Teaching a business English course requires an extremely pragmatic approach to writing tasks. It is necessary to focus on the production of specific documents for specific situations. In order to ensure that the students are attentive while learning language production skills which will be used in the writing of these documents, I prefer to have the students brainstorm on certain company-specific problems that might arise. In this manner, the students are attentive throughout the language productivity process because they will be creating a document that has immediate practical applications.
Business English Class Upper-Intermediate Level (8 Students)
Listening Comprehension: "Shipment Problems" from International Business English
- Listening comprehension (2 times)
- Comprehension check
Break into 2 groups to brainstorm and write a list of possible problems with your supplier
- Have each group choose what they feel is an important and or regularly occurring problem
- Ask groups to write a quick outline of the problem
Have one group generate vocabulary and structures used when complaining, ask the other group to generate vocabulary used when responding to complaints
- Have two groups write their generated vocabulary on the board
- Ask for further vocabulary and/or structures that the opposing group may have missed
Ask groups to compose a letter of complaint about the problem they have previously outline
- Have groups exchange finished letters. Each group should proceed by first reading, then correcting and finally, responding to the letter.
Collect student letters and correct reply by pointing out which types of mistakes have been made (i.e. S for syntax, PR for preposition etc.)
- While correcting the letter have groups mix and discuss their responses to the problem
- Redistribute corrected letters to original groups and have students try to correct their letters using the cues given by the correction
Follow up would include a written assignment of writing a letter of complaint. Students would then once again exchange letters read, correct and reply to the complaint. In this manner, students would continue working on this specific task over a period of time thus enabling perfection of the task through repetition.
The above plan takes the rather common task of complaint and reply in the business setting as the central focus for comprehension and language production skills. By introducing the subject through a listening, the students are passively encouraged to begin thinking about their own problems at work. Progressing through the spoken production phase, students begin to consider appropriate language for the task at hand. By focusing on specific problems at their own company, the students interest are engaged thereby ensuring a more effective learning environment. Students begin to consider appropriate written production by writing an outline.
In the second part of the lesson, students focus more specifically on the appropriate language for the task of complaining and replying to complaints. They reinforce their reading and spoken knowledge of the vocabulary and structures by commenting on the other groups production at the board.
The third part of the lesson begins to develop the actual written production of the target area by group work. It continues with reading comprehension by the exchange of letters and further review of the structures by group correction. Finally, written production continues to improve by writing a response to the letter that they have read and corrected. Having first corrected the other group's letter, the group should be more aware of proper production.
In the final part of the lesson, written production is further refined by direct teacher involvement, helping the students to understand their mistakes and correct the problem areas themselves. In this way the students will have completed three different letters focusing on specific work related target areas that then can then immediately use at the work place.