How to identify the best Business English course for your company

An employee in a cool, mustard yellow jumper with elbow patches stands, arms folded, against full height glass windows as his colleagues appear to applaud his efforts, whatever he's just done.

When you don't have much free time for this kind of thing, it's important that your business English course is exactly right for your needs.

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Business/Professional Courses

Business English Courses in Brighton, UK

There are a large number of English language schools in England and with nearly every school offering Business English courses how can you make the right choice as a professional?

In this post we will try to help you find the right English language school and the best Business English course for professionals and executives with 5 tips on what to look out for:

1. Business English Courses for students or professionals?

Good language schools will make a clear distinction between courses that are aimed at people who are already working and need English training to communicate more effectively in their work and courses aimed at students who are at a very early stage in their career or who have not yet started working

The two groups can be very different. The first group tend to be professional people in their 30s, 40s and older. They understand their job and the world of business very well but lack the English skills to perform internationally. They need very targeted help with their English in specific situations and tasks. The second group does not have this work experience so needs more help with key business concepts as well as English language, with a more general look at situations and tasks.

When searching for a course, it’s therefore a good idea to check that there is a clear distinction between business professionals and students of business and that the school separates these groups carefully for teaching purposes. The one place where it can be really interesting to mix the two is for some social activities, where students or recent graduates can meet professionals from around the world. This can be both inspiring for new recruits and also helps more established professionals to connect with the younger generation.

Matthew Devere – Head of Business English

2. Dedicated Business Centre

Does the school have a separate, dedicated Business centre? This is an important sign that the school provides the facilities and environment to suit an executive or professional. Facilities will include wireless access to printers and good quality free wi-fi to stay connected to the office. Simple things like comfortable furniture in classrooms and a separate leisure area such as a business lounge with free tea and coffee can make a big difference. An executive lounge lets you mix with people of your age and from a similar professional background, helps you to network and also practise your English small talk, which helps support business relationships.

A quiet space away from the rest of the school also means you have some peace and quiet to check messages, make phone calls or just relax.

3. The trainers

Does the school have Business English trainers who have their own experience of working in business as well as the necessary English language teaching qualifications?

It’s worth checking if the teacher has got an enhanced teaching qualification, such as the Certificate in Business English Teaching (Cert IBET). Check also how much experience the teacher has in training professional people. Are the trainers well known? Do they talk at conferences and train others in how to teach Business English? All of these are important questions in choosing your English language school, and the information should be readily available from the school.

A trainer with the right background and experience will often be the deciding factor in how successful your Business English course is. Many Business English trainers are also leading authors who combine teaching with writing textbooks and running training courses.

Business English for Engineers, ELC Brighton, Sussex, UK

4. Quality assurance, accreditation and membership of professional organisations

The English language school’s website may look great but how do you know if you can really trust what they say? A basic requirement should be that the school is accredited by the British Council and is a member of EnglishUK.

The British Council inspects centres every 4 years and checks the standards of the school as a whole – this covers teaching, administration, publicity and facilities. You can find detailed reports on each British Council accredited language school on the British Council website. The first page of the report includes a summary and the number of areas of strength of a centre. Clearly, the more strengths, the better. Top English language teaching centres will have eight out of fifteen (8/15) strengths or more.

EnglishUK membership is important because it also provides a school with protection in the unlikely case that a centre closes down suddenly. The Student Emergency Support Fund guarantees that companies or individuals do not lose the money they have invested.

Other logos to look out for include that of TEN (The English Network), the top-ranked association of language schools in the UK, as well as Quality English and IALC (International Association of Language Centres).

5. Specialised Courses

Lastly, it is worth considering the range of programmes on offer. ‘Business English’ is a generic course format which usually deals with the different communicative skills most ‘business professionals need to improve, such as work presentations, general communication skills in a work context, meetings and negotiations, etc. Clearly, everybody’s business sector is different, and that sometimes calls for much more specialised courses which focus more on the specific situations and language used in a certain sector.

So it’s worth finding out if a school also offers English for Specific Purposes (ESP) such as English for Engineers or English for PAs and Secretaries.

Check as well whether the ESP courses you see on a school’s website have clearly defined course dates. This can indicate that a school has invested time and money in listening to their clients and developing specialised English language courses that they have successfully run over a number of years.

This article was written by The English Language Centre, ELC Brighton, in Sussex, UK. The school offers a wide range of Business English courses both for students and experienced business people such as Business English Mini-Groups.