners, there is always a way to personalize your lessons. Try to include professional aspects into their plans. It’s possible even if you teach elementaries. I’ve taught an interior designer once. So I used to find some pictures (installations, buildings) every single lesson, and we discussed them. 

It’s also important what nationalities does a student work with (imagine he works with Polish people. Their accent is definitely different from the standard British one). Choose materials based on this information.

6. Talking about cultural things, don’t forget to teach them. Read more about the native countries of your students’ colleagues/clients, their etiquette and traditions and find some interesting texts/visual materials for students.

Here are some of the ideas:

An article about international business etiquette

Video about surprising business etiquettes

Presentation about international business etiquette

8. Work with cases (click here to read more about the topic). It helps both to improve speaking/writing skills and to think outside the box. It would be even more interesting if you work with a group. Teach your students how to deal inside a team. I’m sure they’ll be grateful.

9. Organize role plays. Try to include gamification as much as possible, students love it. In case you work with low-level learners, simplify typical business roleplays. You may start with something that’s partly connected with business. Let’s take business trips. For example, ask your student to call a reception and order something in room service. Here’s a simple example that may help. When they feel confident enough, you can try harder roleplays. You may find plenty of examples here.

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