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Practical ideas for the Business English classroom: Part Two – Making the most of video

Business English classroom Making the most of videoThis is the second article of a three-part Business English series by ELT teacher, teacher trainer and course book author, John Hughes. Here, he looks at how the use of video can support business English teaching.

One survey into the use of video in education reports that teachers increasingly welcome this tool as a means to support learning. For example, 68% of teachers believe video stimulates discussion, 66% say video increases motivation and 62% think their teaching is more effective by using video. Please see the link provided at the end of the article for more details of this survey.

These figures are all based on responses to education in general, but I’d suggest that if you were to research similar figures for Business English teachers, you’d probably find the percentages were even higher. That’s simply because video lends itself in so many ways to Business English teaching.

Here are five examples of how to integrate video into your Business English lessons, with suggestions for classroom activities.

Presentation skills

The internet is full of videos showing different types of business presentations. They range from the highly professional presentations we associate with speakers on TED to much more basic material. With all of these we can assess the presenters’ performances with our students and decide what techniques and language will help improve their presentations. In addition, we can also video our own students giving presentations. By using the video recorder on a basic mobile device, you can record a student’s performance, use it to give them feedback, and let them self-assess their own presentation.

Watch this presentation taken from TED talks. It’s called ‘The magic washing machine’ and gives students a masterclass in how to use visual aids in a presentation.

Workplace and process videos

I once taught business and technical English in a factory instead of a language school. This was much easier than being in a normal classroom because I could take the students onto the factory floor and have them talk about their workplace. However, we don’t always teach students at their workplace, so video can help. For example, ask your students to make short videos of their workplace and film the key stages of a process. Then they can bring these into class and describe what is happening on screen. You’ll also find a range of videos online that showcase different companies and how they work. These are a great resource to teach the language for describing workplaces and their processes.

Infographic video

One modern genre of video is the ‘infographic video’ (also called ‘kinetic typography video’). It shows animated text on screen which merges with images and may have narration or simply some background music. You can write comprehension questions for students to answer whilst they watch. Many business infographic videos tend to include lots of numbers and figures, so I give students the numbers shown in the video and ask them to note down what these refer to.

This infographic video looks at the importance of using video in business.


One of the simplest video formats is the interview or a business person talking directly to the camera. If you want to teach the language of specific business area, then find an interview with an expert in the field. Alternatively, make your own video by preparing a set of questions and interview a real business person to show in class. If you teach very experienced business people, then interview them and ask their permission to show their video to another class. In particular, if you teach different one-to-one classes, interview each of your students with the same set of questions. Then show the videos of the students to each other. It’s a nice way to bring other people into your one-to-one lessons and for students to share their knowledge.

Take a look at this interview with an expert talking about cultural differences in business. It’s taken from the videos in the Business Result series.

Short films

Using short films in a lesson can add some fun and variety. For example, one short video called ‘The Black Hole’ looks at what happens when an office worker photocopies a black hole which has magical properties. Play it to students and ask them to think what they would use a ‘black hole’ for at work. Another short film called ‘Signs’ lasting about twelve minutes offers all sorts of opportunities for use in the classroom. The first two minutes show a young man going through the same work routine every day – a perfect springboard into the use of the present simple, and for getting students to talk about their routines.

Here is the ‘The Black Hole’ video, and here is ‘Signs’.

This article first appeared in the July 2014 edition of the Teaching Adults Newsletter – a round-up of news, interviews and resources specifically for teachers of adults. If you teach adults, subscribe to the Teaching Adults Newsletter now.


Business English teachers – Getting through those interviews

A woman and two men on an interview panel looking seriousEvan Frendo works in corporate language training. Here he describes the sorts of things potential employers might be looking for when hiring Business English trainers to work in-house.

One of the things I sometimes do as a Business English training consultant is help HR departments recruit freelance trainers to work in-house. The whole job involves deciding, often within a short space of time, just how suitable a teacher might be for a particular position. Teaching qualifications are a useful start, but they rarely show evidence of someone’s ability to work in an in-house training context. Experience counts too, of course, but just because a candidate can boast years of experience does not mean that the person necessarily knows what they are doing – there are a surprising number of experienced trainers out there who lack elementary knowledge and skills. What we are basically looking for during a job interview is evidence of a person’s competence as a trainer, as well as potential for development. This is where models like KSA (knowledge, skills and attitude) can be particularly helpful, because they provide a framework within which to work.


Here we are looking for evidence that the candidate has theoretical knowledge not only of the teaching / training world, but also of the business world. Here are some questions we might ask:

  • How do people learn languages?
  • How would you explain the difference between training and teaching? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each in a corporate context?
  • Can you describe a recently published course book aimed at ESP / Business English learners? What do you like / dislike about it?
  • What would you understand by the term “business process”?
  • What can you tell us about our industry and our company?

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Teaching and learning with video – Part 3: Interviews, vox pops and beyond…

Video camera and microphoneBruce Wade is the Editor of International Express. Building on his previous posts, Video in the Classroom and The Use of reportage and mini-documentary, he considers how video interviews can be used for contextual language learning.

We are naturally interested and curious about what other people do, what they are like, and what they look like. Using video gives students a chance to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise meet, and learn about their life and what they do. A wine producer in England, a nurse in Uganda, an expat entrepreneur in Prague, a travel writer who has travelled all over Africa, all have interesting stories to tell. How has climate change affected wine production in England? What can a foreign nurse do to help eradicate malaria in Africa? How does an American set up a business in the Czech Republic? What does a travel writer take with him on a research trip? These are all fascinating questions that are best answered by those people talking directly about their work, allowing the viewer to see the context in which they are working and talking.

Vox pops allow you to put a diverse group of people together on video so that the viewer can compare and discuss what different people in different professions and countries think about various issues related to their jobs. Simple questions such as, “How important is appearance at work?”, “What do you do every day at work?”, “How do you greet someone for the first time?” tell us a great deal about the culture, the social conventions, and the lifestyles of people from diverse origins.

International Express Video: Pre-Intermediate level, Unit 8: Work Culture

And finally …

Take a look at more sample videos from the new DVD and DVD-ROM editions of International Express. If you want to use this material yourself, the full DVD and DVD-ROM editions feature 44 video clips across the series, each around 4 minutes in length. The footage is a mix of contemporary, commissioned material, fascinating archive material, and clips provided by various corporations and organizations. Locations cover North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Bruce Wade, Editor

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