Effective communication is key to a successful business, whether you’re a native English speaker or a non-native English speaker. Of course, it is that little bit harder when you are non-native and operating in an English-speaking environment! But have no fear, improving your business English conversation doesn’t have to be rocket science!
You can learn to speak and write more professionally and with more confidence by following a few simple steps. With our 5 easy-to-follow tips you’ll be able to achieve your language goals and conduct effective and successful business interactions in no time.
1. Keep a vocabulary journal
Improving your vocabulary is vital for mastering business English and making yourself understood. In almost every conversation you’re likely to come across a new term or a new phrase, word or grammar structure. Business English is full of such specialised words and jargon, so it can get a little overwhelming!
To help you keep you cool and to build up your vocabulary bank, it’s a good idea to keep a vocabulary journal. Carry a notebook with you at all times, or keep a memo on your smartphone or iPad, and every time you come across something new, make a note of it.
Of course, it’s not quite enough to write down the phrase. You’ll need to do a little more work to make your vocabulary journal effective.
Look up the new word or phrase online, in a dictionary or ask a colleague to help explain. Then, write down the complete meanings and maybe an example or two. Of course, you don’t need to go crazy. Focusing on 4 or 5 new words each day will be enough to see a great improvement in your vocabulary and understanding of conversations.
2. Download a language app
Language training apps are a great supplement to your language learning routine. They’re a fun, and often free, way to continually improve your language skills through games, quizzes, music, and animations.
You can also find apps which are specifically designed for business English, which focus on the topics, vocabulary and grammar structures that you need.
Apps can be downloaded to almost any handheld device making them a quick and convenient method to be used anytime, anywhere. You can even get in some practice on your daily commute to work, as you travel to business meetings, or even just at breaks and lunchtimes.
Another advantage is that many apps send daily reminders for you to open the app and practice. We all need a little nudge in the right direction sometimes!
3. Watch, listen and read business material in English
Tuning into authentic business media and material from a native English speaking source is one of the most effective ways to increase and improve your vocabulary.
By watching, listening and reading you’ll discover new words, phrases, expressions and idioms that are naturally used in the business world. It not only allows you to become familiar with new vocabulary, but it also ensures you are learning the correct pronunciation and usage.
Here are few suggestions on what type of media to access:
Business English requires a combination of skills, so don’t forget to practice your listening. Podcasts are a great way to do this. A quick Google search for business English podcasts will provide a wide variety of available options (Listen to The Business English Community Podcast here!) Simply download them to your smartphone and listen while on your way to the office, or in the gym.
Business news programmes are useful as they are often hosted by experts or interviewing professionals. Watching or listening to business news will expose you to key terms frequently, with the correct and natural usage.
Watching business-themed TV shows can be a fun way to learn and practice your business English skills. You can pause and re-watch if you miss something or don’t understand. At the beginning you can also turn on the English subtitles until you get more confident.
Newspapers and business websites
Almost all professions have industry publications (online and print) that you can read for free or for a subscription. You can also access the business section of the larger newspaper corporations. You’ll not only keep up-to-date with industry news but also practice your language skills. Information that is relevant to you and your business interests helps you pay more attention to what you are reading and the vocabulary used.
4. Enron in a language course
While the majority of the work in language learning is up to you, having the right teacher and environment can make all the difference.
From online tutors, classroom-based or one-to-one tuition, there are many options of courses specifically designed for business English. Many are taught by a native English speakers with extensive business experience, giving you the expert training you need.
Enrolling in a business English course is a great way to meet new people just as eager as you to learn, keeping you motivated. Who knows, it may also be a networking opportunity! (Paul: it certainly is in the Business English Community!)
5. Practice, practice, practice!
Learning a language is like having a piece of gym equipment… you aren’t going to see any results unless you use it! Learning opportunities are all around you so take every opportunity you can to practice.
Put your vocabulary journal to good use. Once you’ve made a note of a new word or term, try to put it into conversation the next day.
Talk with your English speaking colleagues at work, native or non-native, it doesn’t matter, as long as you agree to speak only in English. Go for a coffee, or have lunch to have a casual conversation or discuss that business article in English you read the night before.
It’s also a good idea, if you have a large presentation to do, to practice it beforehand. Either record yourself with your webcam or phone, or even ask a colleague if they will listen and correct any mistakes.
You might feel shy at first, but the more you interact and the more you practice, the more confident you will feel.
So, there you have it! 5 simple and easy-to-implement steps to improve your business English conversation. Do you have any other tips? Feel free to share them with us.
All the best!