Business and Professional courses

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Hit the road running with these ideas and websites…

Business and Professional courses can cover a wide range of areas. Within business you may have a student with a background in for example marketing, accountancy or human resources. Non-business students could be professionals in education, air traffic control or medicine. The course allows the student to focus on his or her particular area of interest or weekness.

Business and Professional courses can be for any level but for lower level students there will of course be a need to learn the basics of general English as well.

When preparing to teach a Business and Professional course it is important to consider whether the student already has experience in a particular field. If they do, they are likely to have a more defined idea of what they need to learn, know much of the key vocabulary and have knowledge of what is involved in their line of work. Most of our Business and Professional students fall into this group.

For a student who is aspiring to have a particular business or professional position, their knowledge of that area could be very limited and this will probably affect the course content and their expectations.

Teaching experienced professionals often involves:

  • giving a lot of correction
    dealing with individuals who are used to being in control
  • managing high expectations
  • some interruption to lessons due to work place demands
  • a need for the student to keep in touch with colleagues by email or phone
  • the use of specialist materials
  • linking up with relevant people or organisations in the UK

Ideas for Activities

A useful way to plan a course is to consider what the student will need to do with their English and to work back from there. Typical tasks and functions are:

  • telephoning
  • dealing with meetings
  • socialising
  • presenting
  • emails and reports
  • summarising
  • interviewing
  • being interviewed
  • reading reports
  • negotiating contracts

A lot of the above can be covered by preparing role-plays. The role-plays can either attempt to simulate the students real work scenarios or can be based on other situations. Use whichever appeals to the student most!

On short courses it is often effective to first determine what the student is capable of and from the result teach what is lacking.

Example of presentation lesson (over 3 days):

  1. For homework ask student to choose a topic to present to you the following day for 5 or 10 minutes
  2. Student gives presentation (eg on which invention is the most useful). Video if possible
  3. Teacher asks for student’s evaluation of presentation. Use video if possible
  4. Teacher gives constructive criticism covering area such as body language, visuals, pronunciation, use of vocabulary, eye contact, pausing, handling questions, organisation, use of examples, clarity of message, use of notes etc
  5. Work on weak areas
  6. Teacher gives short example presentation
  7. Homework: Student prepares for new presentation
  8. Next day: New presentation given
  9. Student evaluation
  10. Teacher comments

Giving presentations is a good example of how effective communication is not simply a matter of good grammar or extensive vocabulary!

Role-plays can be done for negotiating, meetings, socialising and interviews.

Project suggested by Lynne

Many students are unfamiliar with the concept of charity shops. I give students a mini-project: I ask them to visit three, different, named shops and find out about organisation, turnover, use of volunteers, the charity they raise funds for, whether they have a paid manager or not, etc. etc.

They also have to interview at least one customer about why they choose to shop there and make their own observations about layout, decor, presentation of goods, lighting, use of space etc. Then they give a presentation, taped, self-corrected with prompts/observations from me. The research work is usually carried out as a homework task and the presentation and feedback done in class next day.

Staff in these shops are almost always extremely generous with their time and students benefit from having other native speakers to talk to.


It is a good idea to have a range of materials available.

The Internet provides you with an almost unlimited source of texts that can be used for teaching purposes. A useful website for short business English related articles is: (the well-known Business School of the University of Pennsylvania) The articles change every 2 months.

An eclectic business website is

The money and finance pages of Internet providers can be useful eg

Newspaper business pages


The are now many specialist books for different professional areas. Look at a good website such as Cambridge International Book Centre to see what is available

Paul Emmerson, Business Builder – Intermediate Resource Series (Macmillan). It covers 9 modules in 3 separate books.

John Crowther-Alwyn, Business Roles (Cambridge University Press)

Mark Powell, Presenting in English (Heinle)

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3 Responses to Business and Professional courses


  1. Richard-K says:

    Here are a few web sites for economic/business/new product ideas/political issues, easily adaptable for Intermediate Level and above students:


  3. KariD says:

    I recently taught an advanced Business English student who works in a strategic consultancy and was particularly concerned with developing her listening and speaking skills. This meant that the resources needed to have contexts and topics at a very high level. I was pleased to discover:
    Business Result, Baade, et al, Oxford Press – a textbook series focusing on business case studies, excellent listening tapes and used for teaching MBA students. I used both advanced and upper intermediate.
    Business English Handbook, Paul Emmerson, MacMillan Press – good on business topics and effective communication in meetings and presentations with an audio CD of 12 interviews with senior business people.


    • IanBarker says:

      Thanks for the recommendations Kari. One tip when considering books is to check the book reviews on Amazon. A book (or author) with consistently good reviews is a fairly safe bet.

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