Business English

You may wonder: what does business English have to do with Moscow or Russia? Well, more than you would think. Firstly, if you plan on teaching here, this is all anyone one wants and if you’re a Russian, it’s probably all you want when you think about learning English. So, why the blog post? Because i believe that business English is bullshit. Before I begin tho, I would like to clarify the exact type of business English that i'm attacking. The type I have a problem with is that which the small companies peddle. If a university teaches business English to advanced English-language studants that explains how economics and business models works, i think that is great. 

For the Russian lover of business English
Firstly, what exactly is business English? You tell me. It, on its own, means jack squat. Exactly what sphere of business does it refer to? If you work in a cracker factory, will business English help you? No, because business English is nothing more than a way of marketing English to people who work in offices. Somehow, all the Russians I meet want business English and actually believe that it is something magical that has its own separate rules and grammar. People often ask me about “business idioms” which makes me laugh (any tasteful idiom is fair game in a work environment and idioms are simply a part of any language, they are not exclusively formed and used in offices). Let me tell you, if you need work-specific English, learn the set of vocabulary specific to your profession and make sure your grammar is up to scratch. For example, no copy of Market Leader will be of any use to anyone in the oil industry. All you need is the relevant vocabulary and general level of politeness and courtesy to successfully socialize with English speakers. The fact is, rather than spending all your money on business-this and business-that make your own list of vocab that you need and then translate it. If you need more practice, start watching films in English, it will be of more use than those stuffy artificial dialogs in the Business English books.

The real problem is that business English is merely a marketing system. It's purpose is not to teach you about business in English, its purpose is to make you speak better English. The only whiff of business is the office-based examples. How can someone who needs to learn English from scratch expect to start with, say business English for beginners (they do sell these)? It's like trying to run before you can walk. All language learning should be based on a firm and solid base without a narrow focus on one or another aspect. If you have learnt English well and can successful understand and enjoy the majority of things you may watch or hear, you will have no problem learning any new vocab necessary to your specific profession, but what good is writing the perfect fax or e-mail when you can't understand shit?

So what exactly is the structure behind most business English books? Nothing but office-based examples (generally unspecific) illustrating grammar and dry articles from the financial times, that’s the magic formula that has captivated most of the English learners I encounter. If you need that type of English, go online to the financial times or some other equally boring (in my opinion) newspaper, print some articles and start increasing your vocabulary. Learning English does not have to be expensive.

Teachers of business English
Now, I’ve taught business English and this, my Russian friends, should be your first warning of the retarded English teachers operating out there. Both the English and Russian teachers operating are not businessmen and most, at least financially, are not successful life examples that one would want to imitate. So, does your business English teacher actually have the first clue about business? Are they businessmen? No, they’re not, so why pay them money to do something you could be doing alone with a book (most English teaching text books have answers in them).   
Would you pay a small skinny guy to be your professional bodybuilding coach? I sure hope not (but if you would, I am also available for professional bodybuilding coaching).
The web has all you could ever want, for free! Most of the smaller business-English orientated companies are taking you for fools. Take this quote from a company I used to work for:

We take a unique approach; we focus on stimulating our students to constantly use their language skills so they can communicate effectively and with confidence

Translation: We talk in class and use market leader. That is it. I’ve worked for these guys and they lie, but some teaching company websites read more like a fantasy fiction novel, I know this, because I’ve worked similar companies and know how they work to get your money at all costs. They claim all their teachers are qualified and such, but this is BS - they hire anyone, and some of the socially inept teachers they have had working for them baffle the mind. Despite all this, they charge a massive about of money to companies while the learners make next to zero progress. Don’t be a sucker, be smart and find a private teacher that you click with and enjoy working with. Also, the director of the above-mentioned company spoke worse English than the majority of the students, but hey, half the success of a business is based on marketing. Nobody checks these companies on their claims and consequently nobody calls them on their bullshit.  
If you are Russian, are reading this and understand it, I beg you, find a more effective way of improving your English and don’t waste your money. If you have friends with poor English who are paying these companies, help them find a better way. It’s about time these unprofessional “language schools” were put out of business.
If anyone reading this has had a bad, rouble-wasting experience with such a company, leave a comment and I will include a list of shame here.

As for the English-speaker reader
You may think this bears no relevance to you, but if you do plan on teaching here, it will annoy you too. I’ve had enough of complete novices asking for business English when they can’t even string two freaking words together. The smaller companies can sometimes be quite unprofessional so it’s really important you choose the right one. I’ll make a separate post about working with Russians and will list some of the bad experiences I’ve had. But before i end this, i want any Russian reading it to know, this post is to try and help you save money and improve your English, i have no motif here other than to make your learning time more efficient.  
Right, I’m off for a cup of business coffee…  

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Anonymous said...

I agree with you, of course. But how many people do you know that can actually be bothered to learn English autonomously? Not many.

Hence capitalism goes into overdrive. The only proper Business English is of course via a needs analysis system with the teacher researching specialist vocabulary. Another thing to consider is how many Russian businessmen have the time and patience to actually do this research. From the ones I've taught, not many.

Unknown on June 14, 2016 at 10:46 AM said...

cup of business coffee? Fantastic

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