Sarah Gaylard, Director of Studies, Good Hope Studies

Sarah Gaylard, Director of Studies, Good Hope Studies

Key features of a Business course in English

A Business Course, also known as Business English or English for Work is often the right choice for students who need to be able to use English in a work environment. These courses are sometimes open, with students from different countries and work environments, usually in a small class. Sometimes the course is tailored to a specific group of students from the same company. And sometimes students who wish to focus on English for work choose to do private (one-to-one) lessons.

Which course format to choose?

Being in a class with students from other countries allows the intercultural exchange and understanding that will help students’ work relationships in their own environment, while closed courses and private lessons allow the teacher to focus more specifically on the students’ needs.

What’s the difference between a Business Course and a General English course?

In a Business Course, everything is tailored to the work environment: the contexts (e.g. meetings, entertaining clients); the language skills (e.g. writing a formal email, doing a presentation) and the lexis (e.g. the language of negotiating, telephone language). In General English the contexts, skills and lexis are far more varied.

In a Business Course, students tend to have more specific needs in English and the teacher can therefore cater to these needs. The teacher will typically start the course with a needs analysis to find out about the students’ work contexts, and what English skills and language the students need at work. The teacher will also assess the students’ current strengths and weaknesses and will use all this information to tailor the course around the students’ needs.

In Business English, the focus tends to be more lexical than in General English, in that students are taught expressions and chunks of language that they are likely to hear in a particular context, and which will help them to sound natural. In a lesson on meetings, for example, useful language might include:

  • Now, as you all know, we’re here to discuss …
  • John, could you start by telling us about the problems we’ve had with …
  • I think we should move on to the next point now.
  • Ok, let’s go over what we’ve agreed.

The students might listen to a meeting held in English, focus on the meaning, form and pronunciation of the useful language, and then practice it, perhaps in a simulated meeting. All of this is designed to prepare students to hold a more effective meeting in English in their own context.

Advice for students

When your students book a Business Course or private lessons, do encourage them to take some work materials with them. This will help the teacher to understand the students’ work context, and to tailor the lessons more specifically to their needs.

If the school has a needs analysis and/or an online test for students to complete before arrival, do encourage them to do this earlier rather than later. It will help the school to choose an appropriate teacher, and the teacher will be able to make the lessons more effective if they know more about the student.


Sarah Gaylard is Director of Studies with Good Hope Studies (school profile | This IALC-accredited language school is located in Cape Town, South Africa.

Good Hope Studies: English language school in Cape Town

Good Hope Studies: English language school in Cape Town

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Members of IALC share their insights on the language travel industry. Contributors are owners, directors, managers, teachers or administrative staff of IALC-accredited language schools worldwide.

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