We all know that English is used in companies all over the world, and naturally, many business professionals require a good level of English to communicate at work.
We also know that when you have a full-time job, maybe a family as well, you have to plan your free time carefully. So, you want to meet friends, go shopping, maybe do some sport, and probably relax too.
However, you might also want to improve your opportunities to be promoted at work or to get a better paying job in the future. Perhaps, a good target is to improve your Business English communication skills. You just need to find the time!
We recommend seven ways to improve your business English and develop your communication skills at work. You don’t have to do everything, and can just set yourself some targets with activities that you enjoy. It takes time to learn anything, but a regular pattern is the key to success.
How to improve your business English communication skills
1. Read the news in English
What do you do when you’re having breakfast or when you’re on the way to your office? Hopefully, you’re not already thinking about work – you have the whole day to do that! Many of us surf the internet or use apps on our mobile phones.
Many of us also have a news app, and like to read the main stories every day. If you’re one of these people, you can do the same as usual – but try it in English. If you have a news app on your phone, you can set the language to English. Alternatively, I have one news app in English, and another in German (the language that I am learning). Then you have the choice, but hopefully, you won’t usually take the easy option (like me!).
2. Watch business reports and programmes on television
Naturally, you can watch any English films or programmes to develop your language skills. If you like comedies, then they can be great for listening and improving your knowledge of English vocabulary and expressions.
However, it is also important to know the right style of language in business situations. Business language is usually more formal, whereas some English expressions are more common for social or informal occasions. As with most languages, we need to match the right style of language with the context.
In order to improve business English vocabulary, it can be useful to watch business news, documentaries and even series that are in a business setting or environment. You can experience phrases and idioms that are appropriate for work situations, and even write some down – then you can practise using them later on.
3. Read articles and journals that target your profession
In any profession, we need to keep up-to-date with the latest concepts and ideas. There are articles and magazines designed for most industries, which give reports about business trends, innovations and the competition.
Fortunately, English is the international business language and so there are likely to be English articles and journals that are printed or available on the web. You can almost certainly find English texts that are relevant to your industry and interest you more than other topics that you might find in English language coursebooks.
4. Use social networking platforms and interact with the business community
Do you already use a social networking platform, such as LinkedIn or Xing? These platforms enable you to have an online profile that is business focussed. You can give a wide variety of information, including details about your work experience and qualifications. It is possible to develop contacts in your industry, both in your country and abroad.
You can see the profiles of other professionals in your industry, and read articles that others have posted. It is also possible to post comments, share articles and join groups. This can be a great way to network and interact with peers in your industry. It is also an excellent opportunity to communicate in an English-speaking international environment, where users appreciate that English is not always the native language.
5. Use Business English self-study materials
There is a wide variety of study materials for English language learning. Many are designed for self-study students and focus on developing English skills for work and business situations. These materials can be studied independently, or in combination with an English language course.
Business English self-study materials are commonly broken into topics and different business situations. This allows you to choose specific practise exercises which are the most appropriate for your needs. For example, there are study resources that focus specifically on developing your English skills to give presentations, for meetings, phone calls, writing email and more.
6. Take business English courses
If you have the time, an English language course that focuses on Business English can be an excellent way to develop your communication skills. Good quality English courses with qualified English teachers can have a number of benefits over self-study. These can include setting personalised targets with a teaching professional, the opportunity to practise with a native-level speaker and getting regular correction and feedback.
One option is to attend a local English language course at a time that suits you. For example, you may consider an evening course that takes place once or twice a week near home or work. This allows you to develop your English skills in your free time and does not interfere with work.
Alternatively, a large number of language learners choose to study abroad in a native English speaking country. This may only be for one or two weeks, but can be for much longer as well. It is a great opportunity to be immersed in the local language and learn English every day. Sometimes, these can even be supported by government initiatives (e.g. Bildungsurlaub in Germany) or by specific grants (e.g. Erasmus+). It can also be a great break in a city that you want to visit.
Language courses can also provide the opportunity to meet new people and develop a community in which English is the main language of communication.
7. Don’t forget to practise your English!
There are many ways to improve your English, including reading English texts and listening to English speakers. However, the most successful way to develop your English communication skills is to practise using the language. How? We recommend that you find opportunities to develop your speaking and writing skills in a business context.
This can include writing emails and short articles. If you don’t have an English teacher, it is possible to change your language settings on your computer to English. For example, if you set the language in a Word document to English, it will give you corrections and suggestions. However, they are not always accurate!
You should also try to practise speaking English in a business situation. I know (from my own experience learning German) that this can be difficult at first, but it gets easier with practice.
Number 1 tip for practising your business English
Introduce yourself and try to communicate with another person in English. If he or she speaks too quickly, just remind them where you are from and ask them to speak slower. Most native English speakers would prefer to speak slower that try to communicate in your language – they would be even more nervous than you!
What are you going to try first?
Don’t be afraid to try a few different ideas. There are many ways to improve your business English communication skills, and you can look at each option to find out what is best for you. You don’t need to try everything at once and it’s better to have a longer-term plan. Don’t worry about the destination and enjoy the journey!