Many of us find sitting in a classroom dreadfully painful.
After all, we are all very busy people! We have places to be and things to do—it is hard to make time in our schedules for English classes.
This is especially true once we are focused on building our careers.
Not to mention, it would be much more comfortable to study at home, or whatever place you most like to be.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced student, you still want to speak English professionally. And even though you want to be great at business English, sometimes you might not even want to leave your bed.
Thankfully, a classroom isn’t the only place to make your business English perfect. You can do it anytime, anywhere.
There are just a few things you need to know first—and now we are going to tell you exactly what they are.
How to Study Business English Without Ever Sitting in a Classroom
There are four main types of English skills to study if you want to become a pro at business English: (1) listening comprehension, (2) speaking, (3) reading comprehension and (4) writing.
If you spend ample time focusing on these four areas, you too can advance your business English skills in no time—even without sitting in a classroom.
These tips will help you to excel at business English at your own pace, on your own schedule and in your preferred environment.
1. Listening Comprehension
Talk radio shows
Listen to talk radio shows about business wherever you have a data connection or access to the Internet.
There are many different business talk shows to choose from. Find the one that has a host you most enjoy listening to, or the one that covers topics related to your career.
You can start by finding local shows on the radio stations in your region. You could also try online radio channels like Let’s Talk Business Radio, Biz Talk Radio or any of these cool offerings on TuneIn.
What You Will Learn: Metaphors and colorful expressions used by radio show hosts in conversation.
Example: “Make sure your ladder isn’t leaning up against the wrong wall.”
Meaning: The wall a ladder leans against shows us where you will end up once you climb to the top. If your ladder isn’t against the place you want to be in the end, then you will end up in the wrong place. The same is true for life and careers.
The Bloomberg YouTube channel
Bloomberg is one of the most notable brands in the world of business.
On YouTube, you will find many interesting videos covering topic on everything from Ellen Pao speaking about diversity in Tech to “Why Legal Weed Could Save Big Tobacco.” Basically, there is something to interest anyone who wants to learn about business and English at the same time.
What You Will Learn: Innovation-related vocabulary, business topics in the news and recent events.
Example: “It could be very promising in the future.”
Meaning: Here the word “promising” means that something is full of potential and will result in something very positive.
The Entrepreneur Online YouTube channel
This channel is excellent if you would like to hear from amazingly influential entrepreneurs or watch cool animated videos with useful tips.
What You Will Learn: Vocabulary related to entrepreneurship.
Example: “To become a millionaire you need good work ethic.”
Meaning: Work ethic is the core belief that hard work is valuable. Someone with good work ethic believes in working hard.
FluentU is perhaps one of the most unique resources on this list.
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.
What You Will Learn: Industry-specific content, English related to anything that interests you personally or professionally—there is a huge diversity of learning material here!
Example: If you are a logistics professional, one of the things you will learn are the terms relevant to a supply chain.
Meaning: A supply chain is the process and people involved in getting a product from the supplier to the end customer.
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Stand in front of the mirror and practice.
You can do this by rehearsing new phrases that you have learned. Work on your delivery, trying to make your words flow as seamlessly (naturally) as possible. To get you started, you can try reading these out loud:
- Read the brief and get back to me with a first cut soon.
- I expect the presentation to be done by the end of the day.
- Hold down the fort while I’m on vacation.
- All you need to do is get a foot in the door and you are halfway to a sale.
Host a couchsurfer or MBA foreign exchange student.
Learning by interacting with someone on a regular basis will help you to improve your business English in every way, but it will especially boost your speaking skills. You will get to listen to a native speaker and hear how they use English.
Hosting a couchsurfer or an MBA (business) student—either for dinner or to live with you in your home for a while—is a great way to do that.
If you host a couchsurfer, make sure it is someone who is interested in business. You can do this by reviewing their profile before inviting them to your home. Even if they are not all about business, they have probably had jobs before, or they may know about business from the news.
If you would like to host a foreign student from an English-speaking country, you should speak to professors and administrators at a local university. If there is an international studies department or study abroad office, that is where you will want to ask.
Once your guest arrives, you can practice informal conversation with a new person and possibly make a new friend. Here are some conversation starters:
- Tell me about your line of work.
- What is the best career to have?
- Where do you think technology is headed?
- Did you read the news about (insert news topic)?
- Do you think Facebook will be able to stay relevant in the future?
Speak whenever you get the chance.
Sometimes it can be intimidating to speak with strangers, but doing so is an easy and free way to practice your English.
We don’t suggest you just grab hold of any stranger you see and start talking—unless you are very brave, and also very friendly—but when you are at a party or casually introduced to someone, you can take the conversation further.
Many great opportunities will happen at work, in your office. Here are recommendations for starting small talk with coworkers.
Here are some ways to start a conversation:
- Ask the person about themselves.
- What do you do?
- How long have you been doing that?
- Sounds interesting!
- Find a connection.
- My company does something you might be interested in…
- I have a friend who works in the same field as you.
- Give a reason to keep the conversation going.
- Since you are an expert on the matter, what are your thoughts on…
- What does the future of your industry look like?
Find a conversation exchange partner.
One of the most tried and tested ways to learn a language is with regular, consistent practice.
Hiring a tutor can be too formal, but finding a friend who is interested in having regular conversation can be fun.
If you are a native Spanish speaker and an English speaker you know wants to learn Spanish, you can even do a language exchange. Speak Spanish half the time and English for the other half! That way it is a win-win for both of you.
You can find a language exchange partner by:
- Asking friends. People in your existing network may know other people looking for similar language skills.
- Language Exchange Groups on Facebook. There are many groups on Facebook where you can meet people also looking to learn languages through language exchange.
- Check Online Sites. italki is a great place to meet a language exchange partner. Then, if you decide that you want more professional guidance with your business English, you can hire a private tutor for one-on-one lessons here.
3. Reading Comprehension
Sarah Lacey is an awesome writer who provides great content on a regular basis. Read Pando while on the subway or sitting at home.
What You Will Learn: Colorful, useful business English.
Example: “Because—yunno—these are two companies with a history of caving to shareholder pressure.”
Meaning: “Yunno” isn’t business English, but simple, colorful slang term for “you know.” “Caving” is a way to say giving in or surrendering.
Wise Bread’s Career Section
This blog is a little easier to read than Pando, but still a good challenge and worth reading regularly.
Things to Learn: Career-focused vocabulary.
Example: It is time to being guerrilla job hunting.
Meaning: “Guerrilla” is using unconventional tactics to do something, usually in a rough, slightly unplanned manner. In this case, it refers to using unconventional means to find a job.
Duct Tape Marketing
This blog is a good read for anyone who works in sales or marketing. It will help keep you up to speed on the latest things in the industry while at the same time helping you to improve your English reading comprehension.
What You Will Learn: Marketing lingo.
Example: The phrase “marketing channels” will become such a part of your daily vocabulary you will never have to look it up again.
Meaning: Marketing channels are the different places and types of advertising/marketing that you will do, such as email campaigns, print media and digital marketing.
Keep a journal
At the end of the day you can “debrief” by keeping a journal about the day’s activities. It would be great if you try to write sentences using new words you learned throughout the day.
For example, today you learned “supply chain” so in your journal you may write: “We worked on improving the supply chain by finding some weak spots.”
You can also use this journal to write summaries or responses about the resources you read, such as the websites suggested above.
Find articles online that are relevant to your career goals and relevant interests, then write a brief message (less than 140 characters) to accompany it on your Twitter page. This will help you practice writing clearly, quickly and neatly.
Tweets are so easy to write that you could easily write one every day!
Get a pen-pal
It may sound like an outdated concept, but there are many people interested in regularly keeping touch by writing letters and emails. Your pen-pal may be a person you met while traveling, an old friend or a former colleague—it might even be a complete stranger, if you use a website like InterPals.
Whoever it is, you should tell your new pen-pal to offer corrections any time you make an English mistake.
Make time every day to focus on at least one of the four main components of language learning, and you will be on your way to better business English in no time!
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