07 March 2007

Business English or Office English - There is a BIG difference

A teacher asked: "Can anyone recommend some textbooks or references that I could use in class and what is the course structure for teaching Business Communication?"

A lot depends on your students and their level.

College/university students have little idea of what kind of business English they will need and they have little or no real knowledge of English in the work place. Publishers have rolled out tons of material for these types of students which cover such a wide spectrum of business subjects, everything from stock portfolios to business travel, to be of little specific good.

On the other hand, you will find that professionals, who are already working in a business, have already mastered the vocabulary of their business but not the grammar. Here are samples of actual work Emails that I collected when researching needs at three different companies:

TO A CUSTOMER: "As per your request, we offered 7-cup & 10-cup rice cooker, single & double burner. Please kindly see the attached to re-fresh your memory. You like our product, and want to mix container of rice cooker and burner. Our Manager agreed that you can mix 4 items, 7-cup & 10-cup Rice cooker, single and double burner in trial order."

TO A CHINESE COLLEAGUE IN AMERICAN COMPANY: "Please advise the factory must check for lose color stones, the customer is complain last orders 993105, 993106, 993107, 993109, 993110, 993111 most of them the color stones are lose, please make sure factory double check for lose stones on these present orders..."

TO A CHINESE COLLEAGUE IN AMERICAN COMPANY IN CHINA: "we certify blue card of OBA or QC for those who were on board this month as per the training flow.[OBA&QC duration of OJT(red cards) are 15 working days to 20 working days ] . However we will certify blue card within this week if they had ability to working on their station. If not certification of blue card will be postponed to end of OJT by trainers. The OBA persons total 8 in A shift. We will certify their blue card in this week if they were able to work absolute. I will certify those who am I follow up persons. You certify those who are you follow up persons."

This latter type of students, the professionals, need what I call "Office English" but there is as yet no such textbook. Such a textbook would guide the student in making formal and informal business requests, confirming and checking information, accepting and rejecting suggestions, etc. Failing an Office English textbook, some of these needs are covered in General English and General Business English textbooks.

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