As a child, I thought being “good in English” meant knowing and using a lot of “big” words.
So I would pepper my essays with big multi-syllabic words.
Other written assignments would contain dozens of obnoxious, difficult-to-pronounce terms.
My teachers were at a loss how to reconcile my obscure but remarkable vocabulary with my grammatically-incorrect sentences and clauses.
Meanwhile, I still had problems with public speaking and communicating my ideas effectively.
Much later, I realized I had been in an intermediate learning stage—I had mastered the basics, and I thought I knew everything.
I realized then that the surest sign of proficiency in any language is when you can easily express yourself in spoken and written communication without being intimidated.
Moreover, you don’t find it challenging to comprehend the ideas that the people around you are putting forward.
In short, true mastery of a language lies not in showing off a fancy vocabulary, but in effective and efficient communication.
So if you find yourself in the intermediate stage when it comes to communicating in business English, it’s very important for you to get to the next level. We’ve got some resources to help you get there!
How to Know If You’re an Intermediate Business English Learner
If you’re the self-study type who’s been diligently trying to learn English with the help of books and online resources, you might not know whether you’ve crossed the “basic” stage and are in “intermediate” territory. Or you may be unsure whether your proficiency level is “intermediate” or “advanced.”
Fortunately, there’s a very simple and quick way to find out. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re at the intermediate stage:
- Do you have little to no difficulty in stringing together simple, grammatically-correct sentences?
- Are you sufficiently aware of the basic grammar rules, such as use of prepositions and clauses?
- Can you, with moderate confidence, talk for 15 minutes about a business topic?
- Can you point out mistakes in other people’s use of the language?
- Do you find expressing a certain idea easy, but elaborating upon it in greater and detail difficult?
- Do you, more or less, understand what people are saying, but find certain terms unfamiliar?
- Do you feel intimidated talking in English to your boss?
While this might not be an official proficiency test, if you’ve answered “yes” to at least three of these questions then you’re probably an “intermediate” learner. The resources listed below are geared towards you and will help you move to the next level.
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Why It’s Important to Study Intermediate Business English
Many times it’s difficult to muster up enough motivation to continue studying. So if you’re slacking off, force yourself to remember all the wonderful benefits that mastering English will bring you. Here are five of them. Can you think of more?
- You’ll be taken more seriously at work.
- You’ll have less difficulty in understanding certain words/expressions.
- You’ll have more confidence in doing presentations or making conference calls.
- You’ll make a better first impression at networking events.
- You’ll be able to expand your professional circle. You’ll now jump at the chance of going to lunch or getting a coffee with your coworkers!
15 Phenomenal Resources for Intermediate Business Learners
Listed below are a variety of websites, podcasts, courses (both paid and free) and worksheets that intermediate learners might find useful. Feel free to browse through them all, and choose the ones best suited to your needs.
Here are a few sites you should bookmark, with plenty of resources for your proficiency level.
This site is a go-to place for students and teachers alike for free learning resources, with topics like common mistakes and idioms. It’s a pretty simple site that’s easy to navigate and even has a blog with educational tips and information.
For starters, check out their free grammar exercises at the intermediate level that you can solve at your own pace.
Speakspeak is another brilliant learning resource. It has an A-Z grammar rules list, English practice exercises and free e-books to download. Start with their exercises that test your business vocabulary for intermediate and upper intermediate learners. They cover words from finance, sales, marketing and other relevant backgrounds.
You should also take advantage of their “search the site” option on the toolbar at the top of the page. This allows you to find specific grammar and vocabulary topics, like simple present conjugations or prepositions. Just typing in “intermediate” in the search field yields almost 200 results!
FluentU is a resource guaranteed to meet the learner where they are. After determining your level, this language platform will tailor a program to meet your needs. Here’s how it works.
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.
The name really says it all. This site offers over a thousand different exercises that are free to explore. You can approach them by topic or level.
You’ll be delighted by the variety of audio-visual resources and exercises, all related to business English. If you find there’s a particular grammar point that’s giving you problems, browse their grammar section to find exercises that will allow you to master it.
And once you’re more proficient in English, you might find that you have an opportunity to teach others. If so, you can always come back to this site and create new exercises for students!
Talk English is a learning website devoted to perfecting your spoken English. From conversations, idioms and grammar rules—they have it all.
As an intermediate business English learner, you probably know where your struggles are. So find exactly what you need by utilizing the “Lesson search” feature.
For example, you might know that you would like to brush up on your interview skills. Typing “interview” in the box brings up a collection of speaking and pronunciation lessons to prepare you for an interview.
When the page loads, you’ll see a variety of questions that you might hear at an interview, interactive practice lessons and listening lessons based on level. Clicking on one of the interview questions redirects you to a page where you’ll see the question, its pronunciation and a variety of possible responses.
Moreover, the full lesson index has a number of intermediate and business English exercises, including listening comprehension activities.
While developing your English skills in general will have positive effects on your professional life, there comes a time during your studies that you’ll want to focus on resources that exclusively cover business English.
This website has been built by people who have corporate experience or currently work in business. So when checking out their glossary or list of worksheets, just know that you’re in safe hands.
Start by checking out their video-based comprehension exercises, which provides a variety of audio-based exercises (for all levels) and listening exercises that are specifically for intermediate and advanced learners.
You should then jump over to their reading comprehension section to test your reading abilities. These exercises are intended for intermediate and advanced learners, so they’re perfect for you!
Many of us just don’t have the time to go back to college to take traditional courses. MOOCs bring the universities to you! MOOCs, and online courses in general, are excellent resources for self-study—and the perfect way for intermediate business learners to find exactly what they need.
Coursera is one of the best websites for MOOCs. Naturally, it’s an absolute gold mine of wonderfully curated courses on mastering business English. And best of all, these courses are often taught by faculty from prestigious universities.
We recommend you check out “English for Career Development” taught by the University of Pennsylvania. As an intermediate learner, you don’t need to go over the basics repeatedly. Instead, you can focus on how to successfully enter the job market, create an attractive resume, write cover letters and ace interviews and networking events.
While you’re at it, you can also sign up for “Intermediate Grammar Specialization” and increase your knowledge of grammar rules. This course will help you navigate those tricky grammar bits that are still a little hazy, like modals and adjective clauses, and will help you better understand and speak the English language at a more advanced level.
Udemy is similar to Coursera in that there are a variety of courses for learners who want to improve their overall English ability, as well as improve their business English skills. Furthermore, there are plenty of options for those who want a complete course designed specifically for intermediate learners.
Start with this “Full English Course: Intermediate Level” that covers grammar, speaking, reading, listening and even vocabulary, to help you succeed at the workplace.
You can also sign up for “Business English: Easy English for Meetings” that will teach you how to craft agendas and conduct yourself at both informal and formal business meetings.
As a publishing house with offices in over 130 countries, MacMillan has become a trusted household name. MacMillan Education also has over 10 years of experience “in bringing technology into the classroom and supporting English language teachers all over the world.”
So when the same team began “MacMillan Practice Online” and began to offer top-quality English courses at affordable prices, you know you’re bound to get good results.
If you’re in search of an intermediate course devoted specifically to your business English needs, look no further than MacMillan’s “Business English Intermediate Practice Online,” which covers grammar, as well as vocabulary for meetings, conferences, sales, marketing and presentations.
Business English Pod
As an intermediate learner, you already have adequate listening skills and can understand basic spoken English. So if you’re not ready to commit full time to a course, but you’re still eager to improve your business English skills, then listening to podcasts is an effective solution.
Arguably one of the best podcasts is Business English Pod, which has over 400 lessons on a variety of subjects. Each episode covers a particular aspect of workplace communication and even comes with quizzes and PDF transcripts. You can download the app for free on iTunes.
Down to Business English
This podcast is especially suited for those with English as a second or foreign language. They have discussion-based lessons, which means that with this you can kill two birds with one stone: learn English and stay up-to-date with the business world.
You can get this on both iOS and Android devices.
So if you’re up for an innovative approach to learning, try Down to Business English, where business-related news headlines are analyzed to understand worldwide business trends and improve your business vocabulary.
BBC Business Daily
The BBC has always been an authority when it comes to teaching English. So if you check out their news or plays regularly, your English conversation skills will improve by leaps and bounds. But if you’re short on time, just check out the “clips” from Business Daily.
Doing so will ensure you have constant exposure to challenging learning material and that you are up-to-date on the current trends in the business world.
Find a full list of their podcasts right on the site!
Business English-related worksheets are also incredibly useful for improving your language skills. They provide an opportunity for you to practice important skills, and see where you might still be struggling.
We’ve already discussed MacMillan and how it’s a very reliable brand when it comes to mastering English. They have a business-only section for language learners like you with a wonderful collection of business-related books, courses and other resources. (In fact, you should probably take the time to explore all the resources listed on their site.)
For now, check out their “In Company Worksheets” for intermediate learners. Although these are specifically designed to use in the classroom, individuals will find them useful too. As you arrive on the page with the worksheets, you’ll find a number of topics to choose from. Some of the tasks are group activities, while others are worksheets that you can complete.
Clicking on “Student’s Worksheet” will show you the required task and let you print out the document. After you’ve printed the document and recorded your answers (or written down your responses), click “Teacher’s Notes” to check your answers. What a great way to check your progress!
EnglishForMyJob.com is in the same family as BusinessEnglishSite.com, but has several practice worksheets suited for those who work in the hospitality industry.
You can access the exercises individually by choosing from the desired category (for free), or you can pay $6 and download all their 80 exercises in a package as PDFs to save time. This is perfect for those who prefer putting pen to paper.
So if you’re looking for a casual approach to improving your intermediate business language skills, you should definitely bookmark this site!
And lastly, there’s Onestopenglish, part of MacMillan Education and an extremely user-friendly site for teaching and learning English.
They have an extensive business English section, with lessons and resources to build students’ abilities in various professional settings. This is another site designed with teachers in mind, but has lots of materials for individual study.
There are tons of lessons to choose from, with worksheets to practice those skills. To access all the content on this site, you can either subscribe to them or sign up for a free 30-day trial.
But for now, check out their worksheets aimed at improving pronunciation designed for intermediate learners, because after all, impeccable pronunciation makes for a great first impression at the workplace!
As an intermediate business English learner, you should be proud of yourself!
However, it’s also important to keep working at your English skills and to continue to set new goals. These resources will help you achieve them!
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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