It’s quite likely that many of the adult students you meet will be businesspeople. And teaching business students can be a little daunting. It means working with professionals who don’t want to waste time on chit-chat. That’s because they’re learning English to help them get results. 

They may be working in corporations where clients are from different countries. Or they may be employed by international companies and regularly interact with foreign colleagues. Either way, it means they need to speak English. 

Socializing in business settings is an important aspect of business. It’s also one of the weaker areas for business English learners in my experience. In today’s blog, we’re going to focus on how you can teach a practical business lesson within the scope of socializing with colleagues. 

The idea is to help learners be more capable and confident meeting foreign colleagues visit their offices. This lesson should take you through one fifty-minute session or more. So, let’s get started. 

Context 

Be sure to set the stage for your lesson. You must have a context for anything you teach, otherwise it becomes ambiguous and philosophical. So, when it comes time to roll this out, make sure they know this is a friendly setting with a colleague—less formal than with a client. And they’ll be using English to show them around. 

You can present some of the language or structure involved in such a situation. For example, you can teach them how to use what I call tour language. You can give them structure such as, 

“Here is …,” 

“This is our …,” 

“Over here is …,” 

“Down the hall is …,” 

“On the other side of the building is …,” etc. 

You can always add or adjust based on the specific needs of your learners (e.g. directional terms, tag questions, etc.). If it’s a group class, you may need to generalize certain areas. If a private class, you can personalize it to your individual learner’s needs. 

Read: 5 Great Activities To Use With Business English Students

The Dialogue 

You’ll also need to have a practice dialogue prepared. I like to have something general handy such as the following. 

Office ColleagueVisiting Colleague
Hi Ana, glad to see you. This is your first time to our office, right? Hi Louie! It’s good to finally put a face with the voice. Yes, this is my first time here. 
Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Water? Uhm, sure, how about mineral water. 
Excellent, we’ll grab one in the break room. But while we’re going there, let me show you around the office. Great. Yes, I’d like to get a look at our new headquarters. I’ve been curious about it for some time now. 
Well, over here on the left is our main office area. We decided to have more of an open space with dividers, so everyone has easier access to each other. Wow, this is impressive. How many people are working here? 
We have about 300 people on the floor . . . Now down the hall here is our IT department head, Gary. You know him, right? Yes, we’ve talked on the phone several times over the past few months. Hey Gary! I’m Ana from the Mexico City office. 
And over here on the right is our CEO’s office. Oh, this is impressive. 

As you can see, I try to keep things real and friendly, as it might be in a similar situation. However, as mentioned, you can tailor it to suit your learners’ specific needs. 

Lesson Flow 

Now that you’re ready, how does it play out? The points below will give you a better idea of the lesson flow. 

Start with The Setting 

As mentioned, create a general setting for your learners to have context. However, feel free to ask them strategic questions about specific parts of their offices. Since this is the lesson target, it’s important to know. You can even ask them to sketch a map of their office. This will help you visualize where everything is so you can guide them. Try to learn as much as you can for the activity. It will challenge them to describe their offices to you – an added benefit of this type of activity. 

Use the General Dialogue to Warm Up 

As a prepared ESL teacher, you will have your general dialogue (such as the one shown above) ready to use. Give it a go with your students. Try it from both ends; meaning, each person takes a turn from both perspectives. This will give them a greater feel for the language being used for this activity. You can make the appropriate changes to provide greater reality for them. 

Use A Modified Dialogue for The Follow-Up

To start, I like to take the general dialogue and hide one side or part of one side to let class members fill in the missing information with their own examples. So, as in the dialogue above, the office colleague’s wording could be replaced with the student’s real examples from his/her own office. Here is an example: 

Office ColleagueVisiting Colleague
Hi ___, glad to see you. This is your first time at our office, right? Hi Louie! It’s good to finally put a face with the voice. Yes, this is my first time here. 
Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Water? Uhm, sure, how about mineral water. 
Excellent, we’ll grab one in the break room. But while we’re going there, let me show you around the office.  Great. Yes, I’d like to get a look at our new headquarters. I’ve been curious about it for some time now. 
Well, over here ____ is ____. Wow, this is impressive. How many people are working here? 
We have about ____ people . . . Down the hall is          . Yes, we’ve talked on the phone several times over the past few months. Hey Gary! I’m Ana from the Mexico City office. 
And over here ____ is our ____ office. Oh, this is impressive. 

Then, he/she shows their colleague around. For groups, one student can alter the language from the visiting colleague’s perspective. 

Read: How the OnTESOL Course Prepared Me to Teach Business English in South Korea

No Dialogue for The Practical Application 

After the follow-up, it’s time to take things to the next level—the practical application. This is where students will no longer use the dialogue but use what they’ve learned to practice the real-world situation. You’ll be running it like a dialogue (with taking turns); however, they’ll need to answer with their own ideas. 

When possible, I like to ask them to imagine they’re really there. Or, as mentioned previously, they can use their sketches. Then ask the tour-guide colleague to use the appropriate body language. If it’s online, you can still ask them to make the gestures. By getting them to feel they’re in the real situation, it adds realistic connections to it. Greater connections will help cement the experience in their minds. 

Review and Feedback 

After you’ve gone through the dialogues, you can offer feedback to the learners. Point out areas for improvement. Remind them of specific areas they should work on. Ask them to review the materials. But don’t let it end there. 

By way of assignments, you can ask them to write out their own dialogues for submission in the next class. You can use the dialogues to springboard into grammar or lexical issues and practice one more time.  

Remember, lessons aren’t simply tasks to be completed then move on to the next day’s lesson. That might be fine if you just want to disseminate information. But lessons are means for class members to learn the skills they need to be more successful in their English interactions. In that sense, we are not just teachers, but English language trainers. As such, we can spend a little more time reinforcing the learning targets. 

Add the 20-hour Business English Specialist Course to your TESOL Certification!

Wrap Up

Now you have an idea of how to help business learners use English in a practical way. Our blog today has prepared you with a simple idea to get your class members more confident when receiving foreign colleagues to their offices. Future blogs will raise the bar a little more. We’ll still focus on business socializing but with clients in mind. 

So, what do you think? Please share your ideas or the business situations you’d like us to address in future blogs.

Recommended Reading:

5 Practical Tips for Teaching Business English One-to-One

The 5 Dos And Don’ts Of Teaching Business English

Challenges of Teaching Business English One-to-One in Prague

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