This month the BESIG World Blog takes you to Israel to meet a dedicated Business English teacher called Karen Eini who works at the Ruppin Academic Center. Karen talked to Claire Hart from the BESIG Online Team and shared some insights into what it´s like to teach Business English in Israel. She also shared some fantastic and very practical ideas that you can use in your courses wherever you are in the world and some great tips for using tablets in Business English training.
Karen Eini was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She moved to Israel in 1990 where she began her career in education: teaching English, designing materials and doing teacher training. Since 2003, Karen has been teaching Business English on Ruppin College´s Business Executive program. In addition to teaching Business English and EAP in the academic setting, Karen is an English language consultant and business language coach and works with a diverse range of companies in Israel. Karen is passionate about technology and mobile learning and specialises in technology enhanced coaching and teaching that empowers her clients and students in developing their English communication skills. Karen shares her love of technology by leading professional development workshops in Israel and abroad.
CH: Thanks for joining us, Karen. Maybe you could start off by giving us a brief overview of what we could call the “Business English landscape” in Israel.
KE: In terms of the academic setting where I teach Business English at the Ruppin Academic Center, Business English is offered as a 3 credit course. The majority of English courses are ESP, not for credit, rather a prerequisite for getting a degree. Thus English for Business Administration, could be taught as a pass/fail course, which is the norm in the majority of the academic institutions. I guess you could say there is not much uptake for BE courses and there is no formal organization or support group for those teaching BE in Israel. Hopefully there will be in the near future.
In terms of corporate training, the landscape is very dynamic. I am also an independent BE coach and I work with a range of companies in a range of sectors from hi-tech to consumer products. A few years ago, the companies started cutting back and started offering online solutions to their employees rather than in-house training. However, as that solution does not suit everyone, there are those who still prefer one-to-one, coaching and occasional groups.
Business English is becoming a prerequisite for jobs in international business settings. Many companies have in-house training, and many have teachers come in from private companies to teach their employees
CH: You mentioned that you´re also a coach and that reminded me of a point Steve Flinders made at a recent BESIG Weekend Workshop. The point was that the long-term outlook for BE teaching is bleak, especially in Northern Europe where young people starting out in the world of work will, in most cases, already be proficient in English. Consequently, in order to survive we BE teachers need to evolve and go into other areas such as management training and coaching. What do you make of that? Do you also see this development happening in your context?
KE: It is interesting because in the last course I led at a hi-tech company I found their level to be very good and it was a challenge to be able to make an impact, so I found myself working on soft skills, NLP and there was value added in doing that. I focused on verbal judo, which was an interesting approach to dealing with difficult people/clients/ customers. In Hebrew, many of the phrases, or expressions are in the imperative, like “sit”, “eat” “drink”, when inviting someone to do those things, but you would say “sit” in an inviting tone. It sounds too abrupt in English though, so we worked on softening spoken language with tone, and vocabulary and word choice, but also soft skills, like how to disagree, without disagreeing.
3. CH: If you were to generalise, what would you say are the greatest challenges facing BE teachers in Israel at the moment?
KE: Teaching the culture, not just the language, and the logic behind it. Getting students not to use translators blindly, helping them gain awareness as to the underlying differences in cultures that result in different use of language, etiquette, etc.
4. CH: Are the support systems there to help teachers? Do you have teachers associations, for example? How much awareness is there of organisations like IATEFL?
KE: We have teachers associations for primary, secondary and tertiary education but none for BE specifically. I think that is changing now, as a new umbrella organization is in the works and that will pave the way for more special interest groups such as BESIG.
5. CH: Other BE teachers I know who teach BE in an academic setting have told me that the fact that their students haven´t had any experience of the work of work yet and they´re not in-work while they´re learning sometimes poses difficulties when they´re teaching business skills, for example. Has that also that also been your experience?
KE: I teach English on the BA executive program, which is a program designed for those who are already working. So my student population is made up of people who are self-employed or managers in companies. I believe this is a great advantage as it is especially satisfying to hear how they use what they are learning at work and it can be even more satisfying than in-house training because even though they are a large group, they tend to be more accountable for their work as they are being graded on it. I find that attendance can be problematic in in-house training courses as the employees often have “something” that comes up during the class and either can’t stay or have to leave early. They are also more distracted as they are still at work.
6. CH: Finally, I´ve heard you´re interested in using technology in your courses, which is also something that I´m very interested in. Could you share with us some effective ways that you´ve implemented technology?
KE: Here are some ideas that I have implemented and that work well:
1) Using iPad apps in a one-to-one setting
a) You can use the Audio Note app, which enables you to record and take notes that are synchronized. Then just tap what has been written to hear the audio
b) Explain Everything/ Educreations are apps where the client can use to create a presentation on the fly or summarize a point and save it to dropbox. Alternatively you could use it to reinforce a point taught. This enables the client to relive the session as often as he needs.
c) Interactive flashcards, e.g. the Quizlet app, clients create them or we create them together and then review them periodically
2) QR CODES: one-to-one
I call this mobile coaching. I use dynamic QR codes which enable me to change the content and keep the same printed code. I have given my one-to-one clients QR code key chains, and then can I put the review material from Explain Everything on the code for them to review on their smartphones. I receive updates via email telling me when the code has been scanned, which is great. It is also a great marketing tool.
QR Codes can also be used in classes to add audio to texts or a YouTube movie to reinforce a point or dialogue. Different groups could have different codes.
3) Socrative: www.socrative.com is “a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.” I use Socrative in my group courses to review materials, reinforce vocabulary, writing etc.
4) Wiggio: www. wiggio.com is a tool that makes it easy to work in groups. All my courses at Ruppin are on moodle, so I do not need an external tool, however, I do need a tool for courses that I teach in companies.
Wiggio is very easy to set up: after adding all the participants names I can, set up folders with links and materials. I can send them video and audio emails or just summarize what was covered during the lessons. There is also a virtual conference room, which is great for one-on-one sessions or small groups that do not take place face to face.