IATEFL BESIG World Blog


Welcome to the BESIG World Blog. Each month we’ve got a different guest author lined up who will be sharing thoughts and experiences on teaching business English from countries around the globe.

  • A TALE OF A BUSINESS ENGLISH PROFESSIONAL: Part 2

    Following our saga with BE trainers from different continents, today we welcome Analía Duarte from Argentina.

    Analía  Duarte

    Hello Analía, thank you for joining us today. Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself? 

    I am a puzzle solver. Because of being a teacher at heart and by profession, I am part of a professional puzzle that, far from being static and with a beginning and an end, turned out to be a game/hobby that gets reorganized and brings in new pieces that make it more and more complex every time I am ready for more. Since I am a BE trainer, I have become a professional that teaches and learns all the time.

    I am an English teacher and a scientific-literary translator from Universidad del Salvador, Argentina. I hold an MA in ELT and Applied Linguistics from the University of London, England. From 2008 to 2010 I did an MA in Organizational and Business Psychology at Universidad de Belgrano, Argentina.

    In 1995 I entered the academia when I joined Universidad Católica Argentina and Universidad del Salvador to teach undergraduate and graduate courses. Since 2001, I have also been part of Universidad de Belgrano, where I train English teachers and translators in second language Acquisition.

    I have been the coordinator of APIBA’s (Asociación de Profesores de Inglés de Buenos Aires) BESIG since April 2015.


    Which were your first steps in the Business English world?

    I have been teaching English as a foreign language since 1990. Except for the first 5 years, I have only taught adults, my passion. Back in 2006 I set up my own language consultancy firm, LEAPS Innovative English Methodology, known for generating linguistic autonomy and designed to meet the needs of today’s global pools of talents. Autonomy has always been my ‘obsession.’ For some reason, since the early years of my career there lay my focus and to that my vocational heart inclined. No matter how ‘accurate’ the learners were, I intuitively felt my role in their professional lives was for me to go well beyond my teacher role. Later, after the two MAs and many years of experience plus loads of reading and exploring and training I was able to label my intuitions, tease them out, understand the complex processes adults go through when learning an L2. By 1996 I was already absolutely convinced that training was my thing, not teaching. As Oscar Blake - a renowned Argentinean organizational psychologist- claims, all needed areas of knowledge are rooted in what needs to be done. English for business is no exception. This changed my professional profile. I have taught English for doing not for knowing since then.


    Since 2009 I have been exploring how I could leverage participants’ interlanguage with resources other than the linguistic ones so that they could operate in English successfully regardless of the proficiency level they have. Since then, my strength has been developing participants’ workplace oral skills by weaving together knowledge, skills and attitudes because my learners used and are using - and most likely will use – their English to relate with others, to get things done. The most significant twist to my professional profile since then has been the use of drama techniques to make my participants’ performance improve dramatically. At present, we are exploring gestures as powerful communication tools which make learners more fluent and solid speakers. Since speech and gestures work as a single meaning-making mechanism, we are empowering learners’ gesturing and making them better communicators who encode more fluently and expressively. 

    How was the market in your country at that time and how is it now?


    In Argentina, before I joined the market, they tell me that our activity was extremely well positioned around the 90s. Professional BE Trainers were sought after and truly well paid. Since I joined and to date, there has been a general impoverishment. Contextual factors play against us in many ways. Broadly speaking, traditional BE training fees are anything but tempting. Companies do not seem willing to pay for what would allow a full-time in-company teacher make a good living, which, to me also includes leaving time for planning, keeping up-to-date, attending conferences, and the like. In addition, our working year traditionally goes from March to mid-December at most. However, I must also say that tiny as it is there is indeed a segment which truly values quality BE training and pays for what it is worth. That is the segment I have personally been focusing on for the last 5 years. Finally, I am an optimist by definition. I feel that if BE trainers make the upgrade the new BE setting calls for, the market will become healthier for us. If we change, a bigger part of the market may follow suit. I think it is worth exploring. 

    There are so many labels for our profession: trainer, facilitator, etc…  How would you call yourself?

    A puzzler solver. I figure out what I need to resort to when I am in front of a given group or a participant. I know I am hired to let my participants do their job in English successfully, more efficiently. In situ I decide the time for being a teacher, a trainer or a coach. In my current BE practice, I guess I am a trainer 60% of the time, a coach 20% of the time and a teacher the remaining 20%.

    Based on your experience, how would you describe the role of a BE trainer?

    BE trainers’ role is to go beyond so that they can make participants gain extra mileage and be able to do business in English. They must unleash the communication power that adults using English for the global workplace need today. 

    To that end they must be knowledgeable about L2 adult learning processes and be business literate, have business acumen. They must be flexible enough to draw on what emerges in spontaneous communication and meaningfully capitalize on it as well as be brave enough to step out of their comfort zone. Finally, they must be able to see the woods from the trees all the time, have a strong orientation to results and be skillful at decoding the context.

    In a nutshell, their role is to articulate everything they do around the pivot for their being hired: a business solution for employees


    Are BE trainers, represented in your country through a TA?


    Indeed! There´re TAs all around Argentina, all of which are brought together under the Argentinean Federation of TAs, FAAPI. I belong to APIBA, my local TA. Unfortunately, I only joined two years ago when I knew of them. I wish I had known APIBA in my early years of my professional career.  

    As to BE within APIBA, our TA has an array of SIGs, one of which is the BESIG. APIBA’s BESIG was up and running between 2001 and 2005 but was dormant until April 2015. Since then, I have been coordinating it. I must say this is one of the most rewarding professional experiences. Since only very few BE trainers are members of our TA, I would very much like to take this opportunity to invite colleagues to join their local TA and, most especially a BESIG. And if there is no BESIG in place, roll up your sleeves and offer your TA to set up one, what I did back in April 2015. TAs need us, teachers! TAs exist only if we teachers take an active role. I can assure you straightway that the gains will be boundless, larger than expected and, what’s more, they are non-taxable gains! Your involvement will pay you high personal and professional dividends! Let me tell you why.

    Teaching is about sharing. No other profession, in my view, shares more than teaching because teaching is the most bi directional activity I can think of. There is no learning at all if trainer and learner do not bond. There is no learning if trainers are not skillful enough at establishing rapport and reaching, truly reaching, the learner.  There is no learning if we trainers do not decode what each learner needs and are able to spell it out. This brings in the dimensions of the individual, the tacit mandate of keeping up with what learners want, expect and need, among others. As the singular becomes plural and the learner turns into learners, the challenge grows colossally at times.  Daunting as it may seem, we all know that it IS feasible to work it out. On top of that, we find it motivating; the challenge fuels us up. 

    The question I would like to ask colleagues is how each of you fills up your professional tank. The tank inevitably empties. I have found that APIBA, my local TA, is a most recommendable gas stations we BE trainers have where we can replenish our ideas bank, store up fresh approaches, revitalize our practice, learn about new trends, recent findings, and best practices. Last but certainly not least, we find tremendous opportunities for networking and socializing with colleagues in the friendliest and most nurturing manner you can imagine. We reach out well beyond our immediate circle of colleagues. We get to know the person behind the professional; priceless! There is no substitute for the personal touch, even truer in our profession. 

    Today, in APIBA’s BESIG I am sharing extraordinary experiences with Alicia López and María Elena Levalle, my mentors in my early years, to whom I will be always grateful because I landed with them just at the right moment; they were key to my professional development. They are my professional ancestors and ancestors must be honored, always! Also, I am sharing with María Luz Callejo, with whom I walked all my professional life from our undergraduate courses to the MA in ELT and Applied Linguistics and who is the academic coordinator at my workplace today. I am sharing with immense colleagues from different backgrounds whom I would not have met had it not been thanks to APIBA. I am sharing with more junior trainers who have truly huge potential. Where else can we find so much unidiversity, unity in diversity? I am so thankful to them because I am becoming a better professional because of our experiences in APIBA.
      
    By the way, I find it worth mentioning that as a result of our BESIG’s work last year, this 2016 saw the birth of the first 96-hour university Diploma in BE Training, a highly innovative national and regional program, which APIBA is delivering together with the School of Foreign Languages at Universidad de Belgrano. Virginia López Grisolía, APIBA’s president, shared this news with the IATEFL’s BESIG community during her presentation in the last enriching online symposium.  Also, next 15 September our BESIG is making its first presentation in our national conference, the XLI Annual FAAPI Conference to be held in San Juan, Argentina, whose focus is “ELT as a multidisciplinary endeavor: growing through collaboration.”  We are doing a special session entitled “Business English training in the era of global English: the new BE trainer.”  Two big achievements for our BESIG and APIBA, our TA!

    In what ways do Teachers Associations help develop a professional profile? 

    Belonging to a TA does make a difference.  Believe me! Let me bring in here someone I personally admire. I love cooking. It is one of my many hobbies, a joyful passion. I can stick to a recipe or I can mix and match, try out, ‘design’ what I cook. Cooking has incidentally trained me to be more and more creative. I love transforming, blending, enriching, savoring, having the art of opening the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinet and creating a harmonious output from whatever I have, marrying random ingredients, making the most out of them, allowing them to give out their best. As my main area of professional practice is business English teaching– the other one is teacher training – I often read a lot about business. I remember reading an article in 2014 where a business guy talked about the many lessons learned from cooking, which became useful for his professional practice but, most importantly, for life. One of the points he made was creativity and this is where I would like to bring in someone I admire: chef Adrià Ferran, claimed to be the world’s greatest chef in his restaurant El Bulli. Certainly, the most creative.  On 29 November 2015 there appeared an article in Revista La Nación called “Ferran Adrià: Una mente brillante” (Ferran Adrià: a brilliant mind). Let me translate just one fragment of this interesting interview:

    Q: What does your phrase eat knowledge to nurture creativity mean?

    A:  I think it can be applied to all creative disciplines, to those activities which strive for innovation. In fact, knowledge is an essential factor to understand what we do; it is the fuel to nurture creativity, indeed.
    Belonging to a TA is the professional gas stations where we teachers soak up knowledge, ideas, colleagues’ experiences that fill up our teaching tank.

    TAs are the professional kitchen where we cook new ideas, awaken our creativity, mix and match theories, get the inspiration for what we will try out in our sessions, experience WOW moments and gain unexpected insights that are revealed to us all the time.

    TAs are a must for all teachers, regardless of what age group they teach, what area of the language they teach, who their learners are. They help us teachers understand better what we do. We must innovate all the time to truly cater for our learners’ needs and meet the ever changing new challenges they present to us. We must eat knowledge to nurture creativity. We must eat knowledge to be updated professionals who keep up with what our teaching contexts call for and who are skillful enough to deliver what such contexts demand from us today. TAs are an ideal place to this end. 


    In your opinion, what are the perspectives for BE trainers?


    In my country, BE trainers have a big area of professional growth to tap into. The business landscape calls for a pedagogy that resonates with the demands of English as the largest lingua franca. This is bringing in new challenges. BE trainers can become even more competent, qualified and valuable for the market if we give it what it needs from us today, which is different from what teacher training colleges have trained us for during the 4 years of training which are needed to become a teacher, which means that Argentinian teachers do have a truly solid background in L2 teaching already. In my view, we have a massive opportunity to change our learners’ future if we start wearing trainers’ outfits and even coach’s outfits, though I admit the latter call for finer skills. In any case, the perspective is fairly bright if we go beyond the teacher role. 

    Marketwise, I will draw on the words of D. Reynolds, the 2016-2017 president of TESOL International Association  . He said “we must construct new ways of arguing for our worth in a world where career advancement is a business decision, not a civil service placement. We must be able to talk about and demonstrate our knowledge, skills, leadership, and vision. We must show our understanding of our profession and live our professionalism." To which I might dare add that this is hopefully going to position us better.


    Do you have a motto in your professional life? 


    I do. The moment I first watched Harvard Business School professor and researcher Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk “Your body language shapes who you are,” I got hooked to this: and so I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize it. Being a BE trainer has often thrown me into unknown waters.  I am a Piscis. I am water. I was born water. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I am a BE trainer in the end because to be a professional BE trainer one must be as adaptable as water. The sea is vast, almost limitless. It moves and changes all the time. Providing we have the skills, professionalism and passion for our task, we will be able to surf the many different waves. Don’t abandon, however challenging it might seem. Fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Let’s go on besigging! 

    Thank you, Analía!

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  • A TALE OF A BUSINESS ENGLISH PROFESSIONAL: Part 1

    During BESIG 1st Online Symposium,  in June 2016, two BE trainers from different continents, one in Europe and another in South America, began a very interesting chat about the lives of Business English trainers in their own countries.  They have very kindly accepted to share their views in our Blog. Today, we show you Part 1 of these interviews to Kirsten Waechter from Germany.  

     

    Hello Kirsten, thank you for being with us today. Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself? 

    I am a business English teacher and business communication skills trainer. But as I get bored easily, I also work as an intercultural trainer, which helps a lot when you work in international business of course. In addition, I work as a translator, author, advisor, examiner and I do teacher training as well. I am based in the west of Germany where it is quite easy to find work, and I also spend a lot of time in Scotland, my second home, and on my island in Sweden.


    Which were your first steps in the Business English world?

    Like many fellow trainers, I did not plan to work as a business English trainer. I hold a master degree in media studies and English literature and was teaching cultural and media studies at the university. But at some point – around 18 years ago – I began to realize that I did not want to get entangled in all of those administrative duties and routine work. So I started working freelance learning the ropes of business from books, but, more importantly, from my students who worked in accounting, HR, sales and marketing and engineering. I liked it because I met so many interesting and different people and learned a lot. I would say that is still my motivation today because I really enjoy working with people.


    How was the market in your country at that time and how is it now?

    When I started in 1999, I did a lot of weekly extensive courses in large companies which were taken over by British or other foreign companies and suddenly their staff needed English. At that time, the situation was that native speakers of English were wanted as “the real thing”, so being bilingual helped. If you were a native speaker, often the schools did not expect you to have any teaching qualification: it was typical to get your jobs through language schools that had frame agreements with companies. I don’t think there was that much competition and companies invested a lot due to the increasing internationalization of German business at that time. Over the years, the market has got tougher. There is far more competition and teachers have to be highly qualified. But – they don’t get paid more. If you start today, the pay for extensive courses is quite often poor so I am happy that I have a good list of customers and a good reputation that allows me to make a decent living on what I do. Companies tend to invest less – they expect their staff to have acquired skills of business skills at school or uni. The Internet has changed things too – webinars and online sessions e.g. via Skype are far more common.

    There are so many labels for our profession: trainer, facilitator, etc…  How would you call yourself? 

    I usually use the word trainer. Teacher reminds people of school and my students often hated English at school so this does not go well for them, and coach is a label that you are only allowed to use in Germany if you have a coaching qualification which I don’t. Trainer also works in German and English and sounds very active so people expect that kind of course and that is what they are getting.

    Based on your experience, how would you describe the role of a BE trainer?

    Well, that depends on the definition. I think a BE trainer has to be some kind of all-rounder, as we need to combine language skills with communication skills, business acumen and intercultural awareness. You need to be able to identify what your students need and which strategies will help them to get there. Often the issues are less in the language itself, but in their communication style or their lack of reflection e.g. why a meeting or a negotiation went wrong. However, our customers often fail to see this kind of extra value they are getting and think “It is only an English lesson”. Which my lessons are hardly ever. I also find that you have to keep yourself up to date with what is going on in both the teaching world and the business world. 

    Are BE trainers represented in your country through a TA?

    Not that I know of. There are trade unions and teaching associations for teachers in general, but I don’t think that there is anything for BE trainers (apart from BESIG, of course). Teaching freelance online and in companies is a very lonely profession so it is very important to develop a good personal learning network to exchange information. Not only information on trends in teaching and business, but also on crucial things like tax and insurance which are often difficult to handle – when you move to Germany from abroad, of course, but also when you become self-employed in Germany and need to check out all those regulations. 

    In what ways do Teachers Associations help develop a professional profile? 

    Well, I think they could do that by offering further training and some of the information mentioned above, but also by helping to explain to the world what it is we are actually doing. That is something you have for translators or intercultural trainers so that people get a better idea of what they can are able to offer and how they are qualified.

    In your opinion, what are the perspectives for Business English trainers?

    I think that we have to communicate the crucial role we play as trainers in helping to prepare people for managing business situations in a foreign language. Even when I look at how some native speakers of English behave in a conference call or a meeting I go like “OMG, he cannot really speak like that, he needs to communicate better”. So I would say that apart from teaching business vocabulary, communication skills will be the big issue together with intercultural skills – I think you cannot really separate those two. I also think we need to prepare for different types and training offers too – and we need to make people understand that we are worth our money.

    Do you have a motto in your professional life?

    Yes: helping people do their jobs better and life-long learning are my two guiding principles. Thank you!

    Thanks to you, Kirsten for sharing your thoughts and experience with us.

     

    Dear Readers, we will soon be publishing Part 2 of A Tale of a Business English Professional. Don’t miss it!



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  • Five great ways to boost Language Trainer wellbeing

    Hello, 

    At BESIG, we’re inviting members who want to share their experience with our community in our Blog. Today, Phil Nash shares with us his ideas on teachers’ wellbeing.

    If you would like to write a post, you can contact dana.poklepovic@besig.org


    Phil Nash: 

    English Language Training can be the best job in the world when everything goes well.  You turn up on time, in the right place, feeling rested after a good night's sleep with a well-prepared lesson (and a good back up just in case), which you proceed to deliver to the best of your ability to an appreciative and engaged class.

     Unfortunately, things do not always quite go to plan.

     The biggest factor, in my experience, that affects our wellbeing inside, or outside, of work is control. Specifically, the feeling of being in control as far as is possible of our own schedule and workload. Feeling in control can be really challenging, particularly for itinerant English Language Trainers working across a large geographical area and dependent on public transport to get from A to B.

     My year working for Linguarama as an English Language Trainer in and around Dusseldorf (from early June 2013 to the end of June 2014) was a good experience, but one which was full of challenges. Looking back I was lucky to have a lot of excellent support. Naturally, I am quite an extrovert. I was never shy about asking anyone in the staff room or at Linguarama for help.

    Living abroad in a non-native English speaking country posed other obvious challenges. My principal reason for moving to Germany was to try to improve my German. I threw myself into the challenge, watching German television programmes, reading German books, signing up for Sprach Tandems and taking private one-to-one lessons.

     Networks are always incredibly important. Moving to a foreign land takes courage. I was fortunate to meet many great people inside and outside of work. That said, I found that I felt lonely more regularly than I had done previously back in the UK. Sundays could be especially problematic, especially when I was not in a relationship. In Germany shops are closed on a Sunday.  Sunday is a family day.

    1 Control

    See above. This can and sometimes must extend to saying no, particularly to last minute cover if you are feeling overwrought. This can be a real dilemma especially for freelancers. Open honest communication is important.  Making management aware of underlying conditions you may have can help maintain wellbeing of both managers and trainers while ensuring continuity of cover.

    Looking at the issue of control from a management perspective involves getting the appropriate individuals to the right place at the right time.  Do trainers have enough time to get from A to B and then on again to C?  Reducing stress out ‘in the field’ can reduce the likelihood of burnout.  Schedule builders do not expect your trainers to be superheroes, especially when they are reliant on public transport.  Try and have lessons close to one and another if at all possible.

    2 Develop a structured routine outside of work

    Make the most of living abroad. Building fun and stimulating activities into our weekly schedules makes us happier, more balanced individuals. Increasingly responsibility for HR falls to line managers.  Academic management should be vigilant for indicators that their trainers are becoming unwell.  Tell-tale signs that someone is feeling the strain may include: neglect of personal appearance, increasing irritability, making inappropriate outbursts or an individual wishing to withdraw from social situations.  Spending too much time in work can be a symptom of deeper problems, too.  Keep an eye out for trainers who are starting to look unwell.   Try to help new staff members to integrate into life outside of work.

    3 Have a cut off

    You are far more likely to deliver top quality lessons/training sessions, of which you can rightly be proud, if you are well rested. Prepare to the best of your ability, but do not let it take over your life. Wherever possible make the most of your students as a resource. Encourage them to bring in their own materials.

    Sleep is incredibly important.  Avoid looking at work emails, Facebook or other forms of Social Media just before you try to go to sleep.  Everybody has their own routines at the beginning and end of the day; try and work out what is best for you.  Interestingly, some large companies, such as Volkswagen, switch off their servers at weekends so that employees do not feel obliged to read their emails over the weekend.

    4 Make the most of ‘in company’ facilities.

    Make use of the staff canteen.  In a business where several trainers from a language provider are present, a DoS could make a deal with HR to ensure that language trainers enjoy any on-site subsidies that ‘regular’ staff usually enjoy.  In instances where this is not possible there may well be a sympathetic cashier in the cafeteria who is prepared to give you a discount.  Dana Poklepovic managed to secure free access to chartered buses for her trainers, who have to visit a company a long way from the city, in Buenos Aires.  Trainers chat to colleagues and students to find out about any benefits that you can enjoy and how you might access them.

    Drink plenty of water: being well-hydrated makes us function better.  Fill up your water bottle on-site.  Do not be afraid to ask for liquid refreshment.  In my experience, most students were happy to offer me a glass of water or a cup of coffee. Everyone has a right to be well-hydrated. 

    5 Keep things in perspective

    The first verse of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer always helps remind me of what really matters:

    God grant me the serenity

    to accept the things I cannot change;

    courage to change the things I can;

    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Remember try and keep way two communication going.  If you are concerned about a colleague’s wellbeing flag it up with your DoS or ADoS.

     

    Author Bio

    I am currently studying for a Masters in Human Resource Management at Manchester Metropolitan University in England.  Please take a look at my HR, training and wellbeing themed blog, The Eastern Wing and follow me on Twitter @philnashuk. https://theeasternwing.wordpress.com


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  • MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AS AN INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER


    Dana Poklepovic interviews Taona Knight

    December 2015

    MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AS AN INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER

    Hello Besigers! In our last post of the year, we welcome Taona Knights who was a first-time speaker at 28th BESIG Annual Conference.  

     

    Hi Taona, it’s nice to have you with us today. Could you tell our readers a little about your background?  

    Hello Dana. Well, I was born in Cornwall (Truro) but moved to France when I was 8. I grew up speaking both French and English.

     

    Where are you based now?

    I live in Vancouver, Canada where I am a Director of studies at EC Vancouver.

     

    You have visited and lived in places as different and distant as Europe, Vietnam and now Canada, what has been your experience as a traveler teacher?

     I used to believe that all students are very different; that they have vast cultural and learning styles and while that is true, you can still regroup them into small categories and draw a strategy from these differences. It was very much the topic of our talk (with Pete Rutherford). All students come to class for a reason and the teacher must gain trust and quickly show and enable them to get there. Students have different learning facilities and backgrounds, but a good teacher can draw on all they have seen and help them get there faster.

     

    If you had to choose, what would be “the one thing” that marked you as a teacher in each place you worked?

    Vietnam: Encouraging. You have to be a bit gentler and hedge more with a softer voice. They feel you are being unkind otherwise. “No” is not a word they hear or use.

    Germany: Displaying your knowledge as a teacher. Germans have to be able to trust that you know your subject matter.

    France: Patience. Grammar accuracy was very important as with our German friends. They spend a lot of time learning French grammar and want the English to ‘match’ that. Also, they are worried about sounding silly and won’t try.

    In November, you presented at BESIG Conference in Barcelona. Congratulations! What was your talk about?

    Pete Rutherford and I were interested in what makes a good or a better teacher. We tried to narrow down from student feedback and teacher feedback what the core characteristics or a ‘better teacher’ are.  

     

     In your opinion, what makes a good teacher?       

    Empathy: seeing where students are, recognizing their strengths and challenges and helping them to get past them. A teacher should also be a facilitator. They should teach how to do and not lecture on how to do. In a nutshell, I believe those are two main keys and the rest can be taught.

     

    As Director of Studies, you lead the team of teachers at your school, what are their most frequent concerns?

    Well, I think they are mostly concerned with students’ motivation. Teachers feel that it can be hard to keep the energy up for the whole lesson or the whole week.

     

    Could you share with our readers your experience as a First Time Speaker?

    I was quite nervous at first but everyone was so supportive in all the talks I had attended before my own that the nerves died down. The most challenging part was managing the online audience and the audience in the room. I wanted to make sure they both felt equally present.

    How did you and Pete deal with the process of setting up a joint presentation?

     Preparing the talk was a little challenging as we had 9 hour time difference and were not able to meet up to discuss and plan it out together but with emails, Skype and drop boxes we did well.

    We discussed it a lot and sent each other drafts back and forth, the talk gradually got more and more precise and work was then divided up. The Friday before the talk we met up and smoothed over any remaining questions and decided who would say what.

     

    Would you recommend this experience to fellow teachers who think of presenting some day?

    Of course! It was a great experience and I would do it again.

     

    Did you get to know BESIG members at the Conference? 

    Yes, I met a lot of great people and exchanged business cards. However being in Vancouver limits the crossover but it was great to meet new people and maybe some will come over to our BC Teal conference in April 2016.

     

    What are your professional plans for the future?

    I am planning to stay on as a DOS. I enjoy the contact with our students and the teachers. We are a growing center and there are always a lot of innovations and changes in our company. We are starting an online learning platform and recently have redone our entire curriculum.

    What do you do in your free time?

    I love to scuba dive but not in cold water. So I end up doing what everyone does: dinner and drinks with friends as we plan our next holidays J

    Thank you Taona!

    You can contact Taona at taonaknights@ecenglish.com

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  • USING STORIES IN THE BUSINESS ENGLISH CLASSROOM


    Storytelling is an age-old art and one of the few traits shared across all human cultures. Stories have become a powerful communication tool used by business leaders to motivate teams and engage different audiences. In addition, stories enable leaders to connect both at an intellectual and emotional level making the message memorable.

    Following up on the excellent workshop given by Susan Hillyard this year about the use of monologues and stories in the BE classroom, Mary Sousa has gently contributed with a recorded story. It is called “The River”, from Mario Rinvolucri's book "Once Upon a Time" and he in turn attributes it to Antonis Samarakis, Zitite Elpis.

     

    You can listen to the story by clicking The River.

    We asked Mary what she uses this story for in her BE classes:

     

    “For upper level students, it could prompt a discussion about a company's relationship with its competitors, be it reasonable, shark-like, or somewhere in between. The story illustrates the futility of jumping to conclusions and mistaking friends for enemies. Students could be asked how culturally grounded the story is (ask whether there are parallels or similar stories in the students' cultures).

    I would use this story for interactive storytelling, by which I mean I would tell the story in stages, stopping here and there to elicit from the students more elaborate descriptions of the people and places in the story. Activate vocabulary, motivate learners to use rarely used adjectives, involve the group in the story”.

     

    BIODATA: Mary Sousa (coordinator of IATEFL Hungary's Business English SIG) is a freelance teacher of business English. Her native language is American English, but she uses her Hungarian language skills both to enhance her teaching and to appreciate the approach of native Hungarian teachers of English. Her special interests include blending traditional and technology-based teaching and interactive storytelling. 

    Blog post - Dana Poklepovic


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  • Business English and the Challenge to Become More Specific

    Business English and English for Specific Purposes have long been neighbouring fields. As businesses get more complex and specialized, Business English teachers need to address this specialization trend in their teaching content, methodology and class activities.


    Today, we welcome Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat who has kindly agreed to share her experience as a Business English trainer in specific markets.

    Hello Shanti! It’s a pleasure to have you here today. Before we enter the Business English arena, could you tell us a bit about you?

    My career as a language teacher began in 2009 when I decided to leave the investment world after 20 years and join the ELT industry. So, I consider myself a relatively new teacher. With my previous background, the transition to teaching Business English seemed natural. I teach 1-1 online and offline via my home stay courses in the UK. I also run BE Writing and Financial English courses to small groups. My blog, English with a Twist, shares BE material with learners.

    One of the key pillars of ESP is the use of authentic materials. Do you use AM in BE and how do you work with them in class?

    Yes, I use authentic materials. Most of the material comes from my clients, whether it be their own emails, reports, training manuals, presentations and so on.

    For example, for a fluency session, I'll ask my client to prepare a presentation using their company website/brochure to describe either the company structure or the products.

    If the focus is on presentation skills, I will work with my client on a presentation they've got in English and ask them to present it to me. From there, plenty of further material will come out not exclusively related to presentation skills, correct use of tenses, specific vocabulary and so on.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of using learners' documents to teach?

    In my experience, learners find it helpful if we can provide support with some of their documents. By engaging with their material, they are more focused and can relate to the language in a more meaningful way.

    The biggest disadvantage I've found is where the level of English found in the material they have far outstrips their level of English. For instance, the material is written for a proficient user while they have an A2 level of English and my learner wants me to help them with the material! In those cases, I need to find ways of adapting the material or putting it to the side. I have yet to work out what is the best way of dealing with this situation.

    How much does the BE trainer need to know about the learner's speciality field?

    I don't think the BE trainer needs to have in depth knowledge of the learner's speciality field. However, I think it's essential that the trainer shows a genuine interest in the learner's work and asks plenty of questions to encourage engagement. The willingness to learn about our client's professional background is a must if we are to build mutual trust and respect. I learn from them and they learn from me. It's a two-way partnership. The more we show that we are interested in our learners as people and professionals, the more they will learn. My best and favourite teachers were the ones who took a genuine interest in me, and I learned the most from them.

    Talking about methodology, what approach do you use to teach Business English?

    I suppose you could say I follow the Dogme approach. My learners run the show! I ask them questions, we discuss topics, I gauge their mood and depending on their responses the lesson takes it course. I listen to my learner and respond accordingly. That's pretty much it.

    How would you define BE in relation with ESP?

    I don't differentiate between the two terms. Practically all my clients require English for their specific purposes whether it be technical vocabulary in the engineering, reinsurance, change management sectors; presenting their company to their clients or describing their products. Whatever their background, they all need English to conduct their business and that means they need such general skills such as email writing, presentation skills, networking and so on. All BE includes ESP.

    I guess the only time I'd differentiate between BE and ESP is if the requirement is for highly specialised forms of communication like Aviation English, Military English or Legal English.

    In your experience, what is the most relevant aspect as a BE trainer?

    That as teachers, we always learn more than our clients.

    Thank you, Shanti, for sharing your experience with BESIG.

    Thank you so much for this opportunity.

    We’d love to hear from you. Do you teach General Business English or Business English for Specific Purposes? You can leave your comments below. 

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  • Testing Business English Learners: A Trend on the Rise

    There is an increasing need to measure Business English learners’ progress according to tests that are both useful for work-related purposes and valid for assessment goals.

    After her presentation at the BESIG PCE in Manchester, in April 10th, we sat down with Dr. Ivana Vidaković who kindly agreed to be interviewed for our BESIG BLOG.

    Could you tell us a bit about your academic and professional background? How did you become specialized in testing and assessment?

    Everything began with my love of foreign languages, particularly English. I had completed my BA in English language and literature at the University of Belgrade, and then specialised in applied linguistics through my master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Cambridge. My doctorate in second language acquisition (or foreign language learning) led me to a related area – that of language assessment – so here I am now.

    It could be said that my whole career is pretty ironical. As a child, I wouldn’t allow a close member of my family to learn English because I feared she’d forget her mother tongue and I wouldn’t be able to understand her. She reminded me of that when I became a teacher of English.

    What is your current role?

    I am a Senior Research and Validation Manager and I specialise in testing English for Specific Purposes. My current research interests also lie in the assessment of reading comprehension, learner corpus analysis and the impact of English language examinations on various test users. I am also the Editor of Research Notes, a quarterly publication of Cambridge Assessment on matters related to research, testing and teaching. We publish internal and external research on our examinations as well as on research undertaken as part of government and corporate sector projects we work on. Since we support teachers in their further professional development through action research programmes we fund, several issues of Research Notes have been dedicated exclusively to teachers’ classroom research. If you would like to read more about them, you could visit this link:

    http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/research-and-validation/published-research/research-notes/


    What are the most relevant aspects to test in a Business English course?

    What is most relevant will depend on the purpose of a course, a test and on students’ needs. In general, a focus on the communication and comprehension skills which are typically required in a business context would be advisable, so that students become better prepared for real-life tasks.

     

    Testing profession-specific writing and speaking skills may include evaluating the ability to tailor speech and writing to different audiences. For example, talking on (semi-)technical issues with a lay person is as important as taking with a fellow professional. In addition, the ability to use a range of styles, and to write in different genres, such as forms, memos and reports, is also relevant to a business context.

     

    Testing the relevant reading and listening comprehension skills may include focussing on reading and listening for detail, gist, careful reading, as well as skimming and scanning of appropriate business-related texts. Teachers could also consider testing the ability to extract and synthesise relevant information from multiple sources at higher ability levels.

     

    For people working in a business context, it’s necessary to ‘operate with’ certain language functions. So, teachers may want to determine if their students can use their English to persuade, recommend, evaluate and challenge - in spoken and in written communication.

     

    When testing in an ESP course, how can we differentiate linguistic performance from content knowledge? Can these aspects be validly separated in a test?

    It all depends on what your idea of separating linguistic performance from content knowledge is about.

    If you want to create a test of language ability rather than content knowledge, there are a few things you could do. Design your comprehension tasks in such a way that a test-taker can only arrive at the correct answer by understanding the language of a text, rather than by drawing on their knowledge of the subject. This means that test questions should be firmly grounded in the text itself. Also, avoid highly specialised texts as they may contain obscure terminology and concepts, thereby requiring a substantial amount of specialised content knowledge for comprehension. Bear in mind that nobody is a specialist in every aspect of their profession or academic discipline. As far as assessing Speaking and Writing performance is concerned, you should create and use linguistic assessment criteria (for example, coherence, cohesion, intelligibility, the range and accuracy of grammatical structures, etc.).

    You can avoid assessing content knowledge, but you cannot stop test takers from drawing on that knowledge when addressing ESP test tasks. In a business English test, business professionals or business students will most likely use their knowledge of terminology and concepts, phrases and text structure to process a text faster and enrich meaning. Besides, if a task requires them to speak on a business-specific issue, they need to draw on their knowledge of the issue in order to be able to speak. In this sense, language ability and content knowledge cannot be separated in an ESP test. One’s ability to use language in a specific workplace context requires both.

    Are teachers prepared to evaluate content knowledge?

    ESP teachers shouldn’t be expected to evaluate content knowledge. Trained lawyers who are also (qualified) teachers of English, for example, may be well placed to assess both content knowledge and language ability. However, ESP tests typically assess English language ability in a specific context and that’s what teachers should evaluate. Content knowledge is generally assessed by employers and Universities in dedicated cycles of a recruitment process.

    What ESP teachers should certainly be prepared to do is learn how language is used in a specific professional or academic domain. That’s part and parcel of teaching an ESP course.

    What advice would you give to BE trainers when preparing their tests?

    The same advice I’d give them for designing an ESP course: learn about your test takers and their needs; if possible, work with content specialists to identify relevant tasks and their features; last, but not least, consider how your test fits in with the course you are teaching – are you creating an organic whole?

    All of this should feed into decisions on task types as well as on the skills and abilities your ESP test should cover.

    What tests would you recommend for BE learners?

    All Cambridge English exams are widely used and recognised by businesses and universities around the world. If learners of Business English would like to take an exam that is specifically tailored to a business context, Cambridge Assessment offers Business English Certificates (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary, Vantage and Higher) as well as BULATS – the Business Language Testing Service. These examinations are designed for candidates who need to use English in their work or who are preparing for a career in international business. Both Business Certificates and BULATS are suitable for students and professionals, but there are some differences between them.

     

    For example, each Business Certificate is set at a single level on the Common European Framework of Reference (the CEFR): Preliminary is set at B1, Vantage at B2 and Higher at C1. Each of them assesses all four skills - Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing - thereby providing a comprehensive picture of what a test taker can do in English.

     

    BULATS, on the other hand, covers all levels on the CEFR, from A1 to C2. It offers more flexibility because it is a modular exam. Modularity means that separate test components can be taken on their own and have a value of their own. So, one could take the test of Reading and Listening without taking the test of Speaking or the test of Writing.

     

    Associated with BULATS is BULATS Benchmarking. As part of BULATS Benchmarking, a set of questionnaires are used to establish the required level of language ability for jobs and roles, after which BULATS tests are administered to assess the language proficiency of employees. The system is flexible and easy to use, and can be tailored to meet the needs of any organisation.

    Thank you Dr. Vidaković for sharing your experience with us!  

    Dana Poklepovic

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  • Into the Future of Business English

    I’m proud to open the BESIG Blog 2015 edition. In this post, we’ll look at the global perspectives for Business English.

    Teaching Business English in today’s fast-moving business environment means being alert to the changes in the workplace and technology. If we keep our eyes open, we’ll be able to adapt to these changes successfully and, what’s more relevant, we’ll be prepared for the next wave of change.

    So, what does the future hold for Business English training? Let’s look at the major trends and their impact on BE:

    A new management and leadership model. The Millennials – the generation born between 1984 and 2004 – are already occupying managerial positions and leading cross-cultural teams. While they are well educated and hold high academic degrees, they need to develop the skills necessary to manage effectively and interact in a complex and diverse marketplace. This need is closely related to communication and language training.

    Impact on BE Teaching language structures is not enough to help learners interact effectively. To overcome this challenge, we’ll need to integrate interpersonal and soft skills into the BE syllabus: for example, how to build trust, to be assertive, to give feedback, making effective questions, building relationships. This means working with both the linguistic and behavioral aspect of communicative competence.  To help learners acquire these communication skills, we need to adopt a coaching approach. 

    The Digital Natives. Generation Z – people born between the mid-1990s and 2010 – is entering the workforce. They are university students or newly graduated professionals who are recruited in internships and will soon be permanent staff. They are known as ‘digital natives’ born into our current Internet-connected environment. Since childhood, they’ve been exposed to English, either through web apps, digital tools or social media. Additionally, many of them have had bilingual high-school education or taken English courses at university. They come to the workplace with a higher level of English than previous generations.

    Impact on BE This may impact the course content. Starting from a higher-level language level base, we may see an increase in the demand for short, more specific courses; e.g. English for Accountants, Legal English. Likewise, the need for specific content and skills may be intertwined in the same course: e.g. teaching presentations for the legal area of a company. This change may open a window of opportunity for those trainers who wish to specialize in one area.

    Technology will continue to evolve. Smart-phone technology will advance, offering connected screens and interactive tools to ‘the on-the-go user’ who will be able to do a wider range of activities – such as working, learning, banking – everywhere and anywhere. M-learning will replace e-learning.

    Impact on BE This technological progress will impact on how we deliver our classes. Whether we teach face-to-face or online, learners will demand flexible learning formats. We can offer flexibility, for example, by including mobile-learning apps that allow students to access material, practice speaking, listening and also to share their files and videos with the group (e.g. RabbleBrowser, Sandbox). From a training perspective, the challenge will be to use these tools meaningfully, i.e. in line with the teaching goals.  

    Cost maximization. To face the economic crises, companies are reducing their training and development budgets. There is a trend towards assigning shorter, personalized training to fewer cases and more economical web-based courses for larger populations of learners.  

    Impact on BE We’ll probably see more short, face-to-face courses and an increasing number of distance-teaching courses. In this context, blended learning packages will continue to be an excellent option for companies.

    Globalization of business and English as a Lingua Franca. Since the onset of globalization, business deals are done between non-native speakers who use English as a Lingua Franca to communicate. This trend is expected to continue growing.  

    Impact on BE Teaching cross-cultural aspects will be commonplace. In terms of language teaching, the focus will be on developing fluency and listening skills as well as working on quick response time.

    There are, of course, other challenges and ways to adapt to market changes. If you want to share your tips or ideas, please leave a comment below. 

    Dana Poklepovic

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  • An international view from Brazil

    This month the BESIG World Blog takes you back to Brazil to meet Eduardo Santos, a business English teacher based in Brazil who has become known internationally thanks to his blog and the talks and workshops he´s given at conferences. In April 2013, Eduardo gave a talk on BRICS at the IATEFL BESIG Programme Day during the IATEFL Annual Conference in Liverpool. In this interview with Michelle Hunter from the BESIG Online Team, Eduardo shares his take on business English teaching and reflects on his recent experiences.

     

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    Eduardo Santos has been involved in ELT for almost 12 years, having worked at language institutes in Brazil as an English teacher and teacher trainer. He is currently the Director of Studies of Cultura Inglesa in Recife and also Braz-Tesol Pernambuco President. Eduardo has also been working as a freelance corporate trainer for the past three years, teaching Business English to in-company clients. He has given talks at ELT conferences in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, France and the UK.

    Eduardo holds a BA (Hons) in Languages from UFPE and he is also DELTA (Module 2) qualified.

     

    MH: You wrote a blog post recently about the difficulty for many of your students, and indeed yourself, with “Defining Home”. Can you give it a go for us now? Where is “home” for you currently, Eduardo?

    ES: First of all, thank you for inviting me to be part of the IATEFL BESIG World Blog. I’ve learnt a lot since I joined the BESIG, so it’s a great pleasure to be part of this blog.

    The main aim of the lesson ‘Defining Home’ is to get students to reflect on different definitions of home from quotes previously selected by the teacher and also ideas generated from learners themselves. I guess Recife, my hometown, is where I call home today. I’ve lived here my whole life and its culture, traditions and customs are part of who I am. However, I also feel at home when I’m in London and Buenos Aires, having travelled quite a few times to both cities. I guess, in the end, home is where you don’t feel as a stranger or tourist.

    MH: We missed you at the IATEFL BESIG Conference in Stuttgart 2012 because you were presenting at TESOL France’s conference in Paris. What do you now remember from your first experience of a major EFL gathering in Europe?

    ES: I must admit I was a bit anxious to give a session in a conference not in South America for the first time. I was worried my ideas would be too different from English classrooms in Europe. However, I was surprised how teachers from different countries could relate to the topic of my talk and give very interesting suggestions from different backgrounds. I also must thank my Personal Learning Network (PLN) for making me feel at home during the entire conference.

    MH: Your workshop at TESOL France focused on creativity. What creative differences in ELT do you see between the Americas and Europe?

    ES: There were teachers present from many countries in Europe, Canada and Brazil in the audience. They also mentioned how creativity is rarely implemented in classroom activities. I was surprised to see that secondary schools in different countries are mostly exam-based, leaving very little space for creative thinking and subjects which foster creativity. On the other hand, teachers from language institutes try to promote critical and creative thinking in the classroom, which is somewhat similar to what happens here in Brazil.

    MH: This year, you presented a talk at the IATEFL Conference as part of the IATEFL BESIG Day. For those of us who were unable to attend, can you summarise your thinking behind the topic of “BRICS: Boosting results in in-company scenarios”?

    ES: In the first part of my talk, I presented some common characteristics shared by BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which have brought up challenges for the ELT industry. Apparently, these economies have been growing at high speed, and so has the need to learn English. I then presented some issues with corporate clients who have an immediate need to learn the language, but don’t usually know which areas to focus on. This need for results also impact corporations which are not prepared to assess the quality of their employees’ level of English, and so hire English Consulting firms to do the job for them. In the end, in-company trainers have to deliver results to clients, companies and English consulting firms. Finally, I presented some solutions to boost results in scenarios such as the one described above in emerging economies.

    MH: What did you discover from your audience that additionally informed your knowledge of the topic? 

    ES: A business English teacher from Portugal mentioned her clients also have trouble to identify which areas to focus on in the lessons and that companies’ interests are sometimes different from what clients really need and expect. Some corporate trainers also mentioned that foreigners living and working in the UK also share some characteristics which I presented and that it is not very easy to fulfil their expectations.

    MH: How far do you personally see the BE trainer’s role as “coach”? In fact, what does “trainer as coach” actually mean?

    ES:BE trainer must work as a coach in order to boost results in in-company scenarios. While general English teachers use published materials to fulfil the expectations of a group in a school, the BE trainer needs to understand exactly what clients need and use materials based on these needs with a clear focus on results. Clients’ previous knowledge of the business field must be taken into account as well as his/her abilities in L1, so that the trainer builds up the course based on these aspects.

    MH: How easy do you think it would be to swap locations with a European-based EFL teacher? What would, say an English teacher used to working in Germany need to know about doing their job in Brazil?

    ES: As far as I see BE teaching in Brazil, this wouldn’t be an easy task. Even though the corporate world shares similar characteristics, workers in Brazil see in-company lessons as some kind of ‘therapy’. Even though they are focused on developing their skills as English learners, they also want to discuss general topics and speak freely at times. They want to use part of the lesson to talk about topics such as football, their trips and the last episode of the popular soap opera on TV. Happy hours and long lunches are sometimes used as lessons where we only speak English, but nothing related to the work environment. Apparently, teachers based in Europe are much more focused on developing clients’ skills and leave little space for other activities. That’s the feeling I got but I might be wrong.

    MH: How much closer do PLNs bring us all together? Could our industry now survive without such digital networking?

    ES: As I’ve mentioned before, my PLN was very welcoming at TESOL France and this made the experience so special and unique. Digital networking has helped us get closer in terms of generated content, ideas for the classroom and knowledge in ELT. Some blogs, like Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT, generate a lot of discussion enriching our knowledge in ELT and making us aware of cultural differences within our field. I attended two online conferences for free in the past two weeks: the IH TOC and the Virtual Round Table. How would this even be possible a few years ago? That’s the beauty of digital networking. 

    MH: Lastly, what can we expect from your blog - http://eltbakery.edublogs.org/ - next?

    ES: I started blogging in order to post the slides from the workshops and talks I gave back in 2009 while working for OUP. The responses I got from colleagues and readers from my blog were impressive, so I decided to post lesson plans, activities, and lately, reflections on my teaching experience. For the future, I plan to produce more content available for readers to download and also share ideas on teaching and professional development.

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  • Ten plus one good things about an online conference

    Csilla Jaray-Benn, one of the speakers at our 1st IATEFL BESIG Online Conference on 15th June 2013, has shared her reflections on taking part in an online conference with us.

    Ten plus one good things about an online conference

    Reflections on the 1st IATEFL BESIG Online Conference on Business English and ESP Materials   


     

    1) As a speaker, you have massive support from the team (BOT) to prepare for the big day.


    2) You can have a good night sleep in your own bed and have a comfortable breakfast without the rush.


    3) You can start attending the conference dressed as casually as you wish and run downstairs for several quick coffees during the day.


    4) You can feel the excitement and suspense of seeing people wearing their names as they enter your room. You actually know who your supporters or co-attendees are.

     

    5) You can learn about the weather all around the globe before the serious business starts.


    6) You can listen to a talk and speak at the same time. Something you would punish your students for :-) and you wouldn’t do in a conference room either.

     

    7) You can interact with the speaker, and enjoy when your name is pronounced, meaning you said something worth their attention.


    8) You can see what people are thinking about what you are saying. The feedback is immediate.


    9) You are not alone, your moderator is behind you, helping you find your room, change your slides, say goodbye for you.


    10) You have immediate worldwide coverage, and be really relaxed when your session is over.

     

    Plus one

    You can reflect on your presentation style, comments you have received through the recorded version.

     

     

    Csilla Jaray-Benn

    www.besenglish.com

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