Business English is a language you have to get familiar with.
The more you hear it, the better you’ll understand it.
Unless you practice, business English will sound like a totally different language from normal English!
You probably know some friends or acquaintances who are great at using business English in their ESL classes or offices. They can read or write reports and at least get the gist (general meaning) of what they hear in meetings. They just have to work a lot to improve their everyday vocabulary.
After all, there’s just so much to learn! But fear not, today’s post will help you with just that.
Why You Need Business English
Communicating fluently and professionally is a huge plus for most careers. Some companies offer bonuses for your foreign language skills, and you might even get better promotional opportunities. Not to mention, English in particular is very important for international business.
Expressing yourself correctly goes a long way. What if you need to understand a job description before sending in your resume? Or if you need to explain your professional experience during a job interview? If you say account instead of an accountant when describing a past job, you’ll raise some curious eyebrows.
Understanding allows you to participate. Once you know what people are saying in meetings, this will enable you to add your own opinions, questions and concerns.
More reading options become available. You’ll be able to read great source material without waiting for it to be translated. Think about all the articles, essays and other publications you could be reading! This will help you stay involved in current business trends and news.
How to Learn Business English Vocabulary Like a Champion
So how do you improve your business English vocabulary?
1. Study textbooks like “Market Leader”
I taught “Market Leader” in several of my ESL classes and students find it helpful but challenging. It has all the sections (reading, listening…) a regular textbook has, but they all connect to business themes. Moreover, each chapter ends with a case study.
The book comes in different levels, though it’s all pretty challenging. With a jargon-heavy (containing lots of specific language) book like this, you might want to consider starting with a level lower than usual. So, if you’re an intermediate student, you might find pre-intermediate “Market Leader” more suitable for your needs.
Topics include international markets, human resources, negotiating, international business, marketing and more.
2. Enroll in a business English class
Depending on your personality and budget, this might be the most efficient (productive and effective) choice. This will give you more structure and discipline as you’ll spend a specific amount of time every week in a class, and you’ll have friends to practice with. Your teacher will probably give you homework as well.
3. Read non-fiction business books
Because non-fiction books are inclined (tend) to use more daily language, you can understand them after you learn the relevant vocabulary.
Whether you type in the keywords on Amazon or just browse through the reference books section in the bookstore, you’ll find many niche (specialized and profitable market segment) titles.
4. Keep up with related blogs, podcasts and videos
Just like non-fiction books, business-related blogs and websites are also easier to understand than newspapers, magazines and novels. Also, bloggers want to keep their audience interested so they don’t use unnecessary words or boring language. Posts are shorter and easier on the eye as well.
Many blogs offer podcasts and videos on their topics too. So, depending on your preferences and learning style, you can listen to a podcast on your way to work or watch a video as you relax in the evening.
It’s easy to find blogs matching your interests. For instance, if you’re intrigued (interested) by entrepreneurship and lifestyle design, you can check out Tim Ferriss’ (author of “The 4-Hour Work Week”) blog, where he covers various topics and focuses on creating the best version of yourself and your life. And don’t forget to take a look at Entrepreneur, Forbes and Wired.
5. Read magazines, including your company’s magazine in English if they have one
It’s a shame most of my students ignore their company’s magazine, because the content is rich and its English is accurate. It’s a great way to keep informed about the industry while improving your business English vocabulary at the same time.
Even if your company doesn’t publish one, you can still find a wide selection at most bookstores.
6. Take advantage of LinkedIn groups and articles
LinkedIn is a wonderful site for business networking, connecting with old and current colleagues and looking for jobs. But it’s also full of business articles and there are many different industrial groups you can join where you can participate in the discussions.
But even if you just use LinkedIn by creating a profile (and updating your CV) in English, it’ll still help you practice and remember more vocabulary.
7. Read novels where one of the main characters works in your business area
While this can be more difficult than reading non-fiction, it can be more fun. And once you get used to the style of a certain writer, it becomes easier as you move on to the writer’s other books, helping your English in general in the process.
8. Watch movies and TV shows in English set in the business world
TV shows repeat certain words because of their nature, and repetition (with visuals) helps you recognize and remember words effortlessly. Now, regularly watching stuff in English (while challenging yourself with either English subtitles or no subtitles) works wonders for your language skills. But when you want to improve your vocabulary in a certain area, you should pick your theme accordingly.
For instance, if you’re in advertising you should give 2009 drama series “Trust Me” a shot. It only has one season and story lines aren’t too complicated.
Need a little more inspiration? FluentU has tons of English language videos taken from real-world sources like inspiring talks, news channels, YouTube and more. Here, you’ll the learn the natural, everyday English that native speakers use at home and in the office — and there’s a whole category just for Business English! As you go along, FluentU will create vocabulary lists and flashcards so you can keep practicing the Business English you’ve encountered in your videos.
9. Watch CNN and BBC news, and listen to BBC radio
This one is obvious: what better (and simpler) way to extend your business English vocabulary than by making CNN and BBC at least background noise every day?
I suggest switching between these two (and other news-heavy channels if you have access to them), so you can understand different accents and talking patterns. It helps with your pronunciation too.
10. Read industry newspapers or related sections of regular newspapers
Read newspapers while keeping in mind that the language might be too difficult until you reach a certain level. “Financial Times,” for instance, might seem too frustrating to be worthwhile.
However, you can always try business sections of other newspapers, and if you find ones that you can comprehend more easily, just add another newspaper to your morning paper-reading ritual (a series of regular actions or behavior).
11. Attend seminars, especially ones with international guests
Experience with face-to-face interactions will help your confidence and speaking. Listening to speakers talking with different accents will boost (improve) your listening comprehension, and because seminars are based on certain themes, even one seminar can provide you with business vocabulary you will remember. Talk about killing multiple birds with one stone! (Attending one event will provide you with many benefits.)
12. Join relevant Meetup groups
I’ve mentioned the site Meetup in my other posts too, because you can’t really beat meeting people who share the same interests and gather to talk about those topics.
13. Combine these tips, practice and revise
Constant revision and practice are absolute musts for making your progress fast and permanent. Don’t just pick one tip from this post. Choose several, if not all, and adapt them according to your schedule and habits. Regular effort always pays off.
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