You speak good English, and you know the vocab of your job. So why study “l’anglais professional” ? Shouldn’t you just brush up on your conversational skills, practice some small-talk and try to master the present perfect?
Well, there are a few reasons why “Berufsenglisch” might be more useful than you think.
1) The language of your company may not be industry-standard. One of my students missed attending talks at a conference because he didn’t realise that they were relevant to his position (the old “company secretary” confusion). There will certainly be a slew of close synonyms that you need to explore (witness procurement / purchasing / sourcing / buying / acquisitions).
And that’s before we get into differences between UK and US English, and its many other variants.
2) Your written English might not be quite as accurate as you believe. If you say something that’s wrong, or unclear, you can tell very quickly by the reaction of your conversation partner. However, you don’t see the face of the person receiving your emails, and you may well be sending confusing or inaccurate messages – and when something goes wrong further down the line, you won’t always be able to identify the source of the problem.
A company I was advising nearly sent out a chart which communicated the exact opposite meaning that they intended, simply because they used crosses instead of ticks (US: checkmarks) in the diagram. And don’t get me started on numbers…
3) Actually, I will start on numbers, because this is an area that really favours a good technical trainer. It’s very hard to google how to talk about figures in English, and many language teachers are not that comfortable around percentages, fractions, dimensions or mathematical notation themselves.
Even counting is famously difficult in one’s L2 or L3, so it’s no surprise that large numbers can lead to mistakes with commas and points that can cost millions – for instance, when I worked at a reinsurer, the firm took on a risk 1,000 times bigger than they intended.
And without expert advice, it’s harder still to learn how to recognise native speakers’ idiosyncrasies: when do native speakers say “oh”, “nought” and “nil” rather than “zero”, for example?
4) Of course, there are many other skills that require specialist help.
Understanding newspaper and trade press headlines – with their arcane vocabulary, and abbreviated syntax – is much easier with a guide.
Similarly the fast-moving and highly idiomatic vocabs of finance, international trade and project management are easier to navigate with a trainer experienced in these fields, who can also supply synonyms and antonyms so useful for professionals who work in the sector.
Generally, I find that B2-C2 trainees can benefit enormously from working with a specialised business English teacher; particularly if they want to work with authentic work documents.
And there always seems to be plenty of time left over to be thoroughly mystified by the present perfect too!
Self-study business English course
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The subjects covered include: Expressing very large and very small numbers, approximations, saying zero, reporting on budgets and forecasts, discussing rankings and ratings, comparing figures (including percentages and fractions), survey and test results, money and foreign exchange, prices, talking about the time and date, describing charts, and understanding dimensions and measurements.