9 easy ways to learn business English to improve your career

Just as you might use the same language, but different words when talking with your mum compared to a colleague, business English uses a specific vocabulary. This article will explain what it is, why it is essential for your career, and give you simple exercises that will help you improve your business English.

So, what is Business English? It is the type of English used in a business context. Phrases and vocabulary that belong in a meeting, in an email, or in a presentation, for example. Understanding and speaking not only English but business English, immediately makes you a stronger candidate for a lot of jobs. It also makes you sound confident, knowledgeable and professional – all good things in a business setting. These 9 tips are for learners at all levels of English!

Set specific goals

Staying motivated is not easy, having goals to turn to will help. Set specific, measurable goals that can be broken down into smaller steps. For example:

  • Within 1 month I want to be able to write an email without using a dictionary.

  • Within 3 months I want to be able to present my work.

  • Within 7 months I want to be able to feel confident doing a job interview in English.

When you believe in yourself, you become more motivated and more willing to take on challenging tasks. Take a moment to think whether you really believe you can accomplish your set goals. If not, reexamine your goals, and make them smaller until you trust you will achieve them.

Create a realistic study plan

Learning a language requires structure. If you are planning to learn English without the help of an online English school, ask yourself these questions (and answer them honestly).

  1. What do I want to learn?

  2. How much time do I have to study?

  3. When do I want to meet my goal?

  4. How can I test what I have learned?

If you are struggling to create a plan and sticking with it – joining an online English school like EF English Live, could be your solution. Every learner gets a personalised learning plan tailored to their availability, budget, and learning goals. You also get a learning mentor whose job is to make your experience with EF English Live efficient and enjoyable.

Read and listen to the news in English

Pick up a copy of the Financial Times, turn on BBC 1 Radio, or watch old news reports on YouTube. Find topics that you have perhaps already read or heard about in your native tongue; this will make it easier to understand and remember.

Talk, talk and talk

Studying on your own, watching TV, and doing exercises is one thing, but if you wish to progress your business English fast, you need to put it into practice. Travelling to an English-speaking country is a great way to immerse yourself in the language and get a lot of talking practice. But it is not an option for everyone. EF English Live offer interactive group classes focused on business English, with students from around the world as well as personalised one-to-one lessons with certified teachers, where you can roleplay specific business scenarios. When it comes to languages, the ultimate way to learn, is by doing.

Watch TED talks

Business English does not mean boring English, it is about professional communication. TED Talks are a great free resource to hear inspirational people speak about their jobs and passions in a professional, engaging, and human way. A lot of the presenters are non-native English speakers, so it is also a good exercise in hearing different accents.

Three favourites:

Read and repeat

Begin with short and simple news stories. You want to understand most of the content, especially when you are studying new words. You might think reading every single piece of written English you come across will benefit your progress. It is not a bad idea (all learning is good learning), but focused and intentional learning is a lot more efficient and effective.

  • Adapted literature for beginners A free library of books for adults but rewritten for beginners.

  • English children’s books – They are simple, most often repetitive, and not to mention the captivating illustrations (that help contextualise the new words you are learning).

  • Read out loud – If you are alone, give reading out loud a go. You can also record yourself to listen back and work on your pronunciation.

Watch TV shows and films set in work environments

It’s true, learning CAN be fun. If you feel confident in your general English, try watching with English audio and your native language as subtitles. If you are still in the beginning stages, watch with English subtitles and the audio in your native tongue. Here are a couple of films and shows you can try:

  • Suits

  • Mad Men

  • House of Cards

  • Painkiller

Now, go turn the TV on and prepare to learn while chilling on your couch. (After you finish reading this blog, of course.)

Use spaced repetition

When you’re trying to remember unfamiliar business vocabulary, repeating them a hundred times in a single day is not the best approach. Instead, give spaced repetition a go.

First off, use the word or phrase in a sentence right away. Then, see if you can recall it an hour later. Before you go to sleep, take a moment to say it out loud. The next day, use it again. And a couple of days after that, review it once more. It is now stuck in your brain, and you are ready to move on to the next phrase!

Study material relevant to your field of expertise

Depending on the industry you are working in, the business English you need to learn will vary. Each profession has its own jargon and vocabulary. An online English course can help with tailoring your English learning to the right industry, making the most out of your time. Find a Business English course that offers material for several industries. From Management, Finance, Project Planning, and Engineering, to Science, Administration, and Construction Work.

Mastering business English is a crucial step towards improving your career opportunities and coming across as a professional at work. Whether you decide to travel to an English-speaking country, cover your home in Post-it notes, or join other learners and get expert guidance from an online English school like EF English Live. As long as you have clear goals, hold yourself accountable, and practice a little every day, you will find your confidence before you know it. Take these business English resources to heart, invest in yourself, and best of luck!