Learning English is a process and mastering business English takes time. However, there are a number of things you can start doing right now in order to improve your level rapidly, see how many of them you can implement TODAY!
Here are my top 10:
1. Find a Guide
Finding a guide can really help push your business English level up significantly, and it´s not as difficult as it might sound. It doesn´t need to be a formal arrangement either – a guide might be a friend, a colleague in the office, or someone online. You are looking for someone that will take an interest in your progress and someone who you can help you out once in a while. Having this person around will keep you on the right track to achieving your business English goals.
Templates are amazing. That´s right, amazing! They might not sound like much but having a series of templates for things you do on a repeat basis can really help you achieve a high business English level.
What are templates?
A template is text, for example an email, with a standard format that you can use time and again, just by changing a few details.
For example, if I often write to prospects asking them about their interest in our products, then it would make sense to have a template so that you don’t have to write or invent a similar email from scratch each time.
Here is an example of a template:
Thank you for your interest in our products and services.
I would like to offer you a meeting with our Director to discuss these in more detail. He is available on the following times / dates:
XX am/pm on XX of XXXX
XX am/pm on XX of XXXX
Please confirm which of these dates works for you, or suggest another time / date.
We look forward to meeting you!
In this example, the only things that change are the name of the person you are writing to and the meeting dates. This is what makes it so great for a business English learner.
The only difficult part is setting up the templates in the first place. This can be done with the help of a native speaker or an expert in the language (or through membership to the Business English Community) who can ensure that the templates are 100% correct and transmit the desired message.
Once your templates are completed, you can copy them across to a folder in your email provider and your business English emails are ready to go!
“Readers are Leaders” is a phrase I love. I don’t know who came up with the phrase originally I think it is very true.
The more you read, the more you will build up business English vocabulary. In fact, it is claimed by many that reading is the number one way to improve your vocabulary. Not only will you build up vocabulary, but you will also improve other in other parts of the English language such as sentence structure and grammar usage. If that wasn’t enough then you can also be specific as to in which areas you wish to improve your vocabulary – if you want to improve in the area of sales, read sales materials, if you want to improve your marketing vocabulary, read marketing materials, and so on.
There is no shortage of materials either. With everything from full books to e-books, magazines, newspapers and newsletters all available free or for a relatively reasonably price online, you should be able to stock up on plenty of material ready for when you need it.
Of course, by doing this you have the added benefit of not only improving your business English vocabulary, but also learning more about the subject you are most interested in. As I am sure you can see, there is a pretty high level of return on your investment in reading!
Business English Leaders are indeed Readers!
4. Record your Voice
This one is a bit different, but can produce very good results.
With the technology available today, it is very easy to record your voice. Most smartphones have some recording functions, or you can use a program such as Garageband or Audition. Another option is to buy a handheld digital recorder such as this one.
So now what? How is this going to help you improve your business English?
Well, first of all, try reading a text aloud and record it. Then play it back. You can learn a lot by playing back a recording of your own voice. At first it might sound strange, many people don’t like the sound of their own voice or, more than that, think that they don’t really sound like that! This is because the sound that we hear when we speak is actually slightly different to the sound that other people hear. Why? Well, because when we are listening to our own voice the vibrations are produced internally and this is not the same as sound waves traveling through the air to be heard by another person. Anyway, once you have recorded your voice a few times you will get used to it!
OK, so the next step is to move on from the tone of your voice and focus on what you are actually saying. In many ways you can be your own best critic and you will know when you are making mistakes. In other cases, it can help to play back your recording with a friend or teacher. Remember, there is no need to be embarrassed; this is all part of the learning process!
Another useful exercise is to read a text as mentioned above. In this case, focus on your pronunciation of each word – does it sound correct? Authentic? Do your words flow smoothly and fluently? Practice the same text over and over until you can get the best version possible. Learn from the words you found difficult and make a mental note, so that next time you encounter a similar text it will be much easier.
Of course, if you get into this method you can take it a step further – role plays for business English situations, Business english phone calls and so on.
5. Translate your Résumé
Do you have a résumé or CV in English? If not, now is the time to write one!
This is something else that has a double purpose. Not only will you improve your business English while you develop your résumé but you will also have this document ready for when you need it!
And need it you most certainly will. In today´s global marketplace you never know when that opportunity is going to come along, but if you are focused and ready then you will attract opportunities. Professionals with high levels of business English are in high demand and making sure that you are up there means that when that amazing job in Mexico or fantastic opportunity in Australia appears, you will be ready and prepared to grab it with both hands!
So, how do you go about writing a résumé? Well, if you have one in your own language you can simply keep exactly the same format and translate it to English. Give it a go yourself even if you are not 100% sure! Then, ask someone to review it, preferably a native speaker (Business English Community members can have their CV reviewed for free). This will ensure that your résumé is correct and ready to go for whenever you might need it. Make sure you keep it up to date with new achievements as time moves on – there is nothing worse than, when an opportunity arises, having to update your CV before being able to send it.
Finally, once it has all been checked and is in perfect English, convert it from WORD to PDF, so that it is not easy for someone to alter the file and perhaps more importantly, so that it retains the same format when opened on different computers and with different browsers etc.
6. Challenge Yourself
You won´t move forward in life without putting yourself up for a few challenges and improving your business English is no different.
What is the point of taking a challenge? Well, to put yourself in a situation of trying something that you haven´t tried before. Not only can this be enjoyable – it really gets the adrenaline going – but it will also help you to improve and propel you forward to achieve even greater things.
So what are challenges in the context of business English?
Well, if you haven’t given a presentation in English, then a fantastic challenge would be to set yourself a time-based goal to give a presentation in English.
Example: Within the next 6 months I will give a presentation in English.
If you haven’t done this before, then it might sound scary, but with the proper preparation it doesn’t need to be, and you will really appreciate it once you have achieved it. It´s a bit like running a marathon, you might wonder why you do all the training and endure the difficulty of the race itself, but the sense of achievement as you cross the line makes all of the effort worthwhile!
So, once you have set your time-based goal (within a specific time frame not just ¨at some point in the future¨), you can start preparing – finding a suitable presentation to give – at a conference, within the company, and then drafting the presentation and finally practicing and then doing it for real!
Of course there are many other options for challenges, from writing an email in English to recording a video course in English, to running a business meeting in English etc.
Podcasts are amazing learning tools. A portable University, learning on the go. Podcasts are simply audio recordings about almost any subject imaginable that you can listen to anywhere and at any time – driving to work, waiting in line at the bank, jogging, doing the washing up etc.
So instead of doing nothing in those moments when you are waiting around, why not put that time to good use and put on a podcast!
So, what kinds of podcasts are good for improving your business English?
Well, if you haven’t checked it out already, I suggest you have a listen my podcast, the:
Business English Community Podcast
I give tips and discuss strategies for business English learners, and I also interview very interesting business influencers for the show. These experts share their vast knowledge so that you can take your business English to the next level.
I also recommend you look for, and download, business podcasts from the iTunes store, or from Stitcher or another podcast directory. This will allow you to listen to real business English in its correct context. If you are a Manager, look for a podcast on leadership. If you are an accountant or work in finance, there are many podcasts available on these subjects. Listening to these podcasts again has a double benefit – improving your English and learning about the subject you are interested in.
8. Social Media
Much has been going on in the world of social media recent years. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus and others have changed the way we interact online. And for many, changed the way we do business.
But how can you harness the power of social media to improve your business English?
Well, there are a number of easy-to-do actions you can take.
Let´s start with Linkedin. Linkedin is a massive network of professionals – including many groups with an interest in a particular field, people hiring and people looking for a job – amongst many other things that occur on the site.
You probably already have a Linkedin profile. But do you have a profile in English? Would it be more appropriate for you to have your profile in English? Is your industry international with a global reach, where having your profile in English might be an advantage?
In Linkedin, you can even add a secondary language profile so that you can have your profile in both English and your own language.
If this sounds like a good idea for your particular situation, go ahead and write your profile for Linkedin in English. Of course, it is really important that you get it checked as soon as possible to avoid posting a new profile with spelling or grammatical errors. This will help you to improve your business English, but will also produce “content”, information about you that people will be able to find. So once more, you will not only improving your business English, but also improving your online profile and your professional interaction.
Linkedin is not the only social media platform of course, there are also many strategies that can be used with Twitter, Facebook and others.
Everyone is so busy these days, so sometimes it can be difficult to attend classes. If you live in a big city, the traffic can be terrible and if you live in a small village, chances are there aren´t that many business English Classes available.
Which is why I belive so strongly in what the internet has to offer. Watching videos is great, and another really fantastic way to learn more is by participating in Webinars.
A webinar is a just like watching a presentation – often they are done using Powerpoint – but the difference being that you don´t have to go to the conference room, you can watch the presentation right where you are from your computer. And compared to video, webinars are more interactive, they are often LIVE, and you have the opportunity to ask questions to the presenter.
Business English webinars are a great way to improve your business English, a great way to use technology to your advantage while maintaining the interaction found in the classroom.
10. Conversation Club
Conversation is so important in any language. As of course are all parts of the language: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking (and let´s define Conversation as Listening + Speaking). Conversation is so important because so many initial interactions take place through conversation. If you are in business then often, before a proposal is sent or a meeting is set up, it all starts with an initial conversation. When interacting with people from different countries, traveling, meeting and greeting, conversation is what gets it all going. I´m not saying that grammar is not important – it is – but when you meet someone for the first time it is unlikely they are going to test your grammar. It is likely, however, that they will want to talk to you!
The other reason I feel that conversation is so important is that it leads to increased confidence in the language. Throughout my teaching career, I have worked with many students of many different levels, but I find that unless a student is confident in conversation, then he or she will not be confident of his or her ability in the language as a whole.
In a business context, conversation is tremendously important. You might be an expert in your particular field, and you may have absolutely no problem reading technical business texts in English, but until you can communicate your ideas verbally, you will not be able to express your thoughts and ideas to friends, colleagues and a wider, international audience. What I am trying to say is that a lack of conversation skills could really hold you back, and prevent you moving forward in your career even though you might be brilliant in every other aspect. Don´t let that happen to you!
So, how do you go about improving your conversational level of English? One of the easiest ways is to attend (or form) a business English conversation club in your town or city. Most cities have this type of conversation club, as do many towns. They take the form of a get-together where you can go along to practice your English. So, on top of digital learning, face-to-face classes and all of the other things that you should be doing in order to improve your level of business English, I strongly recommend you find some form of conversation club in your local area in order to practice on a regular basis.
I hope this list has helped you and given you a few ideas. Let me finish by saying that most ideas are more likely to be successful if they are IMPLEMENTED WITHIN 48 HOURS. In other words, if you take action TODAY, your level of business English will really benefit. Which of the 10 actions above can you start working on RIGHT NOW?
All the best!