Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog

Leave a comment

Webinar: Making the most of the Business Result Online Interactive Workbook

Business people having discussionKeith Layfield, lead editor on the Business Result series, introduces his upcoming webinar on 17th April entitled “Making the most of the Business Result Online Interactive Workbook“.

Have you used the Business Result Online Interactive Workbook, and are you getting the most out of it? Are you interested in using online resources to provide self-study material, supplementary classroom material, or a more interactive blended learning package?

My upcoming webinar is suitable for any teacher of Business Result. I will be providing practical help and ideas for using the Online Interactive Workbook, whether for self-study, classroom material, or for blended learning.

The webinar will provide an overview of the following:

Online practice and other resources

Business Result Online Interactive Workbook is a motivating self-study item that supports and develops themes from the Student’s Book. Each unit offers a series of interactive exercises practising the main sections of each unit – Working with words, Language at work, and Business communication – which are marked automatically and added to each student’s gradebook.

The interactive exercises also develop a number of skills: email writing and extended reading, plus there are video activities and discussion forum topics to encourage free writing practice. And there are extensive student resources – unit glossaries, sample emails, class audio – plus a unit test for each unit in the Student’s Book.

In the webinar, we’ll explore how you can make the most of these features, inside and outside class.

Gradebook and communication tools

I’ll also be exploring the automatic gradebook, which gives students and teachers instant access to grades. It saves time on marking and enables teachers to quickly track progress of all students.

Each unit of the Online Interactive Workbook has its own discussion topic related to the theme of the unit. This encourages communicative and collaborative learning, as students (and teachers) are able to read and reply to discussion topics. During the webinar, we’ll look at how to get the most out of this, and we’ll also focus on the ‘chat’ functionality, which enables students and teachers to communicate outside class.

The Online Interactive Workbook also allows teachers to add, create, and manage their own content. Teachers can add their own tests, create their own discussions, assign due dates for activities to be completed, add new activities, and many other things using a number of teacher tools.

So as you can see, the Business Result Online Interactive Workbook provides teachers and students with an exciting range of resources and tools to choose from! I look forward to exploring all of this with you in more detail during the webinar.


Teaching low level Business English

Businessmen shaking handsJohn Hughes is an author of Business Result. The new Starter level of this series will be launched in November at the BESIG 2013 conference in Prague. John will also be running a workshop on teaching low level Business English at BESIG called ‘Communicating much much more with a whole lot less!’

As a new teacher in the early nineties I often used to hear the widely-held view from more experienced colleagues that: “You don’t teach Business English at lower levels. The students just need to learn the basics. It isn’t business.” By the late nineties this view had rapidly altered; it soon became accepted that students at Pre-Intermediate level did in fact need English to help make telephone calls, write emails, meet people and make brief presentations. Logically, it then followed that Elementary students in companies also needed lessons with work-based English that focussed on ‘getting the job done’. And nowadays, Business English courses for beginner students are the norm rather than the exception.

However, even if we now agree that Business English can be taught at any level, teaching lower level Business English still presents us with its own set of challenges:

1. Teach to your student’s real level

When your school placement test puts a Business English student at a low level such as Elementary, it’s easy to forget that this same student is at a very high level in terms of their own subject-knowledge. Your business student might not be able to talk about what they had for breakfast in English but they can often describe quite complex aspects of their work in English. Whatever course syllabus or book you are following, give every opportunity for the student to make use of his/her existing job-related English.

2. Be economical

Business people by definition are people who appreciate efficiency. They want to get the job done in the quickest, most cost-effective way. Your approach at lower levels can be similarly economical. If there’s one word or phrase that will get the student’s message across, then – in general – teach that one way; avoid spending any more time on teaching five or six other ways of saying the same thing.

3. Repackage the language

Students at this level need so much recycling and revision of language. However, when we re-present language from the previous lessons, there’s a danger that students don’t feel they are making tangible progress. The trick is to ‘repackage’ the previously taught language. In other words, make sure the language reappears but within a different form; for example, that it reappears in a business text or re-present it the second time by using video.

4. Less is more

Having repackaged the previous language, we need to introduce new language alongside it. In an OUP blog post by Andrew Dilger on a similar subject, he suggests the balance is 60:40. So 60% of the lesson is recycling language and 40% focusses on new language. In fact I’d take this further and suggest that for many Business English teaching situations the balance is more like 70:30 or even 80:20 for classes where – due to work pressures – students have limited time for study.

5. What’s the ‘takeaway’?

In business, ‘the takeaway’ from a meeting is what you learned or ‘took away’ from the discussion. Similarly, students will feel more motivated if they leave your lesson with something tangible that they can take away and use. One way to do this is to find out when your student is next using English at work and give them something to use. For example, if they have a meeting, provide some useful language – even a single phrase – for them to try out at that next meeting. In the following lesson, find out if your student successfully managed to use the new language.

Can you add any more tips on teaching lower level Business English?

Leave a comment

Interview with Rebecca Turner – Co-author of Business Result

Two businessmen shaking handsNicola Fox, ELT Consultant for OUP Germany & Austria, talks to Rebecca Turner, one of the authors of Business Result.

What do you wish you had known before you started teaching Business English?
You don’t need to be an expert in every field, but you do need to do your homework! Straight after my CTELFA course at the very beginning of my career I found myself teaching business English and I haven’t looked back. However it was extremely daunting – I was younger than all the students I was teaching (23 years old!) and inexperienced not only in teaching but in business.

I had a few “in at the deep end” moments going with companies – mostly banks – on residential seminars along with a very supportive DoS who knew the ropes. This was a steep learning curve but great fun. Often I felt out of my depth with the business side of things but due to a sincere interest in my students and their work I learnt a lot in a very short space of time.

What’s your best English teaching tip?
This is a very basic one but listen to your students! In my experience a lot of misunderstandings are due to student and teacher talking at cross-purposes.

What book or person has influenced your career?
2 people & 1 book! I really owe it to two people to have got to where I am in my career. The first has to be Vicki Hollett who was my tutor/mentor on a diploma course I took. She supervised me through my project I had to complete for the assessment and motivated me into producing my own materials. These materials were noticed at the BESIG conference and that’s where my other role model comes in.

Charlie La Fond was my boss when I was his DoS at Business Language Center in Vienna for eight years. He encouraged me to attend the conference every year with the incentive that if I presented, he’d cover the cost of my trip! This more or less forced me into presenting regularly at the BESIG conference which not only led to my materials being noticed, but also gave me first-hand experience in doing presentations – something I’d been making my students do for many years, but hadn’t actually done myself!


Transferability between Academic English and Business English

Young woman with laptopLouis Rogers, author of Skills for Business Studies and an EAP teacher, discusses the special language skills pre-work Business English students need. Louis will be hosting a webinar on this topic on 12th February.

It is often debated as to what the aim of Higher Education is. Is it to simply further knowledge or is its main aim to put students in a position to gain employment? Many universities now provide Academic and Professional Skills modules that aim to develop students’ skills that meet both their immediate study needs, and also develop skills that are transferable to their future work place. Perhaps the one area where this is most apparent is studying within the field of Business. Consequently, this can leave students and teachers in the position of trying to meet both current academic needs but also future professional needs.

The wide variety of options available to students can also lead to a range of learner needs in the classroom. When teaching in Germany I had classes in a University that focused on Business English; however, the students’ aims varied greatly. Some were intending to take a year in the UK as part of the ERASMUS programme, some intended to take a postgraduate course via the medium of English, and others were there to enhance their CV before entering employment. Although there are differing needs there are also areas where goals overlap.

If we compare EAP materials or Pre-work materials with Business English materials for those in work we find that all are determined by clear contexts and goals. All sets of materials tend to take a skills-based approach, but there is a greater emphasis on grammar development in the Pre-work materials. Additionally, the focus and time spent on each skill means that the pre-work learner is perhaps not having all their needs met if a General Business English course is used in isolation. The speaking skills focus on presentations and meetings is perhaps comparable to the EAP focus of presentations and seminars. There are also similarities in listening skills with a focus on interactive dialogues and extended monologues. Yet in reading and writing skills the approach differs significantly.

In terms of the language focus, the needs and aims differ greatly with a much greater focus on lexis in EAP rather than the wide range of tenses found in most General Business courses. Arguably, a pre-work Business English course can partly claim to meet students’ immediate academic needs but a significant amount of supplementation of Reading and Writing Skills development is required, and a change in focus on the language is required as well. My upcoming webinar will explore some of the commonalities and differences between the In-work and Pre-work learner needs with particular reference to Skills for Business Studies.


Teaching business English one-to-one

Rachel Appleby, co-author of Business One:One, looks at the strange and wonderful world of one-to-one classes. Rachel hosted a webinar on 5th December 2012 – watch it here.

We often talk about the advantages and disadvantages of teaching in a situation where there is only one student (sometimes referred to as “one:one”), as opposed to teaching a group. But have YOU ever learnt a language in a one:one situation? Would you? Why? Or why not? What language would you choose to learn, and at what level? How would you want to spend that precious hour or two? Chatting? Studying grammar? Listening to your teacher?

I’ve tried learning Hungarian one:one, and it’s quite demanding paying attention for a whole hour! I also sometimes feel quite awkward about discussing what we’re going to do – whether I should make decisions about content, or the teacher should. And what about learning styles? Does the teacher help me learn in my own way, or choose their style? So there are lots of issues to think about. I wonder what your experiences are!

So why do you think some of our students choose 1:1? After all, it’s often considerably more expensive, and can be quite intimidating and intensive. Do such learners really know what they want? Do their teachers? Do the learners get what they want?

One of the things I most love about one:one teaching is the fact that every student has a different learning style, they all do different jobs, and have different interests. In fact their needs often change quite rapidly when they become more aware of different ways of learning, or what sorts of topics we could discuss.

And although it’s important to find out what your student wants, as I hinted earlier I’m not sure they always know, so it’s important for teachers to be eclectic in style, and provide as wide a range of activity types as possible. Some won’t suit your student, but others will fire them with enthusiasm to find learning opportunities outside class time. And in that way, 1 or 2 hours of contact time becomes far more valuable and useful.

I strongly believe we need to maximize class time so that ‘other time’ can be used for reading and listening, and doing language exercises. When we’re together with the student, we need to give them as much time as they want for speaking, as obviously that might be more difficult outside class time (unless they’re learning in an English-speaking environment). We might also need to focus on and clarify grammar issues, and we need to demonstrate ways of revising vocabulary. In other words, it’s worth focusing on things which our students need our help with, and that can vary from one student to the next.

In the webinar on December 5th, we’ll be looking at what it is that makes one:one teaching special. This will include both the benefits and drawbacks of one:one teaching, and how to approach some of the trickier issues.

We’ll also look at different activity types, and ways of making classes interactive and multi-dimensional to give the impression that there are more people (or opportunities!) involved. I wonder what ideas you have? Please join us and do contribute!

And – most excitingly – we’ll touch on how to help our students talk about things that really matter to them – whether that’s underground plastic piping, the price of oil, or Spey Valley whiskies – so that we provide our students with the opportunities they really need in order to be able to express themselves naturally. This is where one:one teaching and learning becomes mutual learning: we learn too!

Whether you’re new to teaching one:one, or have some ideas about what works, and what doesn’t, I’ll look forward to sharing the platform with you on December 5th to discuss some of these issues! I’ll also share the list of must-take goodies I have on me for every one:one class. Have paper and pen at the ready!