English is arguably the most widely-used language across the world when it comes to conducting business, spoken by around 1.5 billion people. Whether you work in accounting, law, medicine, or tech, having command of the English language can be a huge asset when working with internationally diverse companies, especially in today’s landscape where our workspaces continue to become increasingly remote with teams often spread across the globe. Having a common denominator language like English can make it easier for everyone to interact and stay on the same page.
Learning a new language isn’t easy, though, and English is notoriously tricky. If you’re looking for simple ways to brush up your business English, I’ve got you covered. As an educator myself, I’ll cover what I believe are some of the most effective ways you can improve your business English.
Good news — most of these English-learning tips won’t break the bank, or require endless hours of time.
1. Invest in a Quality Class
Learn English in live one-on-one or group classes with British Council teachers who are true experts. Gain confidence and improve your speaking, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
I get it — no business professional wants to spend additional time taking a class when your schedule is already full.
That being said, a class specifically centered around business English is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reach your language goals.
Instead of factoring in the additional time and inconvenience of a commute, busy professionals should consider a virtual class like those offered by the British Council English Online courses.
This highly-rated institute offers English Online, for example, which is specifically directed toward professionals and students hoping to master the language.
When you enroll in an English Online course, you’ll be working with an expert teacher who will be able to correct your mistakes before they become habits.
You’ll also have access to a structured curriculum that’s designed to help you learn the English you’ll need for business settings.
Plus, English Online allows you to select the course that best matches your goals, and to choose the timetable that best fits your schedule.
BritishCouncil offers different subscription tiers as well, so you can find the course that works for your budget.
2. Work With a Coach
Another proven way to improve your business English is to find someone to be your coach.
If you know a native speaker (or anyone who is confident with English), don’t be shy about asking them for help!
Set a time when the two of you can converse. It doesn’t have to be formal – even meeting at a local coffee shop can be an excellent way to get better at speaking.
Ask your coach to correct any little mistakes they notice with your accent or grammar, since most friends and acquaintances might not want to tell you when you’ve made a mistake.
You can also ask them to focus on specific areas where you want to practice: pitching an idea, for example, or correcting an email.
If you don’t have anyone in your circle willing to coach you, don’t be discouraged! There are plenty of virtual coaching options available.
You can even invest in a professional English-language coach through the British Council English Online courses to receive specially-tailored instruction that will help you overcome any problems you’re having with English.
3. Read for Business…and Pleasure
Reading independently is another great way to improve your business English.
Obviously, reading the business section of the news will provide you with area-specific vocabulary and context.
Staying up-to-date on current events in English will also help you feel more comfortable discussing these issues with your coworkers and clients.
You don’t have to only focus on the serious stuff, though.
Reading for pleasure in English is a surefire way to build your understanding of grammar, punctuation, and dialogue.
Even if you’re reading a children’s story or lighthearted magazine article, you’re still exposing yourself to important text structures and vocabulary.
Read something that interests you and enjoy all the new words and phrases you absorb as you go!
4. Go Online in English
Whether you love social media or try to avoid it, using the Internet in English is another low-effort way to get more confident with the language.
Reading tweets, articles, recipes or directions in English can help you feel much more assured when completing business projects and proposals.
You’ll learn abbreviations, conversions, and slang that you might not encounter in a textbook or formal learning setting.
These terms can be just as crucial as business-specific vocabulary when it comes to appealing to a customer base or making natural-sounding conversation.
Plus, posting a comment or two in English is a simple way to get some writing practice in without feeling pressure to make sure everything is academically perfect.
5. Watch Shows and Movies
This is another painless one: give yourself permission to watch an interesting movie or TV series in English.
This is a simple way to train your ear to the cadence and rhythm of English. You’ll get a window into English humor and drama, too!
If it feels like everyone is speaking too quickly or quietly, you can start by turning on subtitles in your native language.
As your understanding advances, you can switch the subtitles to English, so that you can read as you listen.
This is a proven way to help you learn correct pronunciation, as well as subtle differences in inflection and body language that might be difficult to learn from a book.
As an added bonus, watching a popular show will give you an instant connection to your English-speaking customer base, and maybe even help you crack a joke or two.
6. Jot Down New Phrases
As you’re carrying out these ideas (attending a class, reading a book, watching TV, et cetera), don’t forget to record the new words that jump out at you.
Carry a notebook or start a note on your phone so that you can quickly jot down new phrases that you notice.
Even if you’re not completely sure of their meaning, writing down these new terms will prevent you from forgetting them.
You’ll have an easy-to-access record of vocabulary words to review whenever you have a few spare minutes.
As an added incentive, keeping track of all the new things you’re learning is a great way to build motivation.
You can scroll back or flip through the pages after a while and see how far you’ve come!
7. Have Fun with Self-Paced Apps
Self-paced apps are a fun way to get some extra English practice whenever you have a spare time.
Programs like Babbel and Duolingo provide entertaining, gamified learning paths designed to hold your attention while improving your comprehension and fluency.
You can also explore self-paced learning courses, like the one offered by the British Council.
These options are perfect for squeezing some low-pressure practice throughout your day.
Even better, most of these apps and courses can also connect you to an online network of other English learners.
Finding a community can help you stay motivated and feel encouraged, so don’t hesitate to become an active member.
8. Chat with Your Coworkers
Even if you’re not confident in your speaking abilities, strike up a conversation with your coworkers whenever you have a chance.
Speaking to a wider range of acquaintances is a great way to build confidence and understanding.
You can also communicate via writing with coworkers to improve your writing skills, even if it’s just a quick message to ask how someone’s day is going.
The more people you communicate with in English, the more natural you’ll become at facing new scenarios.
You already have a common thread with your coworkers, too, so you’ll be able to stay on familiar territory as you build your confidence.
9. Set a Routine
Whatever English-learning methods you embrace, one of the key habits to adopt is setting a routine.
Whether it’s reading the news in English every morning, attending a weekly English Online class, or watching an English movie each weekend, make a plan and stick to it.
Even if you’re only able to devote ten or fifteen minutes a day to improving your business English, that time adds up.
A consistent half hour of daily practice adds up to big gains over a year, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t spend huge chunks of time working on your English.
It’s better to stick with an easy routine than to spend hours studying one weekend… only to abandon all practice for weeks at a time afterwards.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
This tip might be the simplest – and the hardest!
Speaking a new language can be intimidating, and making mistakes can feel embarrassing.
It’s necessary to leave your comfort zone, though, if you’re going to become a confident English speaker and listener.
Surround yourself with sympathetic friends, coaches, and teachers. Incorporate English into your reading, Internet browsing, and TV watching habits. Study, either with a coach or a self-paced app or program. Set a routine and stick to it.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if you face an obstacle or a temporary setback.
Instead, jump back in with renewed energy and keep at it.
Mistakes are an essential part of learning any new language, English included!
I hope these tips can help you unlock your business English potential! If you have any questions, comments, or additional ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!