In this article we will focus on teaching Business English in a one-to-one setting. When teaching English abroad, it is very important to understand the context where the lessons take place, who the students are, their needs, who pays for their lessons and why. Most of the BE one-to-one students are in fact not interested in learning. Although this may be difficult to digest at first, it is easily understandable if you consider the bigger picture: there is every chance that they have individual lessons due to their high position in the company’s hierarchy – otherwise they would be in a group, as prices for one-to-one lessons are quite steep – which means that the company pays for their lessons and chooses what they should learn; also, their high positions entail great responsibilities, and the limited spare time and high levels of stress that come along with them.
It is not surprising then that many learners will see your lesson as a break from work, and BE as an undesirable and arduous attempt to learn how to do their job in a different language. Many companies do provide syllabi, but they do not control them. When there is no syllabus, teachers will find themselves in a position where students opt for General English lessons, and they often get their way with unqualified teachers that do not possess proper lesson planning skills.
There are those who understand the importance of BE and really want to learn. Don’t be surprised if you are directly requested to focus on “English for Business Purposes, but the lessons must be interesting and entertaining.” From my perspective, dynamic and gripping lessons should be an aim of every English lesson, but BE tends to be drier and more bland than General English. In this case, the teacher should bear in mind two essential things: how to grapple with students who indeed want BE, but tend to stray from the topic quite often; and how to teach Business English effectively and in a way that is meaningful and interesting for their learners.