The Best Things About Business English

Main Differences Between General English And Executive English Courses

Business English? What is it?

I was asked this morning what Business English is? ‘What is the difference between Business English and ordinary English?’ they asked.

Well, that is a really interesting question, which a lot of people have different opinions about. (This is after all just an opinion blog). To answer this question a little better, it might be easier to compare the differences between the General English and Business English courses that we run here at LSI/IH Portsmouth.

Firstly as a language school in England, the basics are the same for all our students. They are immersed in an English environment, where they have to use their English, whether they like it or not. The benefit of this cannot be underestimated. Seeing and hearing the language spoken all around every day is such a boost to anyone’s language learning. No leaving the classroom and reverting back to your own language here, you have to use what you have learned and more, and you will see it and hear it all around you, the street signs, on the radio, on the TV, in the shops, there is no getting away from learning English while you are here.

Socialising with other students is also the same whatever type of course you do. You may choose to stick with people on the same type of course as you, but you will still more than likely be talking to other students from all over the world, you will hear different accents, different viewpoints and have a greater cultural awareness from this simple and fun fact.

Our Executive Course Students socialising
in the Executive coffee lounge

Very often the students, both General and Executive, stay with a homestay. Here there is a slight difference; those on our general English course will stay with a standard homestay, while those on a Business English course will tend to stay with an Executive homestay, families who offer high levels of comfort and convenience (all have broadband wifi and are within walking distance of LSI/IH Portsmouth); most of our homestays are current or retired professionals

When you learn general English you look at grammar, structures; tenses and word order etc., vocabulary, and pronunciation. You would also look at the typical functional language that you would need in an everyday situation, like buying a train ticket, shopping, maybe going to the hairdresser? Of course, there are skills that are necessary as well like listening, understanding fast speech, being able to read a newspaper or social media.

The students who study General English are very often studying it for pleasure or possibly because they want to have a better level of English for now or in the future, but not necessarily for any specific purpose. They may have taken time out of a course and often stay with us for an extended period, often for a month or two at least, sometimes up to a year.

By contrast, most of the students who come and study on our Executive or Business English courses are working people. Of course, this makes life a bit more difficult to take months away from, so their courses are much shorter and are concentrated, more intensive. They have a wide range of grammar, skills and functions fitted into their one or two weeks.  On average our Executive students stay with us for two weeks, some for shorter some for longer.

Of course, the basics are still needed as above, so the grammar and structure, the pronunciation and the skills are the same, but your course would be focussed on the specific field you were in.

For example, a Journalist would want to look at different writing styles, the terminology in their field, whether it is newspapers, magazines, social media or broadcast journalism. The type of language that is specific to that area. A broadcast journalist would probably have practice speaking English in a broadcasting role-play, maybe being filmed so as to be able to discuss this after, looking for ways to improve. An Export manager though would look at the language of transport and distribution logistics, export documentation, possibly the language of customs requirements and tariffs. They might look at the functional language of telephoning to give and receive information, speak at length in detail, negotiate a contract or email writing.

A small group on the Business English Course
practising ‘meetings’ language.

In order for our students who are on the Executive English courses to have a tailored course, specific to their requirements, they would generally have a one to one teacher for part of the day, so their exact needs were analysed and met. Maybe for a part of the day they would join a small group of similar level and needs business students. At LSI/IH Portsmouth the small group element of the business course comprises no more than four similar level students, each with similar requirements. The benefit of studying with a few other students is being able to hear other accents, and hear other opinions, but not be intimidated when trying out new elements of the language. The added benefit of a small group is that there is plenty of opportunity to speak. In the smaller group lessons the students will practice the function language, for example leading and having a meeting. This is then very close to a real life situation for many of them, with a variety of different accents to understand.

Over the last 35 years here, we have managed to perfect our courses that deal with corporate English, and our feedback from our students to the question ‘What would you change about the course?’ nine times out of ten says ‘Nothing’.

So, in short, what is the difference between a Business English course and a General English course? A Business English course will be tailored to be specific to what the student needs in a work situation, in order to be able to communicate easier in a corporate environment, whereas a general English course is more to raise the general level of English used in everyday life. If you are a working person? Then the Business English course is probably exactly what you need 😉