“Intelligence, knowledge or experience are important and might get you a job, but strong communication skills are what will get you promoted.”
This quote by Mireille Guiliano perfectly sums up the importance of effective communication skills—especially for those of us in the business world.
You might have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t express it clearly, it’ll never be realized.
You might be the most competent person in your field, but if you can’t talk effectively with your team and your supervisors, no one will ever know that.
In this age of globalized businesses, there are many career opportunities out there where business English proficiency is required for success. If you’re looking at advancing your career in the near future, then the right time to start sharpening your business English communication skills is now!
Fortunately, it’s easier to do than you might think.
In this post we’ll cover six simple methods for steadily improving your business English communication skills. They’ll prepare you to write well, speak clearly and eventually climb that career ladder as high as it goes.
But first, I’d like to recommend some mobile apps you can use to get started. Using these apps will get you in the habit of practicing business English every day, whether it’s during your commute, while you’re waiting for a meeting to start or any other time you have a few minutes to spare.
Apps for Improving Your Business English Communication Skills
Real English Business
This app offers to teach you real English that’s used to conduct business all over the world. What’s great is that it comes with a free trial month.
It’s designed with practice samples and tests to help you build your business English skills from pre-beginner and beginner levels through intermediate and advanced levels.
You’ll learn useful business vocabulary, expressions and idioms as well as specific business language for conducting successful presentations, meetings, networking and much more.
FluentU’s business English program provides engaging, real-world dialogues for a wide range of professions. It’s the most straightforward, effective way to practice the communication skills that are most relevant to your job.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Two Minute English
This app offers both general and business English lessons. If you’re a busy professional, you’ll love that each business English lesson takes only two minutes of even your most hectic day at work.
The lessons are short, quick and effective, and new ones are added daily. That means there are no excuses to miss even a single day of business English learning practice!
Business English Pod
Have you heard of Business English Pod? If you’ve been using their website, you can now integrate your learning into your phone. They have more than 200 business English lessons covering everything from vocabulary to grammar to practical skills for your business and technical needs.
You should definitely tune in to their business English news content to experience and learn language for real-life situations. If you’re on a tight work schedule, you may even download the listening files to take your learning offline at your own pace.
Climb the Corporate Ladder: 6 Ways to Build Your Business English Communication Skills
1. Learn Sentences, Not Just Words
In many cases, simply learning a word isn’t enough. The question is: how do you use it? Instead of just memorizing important words and their definitions, I suggest that you memorize one or two sentences containing the word.
Let’s take the word clarify, for example. This word is commonly used in business English to mean “make something clearer or more understandable.”
Instead of just memorizing the word, memorize some sentences that use it:
- We need to clarify a few details.
- Maybe you could clarify what you mean by that.
- Thanks for clarifying that.
Now you can easily use these sentences at meetings or conference calls to seek a better understanding of what someone has said. When you’re comfortable using these fixed sentence structures, you’re ready to take the next step of adapting them to different situations:
- We need to clarify what she said in the last meeting.
- Maybe you could clarify how you plan to market this product.
- Thank you for clarifying your point.
When you’re confident changing these sentences to suit different situations, then you’re ready to start constructing your own sentences.
2. Don’t Just Answer Questions—Ask Questions
As a business English learner, you’re probably more used to answering questions than asking them. You’re often most focused on what to say and how to say something, and that’s okay.
But asking questions is a necessary part of doing business as well. You often need to seek the opinions and ideas of others to get your job done. Did you know that asking questions is a great way to sharpen your listening skills and learn new business language as well?
I’m sure you’ve heard many kinds of questions from people around you at work. Some common ones include:
- What do you think of this idea?
- How do you propose we handle this?
- Are there other options we can consider?
For a start, you could memorize questions like these, then ask them at the right time. But don’t just ask; be sure to also pay close attention to the answers you receive. While taking note of the content of the answers (which could help you do your job), also listen for new and unfamiliar language that might be useful to you.
Looking for more questions to memorize for use around the office? Check out this guide to targeted business English questions for many situations.
3. Plan Your Communication Ahead of Time, When Possible
Before you embark on any kind of business communication, whether it’s to make a conference call or write an email to a customer, always take the time to think about what and how to convey your message.
Think about the grammar you’ll use. Think about the words and phrases that’ll make your message clearer. In other words, plan your message.
For instance, before attending a meeting, look through the agenda to see what topics will be discussed. Make notes about what you plan to say including the grammar and any words or phrases that’ll be useful. Use these to practice making meaningful sentences.
This type of preparation doesn’t just ensure that you’ll sound more competent and professional in your business communications; it also serves as extra grammar and speaking practice that’ll get you fluent faster.
4. Make Time for Grammar Reviews
While you’re focused on learning all the aspects of business English, you shouldn’t forget to work on your grammar. Using correct grammar will ensure you send clear and meaningful messages that won’t cause confusion and misunderstandings in your business communication.
Below are a few sites I think you’ll find useful for learning grammar online. Consider setting aside a specific amount of time every day, maybe while you’re getting ready for work or during lunch, to review these grammar resources.
- GrammarBook.com: GrammarBook.com offers free online English usage rules that you can use in conjunction with “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,” an excellent workbook and guide to American English grammar, punctuation and usage that’s sold on this site. You can sign up to receive their free newsletter and access their online quizzes.
- Daily Grammar: Daily Grammar features fun ways to learn and practice your English grammar skills with daily blog posts, quizzes, e-books and workbooks that let you learn at your own pace.
- Grammar Girl: Grammar Girl is another fun site with many great tips to help you understand the sometimes confusing areas of English grammar and improve more quickly. You can sign up for the newsletter to receive these tips in your email.
Use these helpful resources to practice forming meaningful and grammatically correct sentences.
5. Expand Your Vocabulary with Business News Media
One of the most effective ways to increase your vocabulary is through business news media. By reading and listening to business news, you’ll learn new words, expressions and even idioms that are relevant to the professional world.
The more you read business news, the more comfortable you’ll become with terminology related to finance, regulations and other issues that may be pertinent to your work. You’ll find many useful business news resources online such as Reuters Business News, The Harvard Business Review and NBC Business News.
A subscription to The New York Times will give you access to fresh, relevant news stories every day in their Business Day section. As this is a major news source that covers business not just in the U.S. but internationally, it’s a great way to ensure that you’re up-to-date on the latest subjects in the business world.
Most professions also have newspapers or magazines that are specific to their industry. For example, if you work in the insurance field, you might read Insurance Business Magazine. Ask your colleagues what industry-specific news outlets they read so you can start reading them, too.
Magazine Line is a great place to search for professional and trade magazines at discounted prices. Use the Categories menu to select a topic like “Travel,” “Health & Fitness” or “Computer & Electronics,” or just select “Professional & Trade” to find some magazines on different career-related topics.
As you’re reading, be sure to jot down new vocabulary and terminology commonly used in your field of business.
6. Target Multiple Communication Skills at the Same Time
Many business English learners tend to focus most of their efforts on speaking skills, because speaking is so important for communicating in meetings, negotiations, job interviews, etc. However, the other communication skills—reading, listening and writing—are just as important.
Of course, you know the importance of writing in business. I’m sure you spend a good part of your work day replying to emails, writing reports and preparing other documents. One of the best ways to develop writing skills—other than constant practice—is to read actively. When you encounter useful business phrases in your reading, make sure to note them down so you can use them in your own writing.
Get your hands on any kind of business English material (books, magazines, websites, etc.) that you can and make it a habit to read as often as you can. If you need to, read and re-read the text over again until you get the idea.
Listening is important too. Listening may be challenging in the beginning because you don’t control the speed of the words, and there are many different accents and speaking styles to become familiar with. But with practice, practice, practice, you’ll find yourself understanding more and discovering how to improve your own speech and pronunciation.
Remember not to limit yourself to developing just one or two skill areas at a time. The quickest way to improve is by targeting multiple communication skills at the same time.
So there you have it: the top six ways to start sharpening your business English communication skills today. Remember, practice makes all the difference. Now you’re all set to climb that corporate ladder. Good luck!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.