Business English: From Theory to Practice

There is a story of somebody who studied French at Oxford, who knew the tenses and grammar, and could happily recite classical French drama. But when he got of the train at the Gard du Nord in Paris for the first time, he didn’t know the words to order a coffee.

True or not, the story does tell us something about how languages (in the UK) have been taught until fairly recently. The focus has been on the academic rather than the practical. So, perhaps it isn’t surprising that when Business English was first taught (in the 50’s and 60’s) it was mainly about the vocabulary. It was an academic, not a practical focus.

However, much of the English communication that takes place within businesses now occurs between non-native speakers. This means people who don’t speak English as their first language are often at both ends of the lines of communication. It could be, for example, a German person speaking to a Japanese person to make an order, but both of them using English.

Sure, they both need to know the words associated with their job, and they will build up specialist vocabulary quickly. But first of all, they need to build up practical skills, like giving a presentation, or making a phone call, or answering the phone.

Because building up the practical skills enables them to do something which we all need to do at the beginning of a new project. We simply need to start.

Today in Business English the focus is on functional language, so that you can finish your course confident that you are ready to begin using English in your day to day working life.

This approach is central to the Cambridge Business English Certificate, which we will be introducing soon. The Cambridge Business Course has been designed to help professionals develop the English language skills to communicate confidently in an international workplace, and the exams are based on authentic situations, giving you the skills to communicate in real-life business scenarios.

I will be giving you a more detail on all this over the New Year, but for now we’d just like to say we can’t wait to start teaching you on our new Business English courses in 2020.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, do please give us a shout.

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