Tips for learning business English more quickly

Those learning English for business often need to do so quickly and this can be for all sorts of reasons. It could be that you’ve started a new job at an international company where English is common, you’ve been told by your boss that your main target for the year is to improve your English, or perhaps you’ve been given a promotion that involves speaking more English.

Whatever your reason for needing to speed up your learning we have lots of tips to help. Incorporating these tips into your regular study schedule will help you to build your vocabulary faster, retain new information better and improve your listening and speaking skills at a quicker pace too. None of our simple suggestions takes very long and can be added to even the busiest schedule. Stick with these tips for just 15 minutes every day and you’ll notice improvements to your business English, fast.

Read English language newspapers and business websites

Even in countries where English isn’t the first language you’ll find English language newspapers available and they’re seldom expensive. Buying a newspaper just once a week and flipping to the business news section will be a big help to your written language comprehension skills. As well as helping you improve your business English, reading English language newspapers also motivates you, as you get an insight into what’s going on in the rest of the world and it can be an entertaining and interesting way to learn. You don’t need to stick to the business section of course, you can also find out what’s going on in the world of fashion, art and politics.

Every week you’ll be exposed to new vocabulary, and if there are any words or phrases you don’t understand it’s easy to take a note of them and research them yourself, or ask your teacher. If you have internet access an even easier way to read the business news is to look online, where you’ll find sites like the BBC Business News and Business Week to keep you up to speed with the latest stories, as well as business language.

Watch English language TV shows and movies

Watching TV might sound like a lazy way to learn, but it really can help. If you immerse yourself in the English language and get used to hearing it and really listening to it daily, you’re sure to improve. Tuning in to English language TV shows isn’t just entertaining, it’s a challenging way to stimulate your language skills, introducing you to lots of new words and phrases that you can add to your own vocabulary and familiarise yourself with a range of accents.

TV shows and movies are a great way to learn conversational English and informal slang terms but they can also help with business English when you choose the right shows and films. Stick to movies that have a business, financial or political theme and you’ll soon pick up some genuinely useful business language.

Watching TV shows and films that you own on DVD or have downloaded means you can watch it in your own language, as well as in English or with subtitles, to make sure you understand what’s being said. Some shows and films you might like to try include:

  • Wall Street

  • The West Wing

  • Mad Men

  • Wolf of Wall Street

Watch English language business and financial news

Most English language news stations have special segments dedicated solely to business and finance news. From tracking the movements of the stock exchange to the latest company takeovers, you’ll pick up lots of essential business English from these shows and in a far more formal way than you will in TV shows and films. Interviews with business leaders and employees are particularly useful, as you’ll get to hear business English being spoken for real. Try watching just 15 minutes every day to gain a better understanding of business-speak.

Set targets

Setting yourself goals that are achievable will not only help you to learn more quickly, it’ll help you to stay motivated. Try setting yourself a simple target like learning five words a day. It may sound small, but after a month that’s more than 100 new words in your vocabulary.

Keep organised: learn words in ‘families’: if you learn the verb suggest, learn its related noun suggestion at the same time. This is easier and faster.

Review before bedtime

Your brain processes new information as we sleep. Try quickly reading (not studying, but just quickly skimming) the important words or lessons you have learned that day. By doing this simple daily review just before bedtime your brain can process this information better as you sleep, helping it to stick.

Learn aloud

When you’re doing exercises alone at home always speak English aloud. You might feel a little self-conscious at first, but don’t let this put you off, as this step really will help you learn more quickly. By connecting the muscles of your face to the information in your head your brain learns to speak the correct words without thinking, improving your fluency and your pronunciation. You need to practice the act of speaking as well as learning the grammar rules, so don’t be afraid – speak out loud as often as you can.

Put yourself in ‘real life’ English situations

Doing your courseware is one thing, but if you really want to pick up business English fast you need to put it into practice. Visiting an English-speaking country where you’re forced to speak English is a great way to do this but this just isn’t possible for everyone. If you are an EF English Live student, book regular group and one-to-one private lessons so you can practice English and go through business scenarios with a teacher. And if you have any English-speaking friends, encourage them to chat with you in English at least once a week.