Business English can open the door to career success. A good business English teacher is vital. But how to choose when there are so many teachers?
- Does the teacher actually have real business experience?
Lots of general English teachers offer business English lessons without any real-life business experience. Would you learn swimming from someone who can’t swim? Why learn business English from someone who has never been in business?
2. Can the teacher offer realistic role plays and work-based classes?
If the teacher has experience in the workplace, they can offer real insights about business. For example, I have recently been able to offer insights about metrics and the Balanced Scorecard to a student from my own work experience. I also offer realistic role plays so that the student can practise dealing with situations at work.
3. Do you have lots of opportunities for speaking?
There are 4 skills in language-learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. But in the lesson, you should practise speaking more than the other skills because you can easily practise reading, listening and writing outside lesson time. I often ask my students to prepare a presentation and then give them feedback on their pronunciation and grammar. I also like to ask my students questions about work situations so that they have lots of opportunity to practise their spoken English.
4. Are the lessons meeting your personal needs?
It’s very important that the teacher listens to your language objectives and designs lessons in line with your objectives. For many learners, speaking is the top priority for one-to-one lessons but students have sometimes asked me for help understanding particular accents, with specific grammar points or with important writing activities (see my next point on this!).
5. Red Letter Days
From time to time in business there are ‘red letter days’ – or really important moments. Students often ask me to help them prepare for a job interview (including writing C.V.s (resumes)) or for an important meeting. I really enjoy this part of my job because I love helping students present themselves in the best possible way. When I help a student get a job or make the right impression in an important meeting, I have a huge sense of achievement. This is another area where real-life experience is very important. Has the teacher had management experience? Have they interviewed job candidates? If they have, they will be in a better position to give the student realistic practise and ‘mock interviews’. Have they faced difficult questions in meetings? This experience can help the student face challenging situations at work.
6. Is the teacher well qualified?
If a teacher is serious about helping their students progress, they will prioritise their own training. Do they have an English teaching qualification? Do they have qualifications in business? Do they have good academic qualifications? Business English students deserve well qualified teachers! (Check out Angus’ qualifications here).
7. Is the teacher a good model?
When I did a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education in 1993, I learned that the teacher is the model for the learners – in other words, the students copy the way the teacher speaks the language. I have learned four foreign languages to a high level and I know that it is very difficult to reach native speaker level. If your teacher is native speaker level, you will have an excellent model to copy and you will learn good language habits.
8. Is your teacher organised?
A good teacher will always plan their lessons so as to help their student make the best progress. You deserve an organised teacher!
9. Is your teacher creative?
Technology offers many new opportunities in language learning. Teachers can use videos and podcasts to help their students progress. Some teachers write their own online courses (see our own example here). It’s possible to record a student making a presentation and then give feedback on pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and an image is certainly a very creative resource for English lessons. Has your teacher invested in business English resources to give you the best possible help?
Good teachers have several characteristics in common. Good teachers are encouraging. Speaking a language is like playing a musical instrument – it’s a skill which needs to be learned through practise. It’s not something you can learn in a week and that’s why you need encouragement! Good business English teachers are focused on the goal. They will motivate you because they are motivated about helping you make progress. A sense of humour is important. Language learning shouldn’t always be serious – you will learn better if you can have a laugh from time to time. Patience is vital because students don’t always remember everything. If a teacher has experience of learning a language, they will understand the challenges and be able to encourage you when you need it.
This is not a complete list. What would you add? Why not write a comment and let me know what you look for in a business English teacher. Or why not book a lesson here and try us out!