Excuse me, are you busy?
Of course you are!
We know that business people like you don’t have a lot of free time to invest in improving their business English, so we think it’s really important to be extremely efficient when you study.
Are you just thinking of starting to study business English? Or have you already started a course?
Either way, everybody knows that studying something as complex as a language can take up a lot of your time. You often won’t see short-term progress and you have to be prepared to do a lot of self-study, even if you’re also in a course.
To be more precise, there’s a rule of thumb (see #13 in this post) that people use when talking about the relationship between classroom study and working outside of class: For every hour you spend in class, you should do about two hours of self-study.
So what can you do to improve your learning experience and simply make it more efficient? Today we’ll look at five important things you should do to get the most out of your business English training.
Take Your Business English Training to the Next Level: 5 Tips for Busy Learners
1. Set Clear Goals
The most important thing is to know what you want. You need to set some goals or objectives that you can work with later on. If you make good goals, you’re more likely to have good results.
In fact, there’s a way to remember how to make good goals: they need to be S.M.A.R.T. There are different words for that abbreviation, but for today we’ll say that your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. In other words: Your goals should be SMART!
For example, you can set a goal to review your English notes and material for five hours of self-study every day. This is specific and measurable, but it’s not very realistic if you also have a full-time job.
Realistic goals are essential for doing anything. They’re even more important for activities like learning a language because learning a language is a long-term commitment. When we start a long-term activity, we can sometimes get distracted or even fall into a routine and eventually forget our goals. However, you can avoid that problem.
First off, decide how much time and money you want to spend. Remember that learning a language, or moving from one level to the next one in a language, generally takes a long time.
They say that time is money, but money isn’t necessarily a good substitute for time. A very common mistake is to imagine that, if you invest money, you don’t need to invest time as well. While it’s important to choose a good course, it’s even more important to dedicate time to studying the language on a regular basis. The rule is simple: More is better. The more time you invest, the better you’ll get!
So think of a system that works for you to time your goal in some way. To make sure you study regularly, use a calendar or a time sheet, and put it in a place where you’ll see it often. It can be really motivating to check things off a list—like hours you spend studying or times you attend a business English class.
Finally, to make your goal measurable, keep track of your progress. If you’re not making progress at the rate you expect, you might need to adjust your study habits or your goals.
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2. Choose the Best Business English Training Course for You
If you haven’t started a business English course, here’s what you should look for when considering your options:
- The number of classes or hours in the training course. Usually, longer courses are more expensive, but it may be more cost-effective to choose a 100-hour course than two 50-hour courses.
- The number of hours per day and the time of the day when they’re scheduled. Business English courses tend to be scheduled in the evening because most students also have full-time jobs. Generally, it’s better to have shorter classes (no longer than 90 minutes without a break) because it can be difficult to concentrate for longer periods of time in the evening. Shorter classes also give you the chance to supplement new information with self-study.
- The number of students per class. This time the rule is different: Less is better. Fewer students in a class equals more teacher attention and feedback, and more speaking time for you.
- The materials that are included. Do you get a course book—a student’s book or a workbook—to take home with you? Will the teacher recommend materials you can use at home for self-study? You should ask about these aspects because the more self-study you can do at home, the faster you’ll progress.
- Is there a placement test at the beginning? If there isn’t, you may not get into the right class for your level, which could be a waste of time and money.
- Do you get a certificate at the end of the course? Some language centers offer a certificate of some sort if you attend a certain number of hours. Others offer a certificate only if you pass a final test. You might also want to ask if the certificate includes the number of course hours and the proficiency level.
- The price. After you consider all the above criteria, you can compare the prices of different language centers and decide on the best deal for you. If needed, ask about payment options such as installments, or potential discounts if you take more than one class.
Online courses are a very good option if you don’t live near a language center. Use the same criteria above to choose the best course, but don’t forget about technical issues such as customer support options, internet connection requirements and device compatibility. You also need to pay attention to how you’ll receive materials. Will they be digital or scanned copies, or will you have to purchase physical books?
Another superb option is the FluentU program.
3. Remember That Self-study Is Key
There’s no way around it: Self-study is absolutely vital. You need to make a very specific study plan that includes the number of hours per day or week that you’ll spend doing homework or reviewing class materials. If you feel you can’t manage as many daily hours as you’d like, you need to go back to your goals and adjust them. Studying for less time each day means it will take you longer to reach your goals.
The areas that you can most improve through self-study are the receptive skills: reading and listening. They’re called “receptive” because you receive information—by reading or by listening.
You can build your business vocabulary by reading business news articles at sites like TIME magazine or listening to news with a business focus on sources like TuneIn. But you can also do more relaxing activities like reading books or articles or watching TV shows or movies related to business—or any other topic you like.
When it comes to speaking and writing, the “productive” skills, you’re going to need more guidance and feedback from your teacher. Make sure you ask for help if you feel you’re not making enough progress in your language course.
You can also make very good progress with self-study in grammar and vocabulary.
Vocabulary is essential in business English because it’s what makes it different from general English. The vocabulary you learn will probably be adapted to the business area that interests you most, whether that’s accounting, sales, banking and finance, trade or tourism. But you also need to pay attention to other areas, and every new word helps. You simply need to decide how many new words you want to learn per day.
Grammar is also something you use all the time. The best way to learn grammar if you’re studying Business English is to learn one rule at a time. First, read the rule, then read the examples and make your own example sentences. Then, do some practice exercises. If there’s anything you don’t understand, make sure you ask your teacher to explain the rules again.
4. Learn from Your Mistakes
Don’t be afraid of mistakes! They can sometimes be the best thing that can happen to you when learning a language—but only if you learn from them!
Actually, mistakes are a sign that you’re learning. Some students are so afraid of them that they try to use only simple language so that they don’t make any mistakes. But that doesn’t lead to progress!
Write down all your “favorite mistakes” in a notebook and keep reviewing them until you feel confident with those words or structures. If you still keep making the same mistakes, ask your teacher to explain the rule again—maybe there’s something you didn’t understand.
5. Make Business English Part of Your Daily Life
After so much in-class study and self-study, you need to use the new things you learn. If you don’t use words and rules, you’re going to forget them. So set a goal to integrate some new words every day into your daily tasks. When you write an email, try to use some words or phrases you studied in your class. When you participate in meetings, push yourself to speak and use a grammar structure or idiom that’s new to you.
They say the best way to learn a language is to go to the country where it’s spoken. If you can’t do that, though, try to surround yourself with opportunities to practice. Listen to TED Talks on business English topics and attend regular get-togethers with other learners where you can only use English to communicate.
Remember that you can take your business English to the next level if you really want to.
Just make sure that you know what you want, and keep in mind that this isn’t a short journey. So make it a pleasant and useful journey!
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