How to find the right Business English course

With the myriad of language schools, freelance trainers, e-learning programs, seminars, super-learning, study trips, internet, books, magazines, etc. it is difficult for a layman in the trade to know what is best for him/her let alone to be confronted with the responsibility of choosing a program for a co-worker.

We can open the yellow pages of the phone book and/or look at what is available on the internet sites. In the end the decision is personal. Unlike buying a television or car, there is no magazine to buy, open up and see what TUV feels are the best or worst on the market.

As a personnel person responsible for training the phone never stops ringing and almost daily there are trainers and companies boasting that they have what your company requires and, they may all be right, or wrong, depending on what you choose for whom.

Let us look at the possibilities on the market and analyse what is best for you or the people in your company:

A placement test - multiple choice for simplicity and speed, oral, or both will only find the level of English knowledge. This will determine the type of course most suitable for the learner ie. building on grammar and vocabulary or fine-tuning communication skills. An Individual Needs Questionnaire will determine the content of the course.

Looking at the types of courses:

Study trips:

Usually 2-3 weeks in an English speaking country, for post students, a year abroad would be ideal.

Advantages:- the learner loses his/her inhibitions quickly as they are forced to communicate without translating, a prerequisite of learning a language. Home stays with families also help them to understand the cultural differences and help them adjust into another culture. Advisable for “false beginners” – those who can express themselves in a few words, but not yet able to hold an in-depth conversation ( A2-B1 CEF level). If time and money do not permit this then a two to three week crash course in your own city should get their tongues around the language. However, it will not make them fluent speakers.

Learning Business English in the U.K.

Logik Sprachtraining works closely with two of the most renowned Business English training centres in the U.K.:

For further information please contact us —

Crash Courses:

(1/2 – full day)

These are effective if –

  • a) your are a beginner/false beginner
  • b) you are preparing to go on a business trip abroad
  • c) you would like to brush up your English after a long break

A crash course, no matter where it was taken, should always be followed up by regular classes to reinforce and build on what has been learned.

Regular classes:

(1-2 times a week 90 minutes)

One-to-one or groups small enough to enable the people to get practice in speaking and where the language levels are harmonious. If you are put into a class with people whose language level is much higher or lower than yours none of you will really benefit. Most people are inhibited and need personal interaction, but if someone speaks much better English than you do, you won’t want to open your mouth.

Suitable for lower intermediate to advanced, the program should be structured to embrace the requirements of the individual members of the group: e.g. some basic grammar, telephoning, writing skills, business idioms and phrasal verbs, job-related vocabulary, role plays and discussion – determined by the Individual Needs Questionnaire. Here freelance trainers are more flexible than larger language schools who have their set ‘business courses’ tailor-made to fit the schools’ materials.


When the main emphasis is on a particular communication skill – presenting, telephoning, meetings, social interactions, etc. a seminar is best since there is continuity.

Choose one with as few participants as possible so as to get more personalised attention.

Suitable also when the learners are often away on business trips and cannot attend regular classes.


Super learning courses have become very popular as they are a fun way of learning vocabulary and some grammar but are not designed for business interaction practice.

e-learning, magazines, newspapers, internet

These are all an excellent backup to regular training courses or post crash course but can never replace the human interaction required. Speaking practice, correction, deeper explanation also of the cultural diversity, the personal touch give the learner more structure and confidence. Although there are a variety of on-line tools for learning English companies still send their staff to language trainings, why?

Magazines, such as Spotlight, Business Spotlight and English newspapers are all excellent backup for learning, but unless the learner is advanced, it can never replace conventional classroom learning.

Teaching styles:

Do you find a book and say “This looks easy enough, it’s a book about IT, finance, marketing, etc, it’ll do!”

An English study book should always be merely a guideline to a course. Inside every chapter there are various grammar points, idioms, collocations, business terms that should be exploited. On speaking to authors of teaching material I am always told they the publisher insists that it be short and to the point, with lots of coloured pictures. Occasionally I find a book which fits my student’s needs like a glove. Unfortunately, most of the time he/she may need a chapter of one book, a page out of another, and so on. Very few books have role-plays long enough to really practice a grammar point – can you learn a grammar point by asking 3-5 questions? Can you learn anything by 3-5 tries?

Learning is a usually a long process and we need to make this learning material authentic – don’t just practice the alphabet and numbers – get them to dictate e-mail addresses, names, prices, etc. to each other – strings of them – not just 3 or 5.

You get what you pay for

As a freelance trainer you would/should make up this ‘lack’ in a book. Some don’t and still get good contracts with companies because of their low price. Every one has a choice as to the price:quality ratio, if you are lucky you may find a school or teacher which is cheap and still has tailor-made courses. How many of them would be happy to sit down for half a day to put together a customised lesson for a class- or individual student in your company? We do.

How much grammar?

Usually, when we communicate with people from another culture we anticipate some grammar mistakes, but if it impairs the communication it can be extremely frustrating to our international business partners. What we don’t anticipate is that the business partner is on another wavelength. Cultural understanding, business jargon, social communication and etiquette are just as important, if not more important, than putting together a perfect sentence. It brings us closer to our business partner since it develops a feeling of trust and mutual understanding.