As a kid, I learned to spell and write in British English.
So naturally, I thought American English was pretty cool.
For one, spelling seemed easier. Colors didn’t have an extra “u” that no one ever pronounced. Two, the words just seemed more exotic. I liked how the Americans made the word “vacation” sound more exciting than simply saying “holiday.”
But American English differs from British English in many other small ways. When it comes to speaking, there’s a marked difference in the accents and stresses. When it comes to writing, there are a whole lot of differences in both spelling and vocabulary. There are even differences in the way certain rules of grammar are applied.
But they’re so minute, you almost don’t notice them.
So how do you tell them apart? Or rather, what do you need to know about American English to master American business English? Especially when you (like me) have grown up speaking British English or you’re a non-native speaker?
Well you’ve come to the right place.
This post is all about helping you improve your American business English, and it’s packed with (mostly free) resources and tips that cover all the different aspects of language learning.
Tips to Learn American Business English
For a quick introduction to the topic you may watch this YouTube video by Uncle Sam’s American English. Once you’re done, you can assess your skills and figure out which areas you need to work on. Ideally, your learning plan should cover the following:
- Focus on spelling. Certain common words are spelled differently in British and American English and both are equally acceptable by spell check. That means you can’t always rely on a word processor to point out spelling mistakes.
- Practice pronunciation and accents. Master the art of speaking like an American and your professional career will automatically improve.
- Know the right phrases. Every field has their own jargon (way of talking) and expressions. Knowing the right ones will help you blend in better and help you get to know your colleagues. Also, you won’t misunderstand someone’s instructions or take an idiom too literally.
- Interact with Americans. The more you talk to other people and have meaningful conversations with them, the faster you’ll improve.
10 Brilliant Resources to Help You Ace American Business English
Below are some of the best resources to help you ace American business English.
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This website is an excellent resource for both teachers and students alike, complete with lesson plans and various types of exercises. The site has lessons for many topics that include a list of vocabulary and a practice activity to help you internalize (remember) the new words.
You’ll have access to tons of materials you can start incorporating in your daily speech. For example, check out this comprehensive list of American business English idioms and common English mistakes. By completing these activities, you’re more likely to memorize the vocabulary since you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice.
For a more comprehensive approach to learning American business English, FluentU promises to cater to all your needs.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.
FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!
Another wonderful resource, Learn American English Online has the potential to become your best friend.
Free to use, it contains important grammar and vocabulary lessons that are arranged in different color-coded learning levels. So whether you’re a beginner or at the advanced stage, there’s sure to be something of interest for you.
Newbies will begin at the blue level, where you’ll start with basic conjugations, idioms, proverbs, quizzes and lots of exercises. And if you want to stray outside of the levels, you can check out the page’s other links, like the one about American speech, where you can look up popular expressions, verbal phrases and other important speech elements by letter.
This site will help you build a strong foundation in American English skills, which will propel you forward in your quest to dominate American business English. But if you’d like to get straight to business-specific material, there’s also a section on business idioms along with an exercise to test your knowledge.
Of course, if you’re really serious about taking your business English to the next level and are ready for self-learning, you might consider “American Business English” by Karen Hulene Bartell. At 230 pages, it’s a handy reference guide.
The book mostly focuses on all forms of business writing in American English, and it’s ideal for those looking for a user-friendly guide to writing in the professional world.
So if you’re someone who’s only interested in improving your speaking skills, the other resources listed here (like the next one) will be of greater help.
“Speak Business English Like an American: Learn the Idioms & Expressions You Need to Succeed on the Job!”
If you want to both hear and see the phrases you’re learning, then check out the best-selling book “Speak Business English Like an American: Learn the Idioms & Expressions You Need to Succeed on the Job!” (with accompanying audio CD) by Amy Gillet.
The book is only 200 pages long, with learning exercises that teach you the important idioms and other common expressions frequently at use in the American workplace. The CD makes it the perfect complement to your study routine.
So if you’ve always thought that you didn’t quite know the right words to say at a board meeting or during a conference call, now you’ll be better prepared.
Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are a great way to improve both your English and business skills, especially when you can’t afford professional courses or you have a full-time job. Many of these are taught by faculty from Ivy League universities and can be completed at your own pace. Coursera is one of the best sites to enroll in MOOCs pertaining to business English and beyond.
When it comes to making a great first impression, your pronunciation matters a great deal. Pronounce a word in an incorrect fashion and you might leave a bad impression on your potential employer.
And if you’ve spoken British English all your life, it will be difficult for you to suddenly change the way you say certain words. You have to consciously remind yourself to pronounce common everyday words like “dance” and ” bath” differently.
So if you’re struggling, the course “Tricky American Pronunciation” by University of California, Irvine is sure to be a life-saver. It’s a beginner course that’s free to access, although a fee might be charged for certain graded assignments and quizzes.
If you’ve signed up for a MOOC before and it’s worked for you, check out Udemy. It’s similar to Coursera, except they have greater variety in specialized courses, and a great number of them are paid.
If you’re unsure about your speaking abilities, this paid American business English course might be the one for you—Jolinda Osborne’s “American English for Success in Business” is your one-stop solution to all your difficulties with American accents and pronunciation.
They even have detailed diagrams that illustrate the right way to move your mouth, exercises to improve pronunciation and over six hours of instructional videos.
For visual learners, YouTube is a great teacher. And when it comes to mastering American business English, the website doesn’t disappoint.
This channel has some highly useful tips. For instance, just check out this approximately five-minute video “American Business English Pronunciation 16.” There are also videos on American accents, as well as differences between American and British ways of speaking, among others.
Love learning on your own? Download this app from Google Play.
It’s built with state-of-the-art speech recognition software, contains audio snippets by professional voice actors, has monthly challenges and even a leaderboard to compare your progress with friends. Going through the lessons and practicing them is sure to give you an edge at the workplace and that too, for free!
Available via iTunes, Business English Pod is the best audio-based resource out there and covers almost every aspect of business English in an easy-to-understand manner. Though you might hear a British English accent from time to time, you’ll hear lots of examples of American English in the episodes.
There are over 300 lessons, with new episodes added each week. Each episode or lesson comes with a MP3 audio file, PDF transcript, a lesson module and a quiz to test your learning.
Check out their “Video Vocab” for a ton of useful vocabulary on a variety of business topics. Monthly subscription is $7.99, but with a host of English teachers with business experience designing the lessons, you’re sure to get your money’s worth!
And finally, remember that practice makes perfect. So whatever level you find yourself at, you need to consistently practice to improve yourself.
Believe in yourself and success will surely follow you!
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to check out her website or contact her for freelancing inquiries.
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