Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Business English Lesson in the Virtual Classroom

One great thing about using technology in language learning is that authentic material can be utilized with great success.  One such activity is for students who are studying English in order to improve their effectiveness at work.  When I started teaching live online, I was also a Business English trainer in many companies in Finland and I found that many of the ideas that I was learning for effective teaching in the virtual classroom could also be utilized in the face-to-face classroom.  One of my goals when teaching business English is helping the students be able to effectively explain what they do in a matter of minutes or in the time it takes an elevator to reach its destination.  Many of my students, online and face to face, work in industries and do jobs that I just don't understand.  Their task, in my class, is to be able to effectively communicate that to me.  If they are successful at selling a product, explaining what they do or whatever to me, then they will, no doubt, be successful with potential clients or even current international clients.  One such activity that I have utilized quite successfully is using the students' company websites.  Many of the websites are multilingual and are many times written in English as well as the students' native tongue.  What I do is have the student screen share and bring up their company website in their native tongue.  We then go through the website systematically as the student introduces the company and/or products to me.  I then come up with a lot of questions so that the student(s) can learn to handle questions extemporaneously.  I have found, through the years, that this lesson is quite helpful to the student as they are learning vocabulary that they really need for their particular industry.  In addition, they are learning to explain things in a way that a native speaker of English would understand.  If you haven't tried this with your business English student, I would encourage you to.  Tell the student in advance so they can study the English portion of their website in order to write down key vocabulary that they can use.  You can also refer to the English website before the lesson to ensure you understand what the student is presenting.
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