One of the criticisms of heavily student-centered approaches such as dogme is that it is hard to ensure that ‘core language’ is covered. A lot of teachers think that if they don’t have a good Business English coursebook telling them what words to teach or if they don’t present students with a list of business vocabulary at the beginning of the course then they run the risk of not covering these key items at all.
Now, I am a firm believer that students should learn certain ‘core’ language (i.e. the most commonly used vocabulary, expression and grammar tenses). But I also believe that it is preferable to learn these words primarily through genuine communication and meaning-focused exchanges. There is no better way help students learn and be able to use core language items than by actually getting them to talk about their company, their jobs, their projects and their every day responsibilities.
Of course, I don’t have any long-term scientific research to support this claim, but I do have my experience. Below is a list language items that were covered in a recent 20-hour BE course that I taught. The students were a B2-level. These items all emerged naturally in discussions, role-plays and other speaking activities. As the students communicated with each other and with me about topics that are important to them, I provided feedback, correction, and langauge support to help them get their message across. Students kept detailed notes of all of these items (and others) on their own, and at the end of the course, I provided the students with a final list of the most important language we covered in the course, or a sort of retrospective syllabus.
Below is the some of the language that came up:
- To catch up on s.th
- To break s.th. down into segments, categories, etc.
- To lay s.o. off
- To branch out
- To come up (i.e. “Something has come up”)
- To bring forward (a meeting, an event)
- To account for
- To run out of s.th.
- To run into a problem
- To back s.o. up
- To factor s.th. in
- To fill s.o. in on s.th.
- To find out
- A trade fair
- A venue
- To hire s.o.
- A former co-worker
- To resume
- To summarize
- An accurate forecast
- To miss a deadline
- To meet a deadline
- To lack s.th.
- A policy
- To go over budget
- To stay within budget
- To attend s.th. (an event, a meeting, etc).
- To set s.th. (an agenda, a timeline, etc.)
- To draft a proposal, an offer
- To get out of university, engineering school, etc.
- To keep track of s.th.
- Early-September, mid-September, late-September.
- To go out for dinner, lunch, coffee etc.
- To have s.o. over for dinner, lunch, coffee, etc.
- To prevent s.o. from doing something vs. to warn s.o. about doing s.th.
Common mistakes corrected
- “I succeeded my objectives” > I reached my objectives
- “A global picture of our customers” > an overall picture
- “Ernst and Young is the 1st consultancy group…” > Is the number one consultancy group in terms of…
- “The good person” > the right person
- “I’m not at all agree” > I don’t agree at all.
- “Could you confirm me the date?” > Could you confirm the date?
- “The juridic department” > the legal department
- Present simple and the present continuous
- Present perfect simple, present perfect continuous
- The future with: ‘will’, ‘going to’, present continuous, plan to, hope to, to be likely to, etc.
- Transitive and intransitive verbs
Expressions, phrases and language chunks
- We’re on the right track
- Actually, no thanks.
- So if I’ve understood you correctly, ….
- So what you’re saying is…
- What I mean is…
- Good point.
- I see you’re point, but…
- I see what you’re saying…/ I see what you mean.
- We’re (a bit, 2 days, 2 weeks) behind schedule
- If my memory serves me well/ If I remember correctly …
- Ok, change of plans, ….
- We’re getting off track
- Time is up.
- I’m keeping an eye on the situation.
- I have to get the go-ahead/the green light, from management
- Do you want to grab a coffee?
- Do you mind if I take this (call)?
Looking back at this list (and other lists) of language covered in my lessons I am reassured that the speaking activities in my classes are so much more than just conversational fluency practice. Rather, they are real communicative exchanges with Business professionals about their jobs that allow them to practice their speaking skills while at the same time covering important business vocabulary, expressions and grammar.