Welcome to the BESIG World Blog. Each month we’ve got a different guest author lined up who will be sharing thoughts and experiences on teaching business English from countries around the globe.

  • On Myths

    by Evan Frendo

    I have just returned from the IATEFL Brighton conference. As always, some really good stuff. Have a look at the recordings of the sessions if you haven’t already done so – they are an incredible resource.  But as always, lots of myths about how we operate as business English teachers. Here are some of the ones I picked up on. What do you think? Do you agree that these are myths?

    1 “We know the language and they know the content”.

    Our learners want to become effective members of discourse communities which we as teachers are not necessarily members of. We are not engineers, or stockbrokers, or accountants. This means that our main task as teachers is to analyse the target discourse and make it accessible to our learners. It is too simple to say that the people in the classroom are enough. We need outside help.

    2 “Newspaper articles are great for practicing BE”.

    Yes, if your learner’s job is to read newspaper articles. But no if the aim is to learn and practise the sort of English people use in the workplace. There are much better resources to use in the classroom.

    3 “Words only account for 7% of the message – the rest is tone and body language”.

    Mehrabian’s research, which is often cited in defence of this claim, looked at very specific contexts. It was never meant to be used as an overall description of how communication works.

    4 ““ELF” is a variety of English”.

    ELF is not a variety, but a way of thinking about language. ELF says that it is not possible to decide what is “correct” and what is appropriate without knowing the context. We need to move away from a model that says language is right or wrong – that is too simple. This is not to say that we know how to teach ELF. But we shouldn’t dismiss it either.

    5 “Coursebooks are bad”.

    Coursebooks are not bad. They are merely a tool, a resource which can be used by trainers and learners to help in the learning process. Nothing more.

    6 “IT is wonderful”.

    Yes, but not always.  See number 5 above.

    7 “Texts not written specifically for language teaching are authentic, and therefore better for teaching”.

    Not necessarily. What is important is how the texts are used, not whether or not they were created for the classroom. See numbers 2 and 5 above.


    Evan Frendo

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  • Teaching working practices the British way

    by Sue Annan

    I really love my job. I live on a small island; 9 miles long and only 5 miles wide. To go to work I follow the coastline round to the college where I work, and as our students come for anything from two weeks to a year, I have plenty of variety each week. We are an attractive destination for students who want to have a holiday while studying and I work mainly with students from the European mainland.

    I’ve just spent the last few weeks teaching BE to a lovely mixed class. Today while exploring the topic of job interviews, which the class had requested, I asked them to create a list of interview questions, from the perspective of the employer. On sharing their work, some interesting points of contrast arose.

    The Italian software consultant was horrified that anyone would expect her to put her age on her CV, much less ask her to email a recent photograph to a prospective employer. The human resources manager was adamant that this was standard practice in Spain. Even my Czech and Slovakian students (both head-hunters) disagreed about what was acceptable, and they are geographically-close neighbours!

    Each of my students will be interviewed in their own country, except for the young Frenchman looking for a placement in Australia.

    The discussion led to a genuine interest in the working practices of the other countries and a grammar mcnugget of the language used for comparing and contrasting, so the afternoon wasn’t unproductive.

    My question for you is -What benefit is there, other than for the discussion value, in teaching these things the British way? Is our linguistic and cultural imperialism still acceptable in the classroom via the British BE course book?

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