We talk a lot about finding the ideal English learning resources.
You know, the ones that are perfect for you and your students.
Not so long ago, there wasn’t much in the way of consumer choice in the ESL world.
These days, they can afford to be a little more selective. Now there are tons of available textbook options out there to suit today’s goal-oriented Business English learner.
Today’s Business English textbooks are designed to give learners techniques and structures for specific situations while also solidifying their fundamental vocabulary and grammar.
But, with so many out there on the market, which ones are any good? And how can you choose the best textbook for your Business English class?
What to Look for in a Business English textbook
It needs to be relevant. The business world changes so rapidly. The best Business English textbooks are revised frequently enough to stay either current enough or general enough that they don’t fall behind the times. If the Business English textbooks in your school reference Palm Pilots and President Clinton, chances are they need an upgrade.
It needs to be four-skill focused. That is, it needs to contain activities to support speaking, writing, reading and listening. Some Business English textbooks place too much emphasis on the latter two. While learners can get a lot of theoretical knowledge by developing these skills, they don’t get a whole lot of output practice. Output is critical to succeed in business. The best Business English textbooks will use reading and listening activities as a means to lead to output – speaking and writing.
It needs to be functional. Your students aren’t in your class to learn about business. If they want that, they can get an MBA. They’re there to learn how to complete business functions in English: with the right phrases, tone and logical order. The best Business English textbooks will provide this support and also the cultural insight to help students accomplish tasks properly – in every sense.
Ideally, the Business English textbook you use in your class will also have a modular structure. This means that one unit in the book is one lesson, and the unit’s activities more or less follow the flow of a lesson plan, with a free-speaking activity built in at the end. Modular structures make lesson planning easy and help students maintain a regular pacing.
Homework activities and self-study resources are also handy to have in a Business English textbook. Many texts will have dedicated homework pages. Some newer Business English textbooks have DVD-ROMs which often include in-class audio, video content, review activities and even tests! These resources help you, the teacher, to set appropriate homework assignments and help students take control of their progress.
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Finding the Right Textbook for Your Class
Finding the right text for your class is a simple matter of following “The Three Ls:” Level, Learner and Length.
First, find out what the students’ levels are – but not only their English levels. Equally important here is their Business English level. Do they use English for business on a regular basis? If so, in what capacity? For how long? All of this can tell you how difficult your chosen textbook should be and how deeply it needs to delve into business topics.
Next, find out what kind of learners your students are. What are they looking for out of their lesson? Perhaps your students want to build their business vocabulary while also reinforcing their grammar. Or they might be more interested in functional practice using discussions, role plays and case studies. Then again, they might want a bit of both. Look at how the text is built and what kind of activities it emphasizes, and see if it matches the needs of your learners.
Finally, what is their course length? Are they going to take several lessons over a lengthy period? Or are they going to do something more short-term? Are they taking an intensive course? Some Business English textbooks are better suited for long-term courses, while others are more flexible and could easily be customized for a shorter program.
Now, let’s look at 5 Business English textbooks that have worked well for me across a range of Levels, Learners and Lengths.
5 Business English Textbooks Your Students Will Love
This is the granddaddy of all Business English textbooks.
“Market Leader” takes a four-skill approach to learning Business English with relevant and challenging communicative activities on every page. Each unit covers a topical theme, such as Brands or Money, and introduces a functional business skill, like Opening a Meeting. The exciting case studies at the end of each unit tie everything together.
“Market Leader” uses authentic reading materials (from publications such as “Financial Times”) and listening activities (often interviews with business leaders), which can be very challenging for beginning students. Students will love “Market Leader” if they’re at a lower-intermediate level or above, pretty familiar with business and seeking to improve their overall Business English.
“Business one:one” is the perfect text for the student with some experience using English for business, but who wants to be more fluent and natural.
It provides key vocabulary, phrases and grammar for specific speaking and writing skills. Each unit is only two pages and follows a lesson-like structure, so it’s very easy to visualize how your lesson will be just by looking at the book. The activities in each unit are also easily collapsible or expandable, allowing you to manage pacing effectively.
The “one:one” in “Business one:one” means that the book is designed for private lessons, but it could also be used for group lessons without much difficulty.
If your students are interested in studying Business English but don’t have a whole lot of business experience themselves, look no further than “Total Business.”
“Total Business” is designed to give students a gateway into English for business, covering essential vocabulary, grammar and expressions. Like “Business one:one” it also follows a modular structure, and each module can easily be compacted to fit a short lesson or blown up to fit a longer one.
The modules are uniquely divided into Business Topics (focusing on discussion), Business Skills (focusing on functional practice) and Learning Strategies (techniques to help students across several situations, such as Scanning for Main Ideas).
Like “Total Business,” “Intelligent Business” is made for students with limited knowledge of and experience in business.
Each unit explains basic business concepts such as Productivity and Etiquette and contains an article from “The Economist” to provide a real-life example. Similar to the “Market Leader” case studies, units in “Intelligent Business” end with the Dilemma and Decision sections, where students discuss a problem related to the unit’s theme and use key phrases to role-play a relevant scenario.
“Intelligent Business” is available in five different levels, from Elementary to Advanced. It has a Coursebook which focuses on Business English across the four skills, and a Skillbook which is devoted to functional practice.
Have a student who wants to take a short, intensive course and doesn’t want to spring for a textbook? Are they intermediate or above?
Then “Business Builder” is your answer!
“Business Builder” is a set of photocopiable modules. Each module covers a business scene, like Having a Meeting, and contains important language and techniques for completing the activity. Unlike the other texts mentioned here, though, “Business Builder” doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on grammar or correct English. The key is output: see the phrases, practice the phrases, then go.
“Business Builder” was made with intermediate Business English learners in mind, but its modules and target language can easily be adjusted to suit any level.
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you’re really digging these ESL resources, then you’ve got to try FluentU.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. These are videos that your students already love watching, so they’ll be beyond excited to interact with them in the classroom.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
Worried that students might be stumped by some of the harder videos? No way. FluentU brings authentic content within reach by providing interactive captions and in-context definitions right on-screen. For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.