Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


Discover what’s different about the new International Express

Young businesswoman smilingRachel Appleby, co-author of two levels of the new International Express (publishing January 2014), presented a sneak preview of the course during her webinar on Wednesday 6th November.

I wonder how you decide which coursebook you’re going to use with your adult professional learners. Not long ago, the choice seemed a lot easier, but there’s so much out there now that it’s much more difficult, not to mention the fact that contexts are changing, and learners are getting more demanding too!

So, what can we do?

Well, I’m always on the look-out for materials that offer flexibility: I don’t necessarily want to work through them page by page, although having a reliable coursebook structure is certainly comforting. What matters most to me is being able to respond to what my learners want, and what motivates them. So that means dealing with language they might need there and then – language they can use immediately after class – and also making sure that topics are up-to-date and inspiring, and will get them talking!

I’m also keen to get my students using new language as much as possible, especially in speaking activities. I have lots of resource books at home, but quite often I find a task which fits their level, but is totally off-topic, or vice versa, and so not really appropriate. That sort of time-wasting can be incredibly frustrating!

So let me tell you about the new edition of International Express. You probably know the earlier editions. I’ve used the different levels at a number of companies, but such a lot has changed since they came out. Learners these days expect to be able to do more in their own time, or at home, which means, I think, that language in coursebooks needs to be even more clearly presented, guiding learners through really carefully, and giving them plenty of practice too.

The new 5-level International Express series is coming out in January 2014, so in fact no-one’s seen it yet (although I have a hunch the Beginner level might already have escaped!). Rest assured that if you were a fan of International Express before, as I was (for its reliability, clarity of language work, and meaningful practice for students), then you’ll find all this here – and more. The content is 100% new, so of course it’s up to date with contemporary global lifestyle topics, including travel and socializing, but it’s still for the professional. And it offers plenty of bite-sized chunks, and flexibility – music to my ears!

But apart from addressing how students want to study, one of the other things I find especially tough these days is “keeping up with the Jones’s”, in other words, other teachers! It’s happened to me a few times that a colleague has mentioned “a great video-clip” they used in class, and I simply don’t find it easy to select videos that are going to work with my students. I do think this is what learners are wanting, yet we still have to ensure that what we do in class will support and help their learning, and meet their needs.

As luck would have it, one of the exciting new features of the new International Express is the add-on video for each unit, directly related to each unit topic. They’re handled in such a way that, by the end, the learners are really going to get a sense of achievement in watching the clips; and let’s face it, that’s one of the main confidence boosters I know of in language learning!

So, if you want to be one of the first to look inside the third edition of International Express, perhaps check out a video clip, and see how it’s going to help you and your learners, watch a recording of my webinar on Wednesday 6th November, and I’ll show you more.

It would also be great to see you at the BESIG conference in Prague from Friday 8th – Sunday 10th November. On Saturday 9th, I’ll be using hot-off-the-press International Express materials during my talk entitled ‘Does the customer really know best? Getting the most out of in-company training’. Speak soon!


Seven tips for successful case studies

John Hughes offers his advice on using case studies in the classroom. John hosted a webinar on the topic of Case Studies in the Business English Classroom on 6th November 2012 – watch it here.

Case studies are a popular tool in business management training. They allow companies to put managers into credible business situations and see how they respond. It helps the individual prepare for the ‘real thing’ and encourages them to consider different ways of responding to events in business. In the business English classroom, the case study also provides the student with valuable language practice. It’s an opportunity for students to try out the language they have been learning in lessons in a realistic situation.

How a case study works

In general, a case study works like this: Firstly, students receive background information about a real business situation. This might take the form of a reading, a listening or a video. During this time, they’ll need help with vocabulary and understanding the key content. The teacher also needs to check that students have a thorough understanding of the problem or issue that needs to be addressed. Next students work in groups or pairs and try to respond to the problem authentically. This is clearly the stage where lots of language is generated and the teacher’s role is to monitor. After the problem has been solved, students reflect on what happened in the case study and how successful the process was. In a language classroom, this includes feedback on language use.

Tips for successful case studies

Despite being useful teaching tools, case studies can end with student dissatisfaction and the teacher can be left wondering why the case seemed to fail. Here are some ideas and tips to ensure that case studies work well in your lessons.

1: Raise interest

Make the case relevant to the students. Allow time for them to share what they already know about the topic and find out what experience they have in a similar situation.

2: Get everyone to take part

Some students will talk more than others but try to involve all your students. Vary interaction patterns (i.e. using pair work and group work) so everyone has a chance to contribute.

3: Concept checking

Throughout the case study, check everyone understands the instructions and aims of each stage

4: The language

You can input useful language before you start and it’s also helpful to ask students to suggest expressions they that will be useful for the task. After the case study, set aside time to talk through common errors or examples of correct and effective language.

5: Navigate the students

Sometimes in case studies, students go down the wrong track. It’s your job to get them going in the right direction again. Prompt them during pair work or group work and don’t be afraid to make a suggestion if necessary.

6: Reach a conclusion

It’s not crucial that everyone agrees on a final outcome since language practice is the primary goal. But students will feel more satisfied if everyone manages to agree on a final outcome.

7: Feedback and reflection

Allowing students to reflect on and discuss what went well and what didn’t go so well in the case study provides another opportunity for language practice.

Click here to download an example case study from Business Result Upper Intermediate. You can view more sample pages from Business Result on the Teacher’s Site.

Leave a comment

An introduction to Business English

John Hughes, co-author of Business Result, discusses the unique challenges of teaching business English. John will be hosting a webinar on this topic on 20th September.

In the first in a series of monthly webinars dedicated to teaching Business English, I’ll begin with an overview of what business English is and how teachers who are new to this field of English Language Teaching (ELT) can approach it. Here’s a brief look at some of the key issues we’ll be dealing with:

Career backgrounds to teaching business English

The majority of people entering ‘business English’ tend to be teachers with experience of teaching general English and so their concerns are that they don’t know much about business. For many, the term ‘business’ feels somewhat alien. However, it shouldn’t be since the dictionary definition of ‘business’ is ‘the buying or selling of products or services for money’. We are all involved in that every day of our lives.

A smaller but significant minority of business English teachers are those people with a work history in business or business training who move into ELT and so their need is for language knowledge rather than content knowledge. For these people, a more generalized training course in language teaching and language awareness is probably the best advice.

What makes the business English classroom different?

Perhaps the best way to contrast business English with general English is to understand that there is a shift away from the teacher or the school curriculum setting the aims of the course to a course where the business learner sets the aims in conjunction with the teacher. Throughout a course the teacher needs to know what the student needs to deal with in the language (e.g. sales, finance, logistics), how the student communicates (e.g. face-to-face, on the phone) and who s/he communicates with (e.g. clients, colleagues). Business English learners (and their bosses) tend to be less forgiving if you are teaching something which doesn’t appear to have instant relevance to these kinds of daily communication needs.

Expert to expert

In his brilliant book One To One (LTP), Peter Wilberg talks about roles in the business English classroom and identifies the importance of the relationship between the teacher and the learner as a relationship of two ‘equals’. In other words, the teacher is the ‘language expert’ but, in most cases, the learner is the ‘business expert’ – or certainly the expert in his/her field. What this means is that the teacher can’t approach a classroom with the idea that s/he will just pass on knowledge.  It’s more of a sharing process with the learner providing the ‘professional content’ and the teacher providing the ‘language’. For me, this has always been the key attraction to business English teaching. You can learn so much about other subjects. In my time as a business English teacher I’ve learnt about subjects ranging from marketing wine, helicopter manufacturing, football player transfer laws and rocket science.

That’s just a taste of what we’ll be covering in my webinar and you can also read a longer ‘Introduction to teaching Business English’ article at the Business Result teacher’s site (you need to log in to access the materials). See you online on the 20th September. Register for the webinar here.

Bookmark and Share

1 Comment

Keeping ahead in uncertain times

Jeremy Comfort discusses the role that Business English teachers can play in developing a culture of innovation. Jeremy will be talking about Business and Culture at the BESIG annual conference in Dubrovnik on 19 November 2011.

As the storm clouds darken even further over Europe, it makes one reflect on our destiny. Economic power is shifting inexorably towards Asia and China in particular.

It seems that Europeans must accept a diminishing role.  The jury is still out on America as to whether they can recharge their batteries and once again be the strongest motor in the world economy.

A deciding factor will be technological innovation and where it comes from. Although Europeans have often been the initiators in terms of original research it has been the Americans and Japanese who have commercialized most of the big breakthroughs over the last fifty years. So the big question is whether the emerging economies can also take a lead in this area.

So what’s this got to do with Business English? I think the context is critical if we are to make our contributions beneficial for our clients. One of the ways into this is through looking at the culture of innovation.

I have been working closely with a small German fan-making company which is making big inroads into emerging markets. But they also have challenges in terms of adapting their innovations to these new markets especially in terms of the price–value relationship. On the other hand, the Chinese have started to really talk up the critical role innovation will play if they are to make another step in the development of their economy.

In both cases, they need to start by reflecting on where they currently stand – in other words, be mindful about their current business cultures. I often encourage my clients to use SWOT to focus on their current situation – what strengths do they have, what are their weaknesses, where are the opportunities, and what is going to get in their way (threats)?  My German client would certainly identify research and quality as key strengths, and a lack of adaptability and maybe humility as weaknesses. Their Chinese partners would probably see adaptability and speed as strong points, and maybe a lack of consistency as an obstacle.

Continue reading


Tinker Tailor: Some thoughts on cultural perspective

Shady figure walking the streets at nightIn this post, Jeremy Comfort discusses cultural perspectives as seen in the media. Jeremy will be talking about the importance of culture in business at the BESIG conference in Dubrovnik.

I went last night to see Thomas Alfredson’s interpretation of John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I loved it, but was struck that this feeling was by no means universal. Last year another very British film – The King’s Speech – swept all before it at the Oscars while Tinker Tailor failed to win a mention at the recent Cannes festival. The King’s Speech fitted well with many foreigners’ perception of Britain – royalty, class and pluck in the face of adversity, whereas Tinker Tailor was stuck in the rather grubby mire of Cold War England.

On the large and small screen, Britain has done well selling its nostalgia for a more glorious past. Many years ago, Chariots of Fire took Hollywood by storm and more recently Downton Abbey (another upstairs-downstairs drama) is being sold to networks across the world. France has mined different veins but reinforced stereotypes in the films of Chabrol which usually portray the breakdown of bourgeois life and also a certain whimsicality in films like Amélie.

Here in the UK, things are beginning to stir. Fiction and the small screen is being invaded by very culturally specific offerings from Scandinavia – the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy and Wallander from Sweden, the gripping TV series The Killing from Denmark and the thrillers of Jo Nesbo from Norway. We have also been much absorbed by series imports from the States – notably The Wire and Mad Men.

Of course we like them firstly because they are good – strong stories, well-acted. But I think we also like them because they can give us an insight into a different culture, even if we still need to guard against stereotyping. Britain has been very slow to embrace foreign films with subtitles (I, on the other hand, have to admit to even watching the Baltimore-based series The Wire with the subtitles switched on!) but it seems finally we are changing. This sort of cultural curiosity is what we need to develop in all our Business English students.

International business is breaking out from the Anglo-Saxon hegemony which has dominated for so long. Companies are increasingly appointing their new generation of leaders from emerging markets. Business English also needs to break the mould. The dominant models of British and American English have led to an over-dominant cultural framework. We are beginning to draw on new perspectives and these need to be from non-native trainers and writers from the emerging economies.

The business world is changing very rapidly and we all need to keep our heads up and alive to these changes.

Do you think Business English materials are sufficiently international? What kind of foreign imports in your media do you benefit or suffer from?

Bookmark and Share