My Blog Post for ESL/EFL Carnival of Business English and ESP – Teaching Business English in Switzerland

First of all, many many thanks to Anne Hodgson, for suggesting I write for the Blog Carnival and helping me find my inspiration after my three-month hiatus! Thank you so much, Anne!

This year, I am teaching at a new school and its students are late teens and adults. During the week, I teach professionals either on the school premises or I visit the respective company or bank of the students.

Making Business English as enjoyable as possible! (Image taken from

I start the first lesson in a way that I have found breaks the ice, gets them talking and combines Business English and cultural elements. I use the book Cambridge Business English Activities for this reason. In the introductory lesson, questions arise such as:

– If you were at a reception and there was a last piece of cake on the table, would you take it?

– How would you feel if a colleague took the job you wanted the most?

– When you are given a new project to attempt, how do you approach it – by instinct or by analysis?

– Would it be unusual for you to lose your office or house keys?

It is so interesting to see how all these people, who have different personalities and who come from different cultures, tackle the questions and their answers are very interesting. In this way, we can understand what is acceptable or not in each culture, in business interactions and in daily life. It can become really humorous too, so learning becomes more of a carefree process for them and they enjoy it after a hard day’s work.

What we also do a lot is role-playing and situations, or what we call conflict situations (I give them a situation that involves disagreement or clarifying a misunderstanding). I give them a situation, which usually involves a problem. For instance:

– You have a deadline on a project this Monday but you need more time to complete it, due to obstacles that were not your responsibility (bureaucracy, an unco-operative colleague and so on). What do you tell your manager?

– You would like to work on a project with the partner you have chosen, but think it will be good to work together over the weekend as well, in order to complete it. How do you convince him or her?

– You are very upset with a mistake a colleague of yours has made on a shared project. How do you tell him/her? Are you diplomatic and let it pass and you correct it, or do you confront this person and inform them of the mistake and the severity of it?

They are all great in this. We learn how it is acceptable to say something in English, how to be tactful in the language and we always benefit from learning new vocabulary, which I am sure to write on the board and leave there throughout the lesson if possible, for the reason that the visual factor plays an important role.

Another thing we do is that they prepare small presentations of projects and we go through their slides and powerpoints and they present to me they way they would on the day. This additionally helps them get rid if some of the stress they feel for the actual presentation!

Sometimes we do e-mail writing. They bring in one of the e-mails they have composed so we can look for mistakes, or I let them think for a minute or two and then they “compose” it orally. We can then write expressions they can use and if they would like to and have the time, they do this at home as practice and that they have understood and then they bring it to class next time and we look at it. Sometimes, they come up with really good ideas of their own that they have added and the whole group benefits from this!

Writing e-mails, comparing and describing charts...the list is endless! (Image taken from

There are countless ideas to use in the Business English classroom. Sometimes books, websites like YouTube or the Financial Times can help; sometimes it is the students themselves who come up with great ideas – then you can use them with all your other groups!


16 thoughts on “My Blog Post for ESL/EFL Carnival of Business English and ESP – Teaching Business English in Switzerland

  1. Great post Vicky and it seems you wrote it especially for me: tomorrow I’m starting with a new student of Business English. It’s been some time I haven’t done this and I loved your ideas! Keep writing girl!

    1. Thank you so much Anna!

      Thank you for commenting and for giving me a boost – Anne’s suggestion gave me a lot of motivation again! I am glad you found it useful.

      I wish you a fantastic start with your new Business English student, who is so very lucky to come tomorrow and have a lesson with a great teacher!

      Kindest regards,

  2. Dear Vicky,

    Wonderful ideas! I don’t usually teach business (some teens and adults, testprep) but really enjoyed all the great tips you gave. Have favorited it to look at it if/when I get a business student 😉

    You should definitely write more!

    1. Thank you so so much Cecilia!

      Nice to see you on my blog – thank you for the kind words and I am very happy you found the post useful.

      And many thanks for the motivation you give me!

      Kindest regards,

  3. Hi Vicky
    I enjoyed reading this very much, it brought back lots of memories when I used to teach business students. Like you, we used to practise the presentations they had to do. How about this idea for an idea? (I’ve never done it, because I hadn’t thought of it then, but I imagine I would): Once you’ve seen their (5 to 10 minute) presentation, maybe in the next lesson, you actually do it yourself. You use their slides and talk your way through. Bits you can’t remember, they’ll help you with and you can then say it fluently. The bits you can remember, you’ll be much more fluent to start with than they will be, so they will be learning by watching an expert, an idealised presentation that they’re aspiring to. It seems NLPish.
    P.S. Regarding the last piece of cake. Is anyone looking?

    1. Hi David!

      Thank you so much for your comment and your fantastic idea – I will definitely try it out next time I have a new business group an we are introducing ourselves. No, it can work with other presentations too! I will try it out and let you know how it went. Great idea David! Thanks again!

      Warmest regards,

  4. Hi Vicky

    Sorry for taking so long to come back to your post – have been juggling a lot recently and it almost slipped my mind but luckily I’d starred it to come back to so here I am!!

    I really enjoyed this post and like your ideas for creating business simulations using ideas from their lives. In particular, it’s very materials light so am adding it to challenge 4!

    p.s. love David’s idea of doing our students’ presentations – I’ve never tried that and looking forward to a time when I have this situation in my classroom again!

    1. Hi Karenne!

      Many many thanks for reading and for your beautiful words – I truly appreciate everything!

      Yes, I love it that it is materials-light as well and a good introduction for students for their first lesson, it creates kind of a laid-back atmosphere for them…and gets them talking!

      I loved David’s idea and look forward to trying it out. It is so great that we are learning things all the time!

      Thank you for including this idea in challenge 4!

      Kindest regards and many thanks,

  5. Dearest Vicky,

    I’m so sorry I took so long to write a comment on your blog. You are one of my precious gems in my PLN.

    I really enjoyed your ideas to stimulate students’s creativity! I don’t have much experience in teaching business, but I will definitely try them out if it happens to teach for a business student.

    To tell the truth, last year I was giving classes to a private student who just wanted to enrich his vocabulary, so I use to grab some of BBC Learning English’s article and we use to work on that. It worked well for his needs so he learned many words related to business especially when many countries in Europe were badly hit by the slump, but needless to say that your ideas are really stimulating and much effective 🙂

    Warmest Regards,
    Luciana Podschun

    1. Hi Luciana!

      So nice to see you here as well, apart from Twitter and thank you for your comment and kind words. It goes both ways!

      Yes, you are right, the Learning English website is also very useful and one can find a multitude of ideas on it for any level – especially for business classes. Thank you for adding that idea.

      I am happy you find the ideas listed here useful!

      Kindest regards,

  6. Hi, Vicky! I’m teaching business writing to medical staff in a hospital. You’ve got great ideas to warm up the students. It’s good that there are other ways of breaking the ice aside from games. Your conversation questions are interesting. I’ll try them in my next classes. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s