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The Business English Teacher: Professional Principles and Practical Procedures

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 36 Number 1 Winter 2018

Debbie Barton, Jennifer Burkart, Caireen Sever

Delta Teacher Development Series

Delta Publishing (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-905085-34-7

120 pages, paperback

Writing in the Guardian about the “behemoth” English language taking over the planet, Jakob Mikanowski (2018), said, “In the not-too-distant future, thanks to English, the curse of Babel will be undone and the children of men may come together once again, united with the aid of a common tongue.” 

He’s a native Polish speaker, so this is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek statement. Mikanowski is not arguing in favour of English dominance. He is simply acknowledging that, “English dominates… 400 million people speak it as their first language; a billion more know it as a secondary tongue... an official language in at least 59 countries… [it is] the golden ticket to the worlds of education and international commerce… the language of global business” (Mikanowski, 2018).

And that is why there is such a demand for teachers of Business English. There are detractors who claim that this segment of English for Special Purposes (ESP) has been overhyped. And it may be argued that it has not necessarily been shaped by language pedagogy but it is undeniably driven by corporate demand. According to Tsedal Neeley (2012), writing in the Harvard Business Review, many “multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language”. 

Teaching English is a business for most of us, so we follow the money. The Business English Teacher: Professional Principles and Practical Procedures is an extensive and thorough lesson plan for any teacher facing a class filled with students – or a single student – from the corporate world who, as the authors say, “are experts in another field and have high expectations for what will be done in their lessons”. 

Delta Publishing’s award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series now comprises almost 20 books, ranging from Culture in our Classrooms: Teaching Language Through Cultural Content to The Autonomy Approach: Language Learning in the Classroom and Beyond. This book lives up to the publisher’s claim to be a "leading ELT methodology publisher” producing books that successfully combine “theory and classroom-ready practice”.

One of the many strengths of the book is that it acknowledges that teachers will not have the expertise of their students, and provides concrete methods for engaging with them (e.g. using role-play scenarios) to asses their needs. If you have come to teaching from a business/corporate background (as I have), then much of this will be common sense. If not, then a fair amount of homework is necessary. Fortunately, the groundwork is well set for preparing your students (and yourself) for some useful instruction, and helps towards meeting their expectations.

Donald Paul

References

Mikanowski, J. (2018, July 27). Behemoth, bully, thief: How the English language is taking over the planet.Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jul/27/english-language-global-dom...

Neeley, T. (2012, May 1). Global business speaks English. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/05/global-business-speaks-english