Alumni English Careers

Teaching Online Business English to Non-English Speakers, Part One

Teaching Online English pt1-061120

Gabrielle McBath’s blog on teaching online business English to non-English speakers is the first in a new series featuring articles predominantly written by Sigma Tau Delta alumni members about how they are now using their English degrees. Read on for McBath’s observations from working with adult students in the corporate setting.

As I started my post-doctoral career teaching Business English online as well as being a stay-at-home mom, I transitioned previously from traditional “brick and mortar” teaching of Junior & High School English and German to online teaching of Business English. These students do not speak English as a first language. I noticed the following when working with adult students in the corporate setting:

First, students still want to know the grammatical difference between Oxford English (OE) and Standard American English (SAE). But interestingly, they were more concerned with hearing these auditory differences (to communicate with their British or American clients) instead of rote memorization of the grammatical rules. However, current students of English who plan on becoming teachers of English must still have a firm understanding of grammatical nuisances in both OE and SAE.

Next, teaching grammar out-of-context is irrelevant. Instead, there is a need to put this grammar in-context of the corporate student’s presentations, goals’ design, job performance, expectations of employee and company performance, and traveling. Current news material is integral for teaching corporate students. This includes world news, business articles and newspapers. As much as the traditional textbooks are beneficial to explain standard material, they are outdated to current events.

Supplementing business articles in English is a modern and beneficial way of keeping adult students up-to-date with the curriculum. Lower-level students need guidance and parameters in finding articles. Often the grammar found in news articles is “elevated” and difficult for a beginning student. It is helpful to shorten the article if that occurs. Intermediate- and advanced-level students would apply articles based on how the curriculum met the needs of their business-lives. Also, they have more interest in finding follow-up or supplemental materials. Current events also provide new language that is used in the business setting not available in textbooks.

Studying language in a corporate setting is much different than in a university setting. Although all students enjoy talking about daily routines, corporate students seem to correlate their personal lives to the demands of their work environments. When these students travel for either personal or business reasons, English lessons can include the discussion topics of tourist attractions, restaurants, transportation, and hotels. Intermediate and advanced students can also discuss the differences between traveling for personal or business reasons, or how to change their itinerary in English. Flexibility of the curriculum is needed for students who have business goals. At any time, an adult student may need to prepare for a presentation, accommodate a boss’ request, or design travel plans in English.

Finally, teaching online is an excellent way to stay in touch with the corporate world around us. Technology has made easy international communication, as well as teaching English language concepts and covertly preserving OE and SAE grammar. Contact with professors and other students is also effortless. What is needed in the field of teaching Business English are English students applying their traditional learning to an ever-changing corporate world while interlinking technology.

Keep reading for part two of McBath’s McBath’s Teaching Online Business English to Non-English Speakers series.

Are you a Sigma Tau Delta Alumni member? Consider submitting a blog to WORDY by Nature to share with your fellow Sigma Tau Delta members how you have been using your English degree.

GMcBathGabrielle L. McBath, PhD
Independent Author & Manuscript Reviewer, Journal of International Education Studies
Connect with Gabrielle on LinkedIn


Sigma Tau Delta

Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society, was founded in 1924 at Dakota Wesleyan University. The Society strives to

  • Confer distinction for high achievement in English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies;
  • Provide, through its local chapters, cultural stimulation on college campuses and promote interest in literature and the English language in surrounding communities;
  • Foster all aspects of the discipline of English, including literature, language, and writing;
  • Promote exemplary character and good fellowship among its members;
  • Exhibit high standards of academic excellence; and
  • Serve society by fostering literacy.

With over 900 active chapters located in the United States and abroad, there are more than 1,000 Faculty Advisors, and approximately 9,000 members inducted annually.

Sigma Tau Delta also recognizes the accomplishments of professional writers who have contributed to the fields of language and literature.

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