Posts tagged: Teaching ESP

What’s your Business Background?

Use your Real-Life Skills to Teach English for Specific Purposes

After a long day at work, you might find your class full of sleepy and tired students. You’ll need to energize them.

Once you’ve been around the block a time or two teaching English as a Foreign Language, you’ll probably want to branch out into ESP.

No, I don’t mean you should hire yourself out as a psychic.  In our industry, ESP stands for “English for Specific (or Special) Purposes” and encompasses teaching English for business people, hospitality, airline staff and for other “specific purposes.”

The reason most seasoned EFL teachers lean toward business English or other ESP classes is that these teaching jobs usually pay more than conversation lessons and they’re often more enjoyable.

Past Jobs Might Help You Teach ESP

So, I can imagine you thinking right now, but what do I know about marketing or machinery or whatever else my students will want to talk about in ESL class?

Don’t panic.

All of us have some kind of employment history, and most English teachers have some experience outside the realm of TEFL. Even if you just reference that lonely summer you spent in school as a convenience store clerk, you have a background in business. Or, let’s say you moonlighted as a waiter or barmaid—that’s the hospitality industry.

Every field has a niche vocabulary: specific stresses, tactics for dealing with customers, and unique products.  If you had some work experience in retail, for example, you’d know more about the language of cash registers and refunds than might another English teacher. These things can give you a edge when you’re looking for work giving courses in ESP.

And, if your work history prior to teaching English is extensive, then perhaps you might even apply to a business school.  I have a background in business and as a result I taught, for example,  business courses to English teachers and at business colleges. My foot in the door was my skills as an ESL instructor; my edge was my business experience.

Business English is More Than Just Vocabulary

Now, teachers who don’t have any business experience and teachers who have been English teachers since their first day after university may believe that all you have to do to teach a business class is change up the vocabulary some and then—hey presto!—you have a business English class.

Sorry folks. It’s not as easy as changing the sentence, “I have a phone, a book and a pencil in my bag” to “I have a calculator, a report and a USB drive in my briefcase.” Vocabulary alone does not a business class make.

When you teach ESP, you usually focus on teaching functional things. A functional lesson is one that has a specific target and some clearly defined language. For example:

•             describing the products your students sell

•             asking and answering questions about those products

•             dealing with complaints about your students’ products

A ESP class wouldn’t have a lesson solely devoted to a grammar topic like the past perfect, or to an irrelevant topic like hobbies and families. (Unless, I guess, you’re teaching English to hobby shop owners or kindergarten teachers!)

Your ESP classes will be about the specific product, process, service and business related to your students’ aims and needs.

To teach business English, you need a focused idea. Businesses don’t waste money on English lessons.  They’re careful to hire English teachers who have a specific idea about the kind of language and functions their employees need.

There are many countries and even international companies where workers must pass different levels of English tests to be promoted. This makes for highly motivated students who have very clear ideas of what they need when they are sitting in your class. This student motivation is another way business English classes are different from general English courses. You may also find that your students come to class before or after work—or fit it in on their lunches—and are therefore tired. You may be sleepy too, if you have to teach 6 a.m. classes like I did for a while.

ESP pays better

If the thought of working weird hours seems like a deal-breaker to you, let me assure you that often  teachers often earn 50 to 100 percent more for ESP classes than for general English lessons. Now, doesn’t that sound worthwhile?

Another perk of teaching ESP, besides the pay, is that your students are likely to be better, more motivated learners. You’re almost always going to be teaching adults in this situation too, so if you prefer teaching mature students, then that’s another reason to look at ESP over general English.

Analyze the Students’ Needs

Now, before you teach any kind of ESP to students, it’s important to do a needs analysis.

Go to your client (usually this will be your students’ supervisor or an HR manager) and ask them to tell you very clearly what they want the students to be able to do in English when they finish the course. Examples of this kind of goal might be:

•             Describing products

•             Selling products

•             Helping customers with common complaints

•             Giving presentations about the products

When I was working in Taiwan, I once taught at a bank training telephone customer support staff. They had to help clients who would call the bank when they had trouble with their credit cards. As you can guess, the students had some very specific needs as to what vocabulary and language functions they needed to master for their job and keep their customers happy.

Another time, I taught at a pharmaceutical company where my students needed English skills to help them communicate with their bosses in a different country. The company language was English, so my students needed to polish their email writing and reading skills, master understanding and compiling reports in English, as well as general communication skills.  So, you can see how important it is to get a strong sense of exactly what a business—and, therefore, each student—wants and needs before you step into the classroom.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Do a needs analysis before you start teaching any ESP classes. Your client and your students will thank you later.  Ask for specific details about the language they students use on the job every day and where they seem to be having difficulty or in what areas they wish to improve.   If possible as more than one person.  The person hiring you might even have a different idea about what the students need – than the students.  Then you need to balance both, not always an easy task.

TED’s Tips™ #2: You can pick up an excellent needs analysis form for Business English over at TEFL Boot Camp HERE.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Even if you don’t have a formal background in business, you still might be an effective business English teacher. Look at your prior job history and figure out what niche markets you might be able to successfully teach.  This niches can often be much more fun and interesting than general English.

Teaching Internships in China

 

 

 

Teaching English at Multi-National Corporations

Teaching Business English: at the corporate level

You’ve already figured out that much of the current material on this blog comes from the great questions you readers ask and I will feature another one today.

This one we will do more as a Q and A than most others.

This reader was interested in teaching ESP and focused on the Middle East as an option and he had a specific interest in Saudi Arabia. Here we go:

Hi Richard (name changed to protect the innocent!),

You wrote:
You mentioned that you had vast experience teaching for corporate companies.

I am not sure “vast” would be the correct word, but yes, probably more experience than most teachers.

When you taught, for example, Roche Pharmaceuticals (Taiwan), did you adapt the English course to suit the pharmaceutical industry e.g. English for special purposes?

Absolutely. Yes. But what was adapted was based on a good Needs Analysis of what they felt they were having difficulty with. It was not based on a preconceived notion about what I might have thought they needed.

Would you say today, that corporate companies want specialised courses to fit their industry, so if you did teach a petroleum company, would it be necessary to study courses in geology/petroleum engineering etc.

Yes, they want a course focused on their business needs. No, you don’t need to excessively study their specialty, but it would be important to understand and have some idea about what the people you are teaching actually do on the job, when and how and why do they use/need English, and what kinds of problems they need help with. Showing up completely prepackaged is not the answer. Good needs analysis when you arrive is critical.

Also, which industry sector needs English instructors the most??

It’s a big world – I don’t know. I would say a need exists probably everywhere and in every industry. It has more to do with WHERE, rather than What. If, for example, you are teaching in the Gulf States – well, it is likely the need is in the petroleum and perhaps hospitality industries. If you are teaching in Nepal – probably tourism and hospitality, in Switzerland probably banking and hospitality, and so on.

These days many students study abroad, so their English is a higher level than students 30 years ago, so where would there be a niche market for English instructors in corporate firms?

Same answer as above. The need is Global and not always where you might think it is. It is not just about foreigners speaking to English speakers. It is about English being the only common language between perhaps a Chinese exporter and the Brazilian who needs her product. Or a Japanese construction company working with local engineers installing a high speed train in Bulgaria. Got it?

And finally, what was the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Helping people improve their career prospects. And that was a GREAT reward.

TED’s Tips™ #1: It is better to focus on teaching ESP perhaps in a an industry in which you are familiar and preferably experienced rather than looking for an industry and trying to adapt to it.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Understand that businesses want an end product. They don’t hire a teacher or pay for English classes just to take classes. They hire you to solve a language problem and you need to focus on and get to the root of what your ESP students need. If not, you will quickly be out the door.

What’s up in China? Learn what kind of jobs are on offer if you would like to Teach English in China

Teaching English for Special Purposes

HOTELcover

Teaching ESP Abroad

Many people, when transitioning to a career in TEFL, forget that they have lots of experience and sometimes education in a specialized area.

Rather than starting at the bottom rung in TEFL consider finding your own special niche where you can probably make more money, do a better job and even enjoy yourself more.

For example, many people from Information Technology (IT) careers come to TEFL. Their best job strategy would be to seek an English teaching position at a college or university that has an IT specialty.

Many occupational specialties in foreign countries need English training. The need it for university study and papers, research (most international research is published in English) and/or to run a business.

If you have a background in a special area, it is in your best interest to use it. You will already know the specialized vocabulary of the business, you will know how the business works and you will even have a curiosity about the business that other teachers won’t have. This makes you ideal to teach in that special niche. And it makes you a preferred hire over other teachers without your special skills.

Consider nursing, aviation training, business and marketing, chemicals, general medicine, engineering, hospitality (restaurant, hotel, and tourism industry), IT, law, construction technology, and every other possible major at a university or college.

If you have such a skill/knowledge it would be well worth your time to seek employment in that area. DON’T go to the English department of a college or university – go to the department of your specialty and have them recommend you to the English department. You WILL be in demand.

Read the following links to get a better understanding of teaching ESP.

Teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

Two excellent examples of niche employment that the smart people look for are Hotel and Resort English and Business English. Teach a few reception desk staff in an air conditioned classroom at a 5-star resort on a tropical island – or 50 screaming kids in a hot classroom? Teach a small class of businesspeople at corporate headquarters – or back to the screaming kindergarteners . . . Up to you . . . ESP has its advantages!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Your BEST English Teaching Job – the one that you enjoy the most and that will likely pay you the best is usually related to your personal skills, experiences and education. If you don’t explore those options you are shortchanging yourself AND your new career.

TED’s Tips™ #2: There is no need to start on the bottom rung of the English teaching business. Go direct to the colleges, universities and businesses that need the skills you already have.

What’s up in China? Learn what kind of jobs are on offer if would like to Teach English in China

How to Teach English Overseas and Secrets to Success Abroad
TEFL eBooks is offering a free download of their new publication Seven Secrets of Success Abroad - and along with it comes a bi-weekly installment and revision of their eBook called How to Teach English Overseas.

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HowToTeachOverseasCover

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