Most new ESL teachers start out teaching children as part of a school system, or a mix of children and adults at private English conversation schools, but experienced teachers with flexibility in their work schedules and valid work visas often move on to the lucrative world of freelancing in Business English abroad.
But what is Business English? To be sure, many adult students take English classes to support business activities and advance in their careers, but Business English classes offered by teacher-dispatch companies have several important differences that set them apart from the offerings of conversation schools.
How is teaching Business English different from regular ESL lessons?
First, classes are typically held at corporate offices or factories, rather than at schools, and a group of employees gathers for a lesson in the middle of their work day or after they’ve punched the clock.
For the first lesson, a representative of the dispatch company will come to make introductions, but after that instructors are largely on their own, checking in with their managers primarily for feedback and student assessment. The corporate setting also means that teachers are often expected to dress more formally than at a conversation school, at least as formally as the students attending their classes, although this isn’t always the case for classes at factories.
Second, it is rare to have unmotivated, English-as-a-hobby students in these classes. Employees are typically enrolled in English training with a particular goal in mind, ranging from an upcoming international business trip to a growing need to write English emails to clients and customers abroad. Like anywhere, some students are forced to study or are exhausted from their work, but typical corporate students are eager to learn because they know that their future work success relies, at least in part, on their ability to absorb your lesson.
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Third, and most importantly for would-be teachers, corporate clients pay for results. Hourly wages at Business English dispatch companies can be two to three times higher than at a typical conversation school, although most companies hire teachers for 1 to 3 hours, once or twice a week. For instance, entry-level positions in Japanese conversation schools pay about $110 a day ($2,200 a month), whereas a one-hour dispatch lesson can earn $50. Day-long business English seminars pay around $170, and one-week intensives for new hires are common as well - a great way to make money quickly.
How should I teach a Business English class?
Truth be told, English is English for beginners, and the only quantifiable difference would be the workplace-related examples for lessons on basic grammar and vocabulary that can be found in any Business English textbook. The foreign student character learning the basics in America with a homestay family, for instance, is replaced with business people traveling abroad and meeting foreign colleagues or customers.
Small class sizes, typically one to six, mean that you’ll have a clear idea of each student’s strengths and weakness, as well as their educational goals. You’ll be able to tailor classes to answer particular concerns, such as understanding emails or making introductions when on their first trip abroad. This individual approach means that students and their bosses can measure English ability improvement more precisely than in a regular class.
Intermediate students will want to learn how to give basic presentations, explain factory processes, take care of foreign visitors, and write polite email correspondence, in addition to the usual grammar and vocabulary.
Advanced students tend to be in private classes and have very specific needs. They will often want to have more say in what each class covers and may want to practice delicate negotiations, have your insight on Western business customs, or receive feedback on a presentation they have been developing.
It is particularly important not to merely trudge through the chapters of an advanced level Business English textbook because many of the topics, ranging from dealing with difficult business partners to answering questions after a presentation, will not be applicable to every student. A flexible, tailored approach works best with private, advanced student classes.
Goals aside, many of these students are also delighted to take a break from their regular work pressures and joke around in a foreign language with their coworkers. The same teacher’s charisma used in every other class is just as important here.
What if I don’t have any relevant work experience?
Don’t be put off by a lack of direct experience if considering taking a business English position. Your native speaker’s instincts and TEFL training will go a long way, especially when complemented with textbooks for a business English environment and plenty of time to prepare. Teachers aren’t expected to understand the inner workings of the factories, shops and offices they will teach in.
On the contrary, helping your students explain the nature of their work is an excellent starting point for a new contract. Additional courses, such as a Specialization in Teaching Business English, can bolster your skill set too.
Where can I find Business English jobs abroad?
Business English classes can be found anywhere international business is being conducted, most often in large cities with bustling economies. The greatest demand is typically found in wealthy countries with lower than average English ability, highly globalized economies, and major international corporations. Japan,South Korea and Taiwan are all hungry for instructors, as are Germany and the UAE.
As for finding a Business English gig, focus on picking up a class here and there on a freelance basis: full-time positions (and visa sponsors) are rare. Business English dispatch companies want to hire experienced teachers with references in the same country, even if they don’t have TEFL certificates, because each corporate client represents far more income than a single student in a conversation school.
Our ESL job board is a good place to start your search, but if you are already working abroad with a valid visa, check local job listings for Business English dispatch companies looking for teachers to fill short contracts. A good dispatcher can keep sending you a steady stream of contracts for years of work to come.
What about teaching Business English online?
For those teachers who would rather stay home, online Business English classes also represent an opportunity to earn more money. Online teachers who successfully market themselves as Business English instructors for serious business people can command top dollar through referrals; if you’d like to dip your toe into the world of English for a corporate context, some online teaching companies are specifically aimed at this market with one-on-one classes. Global English, for instance, connects teachers with students with a minimum time commitment of ten hours a week.
If we haven’t sold you on the idea yet, one final thought: teaching Business English reveals a totally new side of a country’s culture. By working closely with the titans of industry, you’ll develop new insight into what your adopted neighbours do with their daily lives and how local industries contribute to a nation’s character. It’s a fascinating world, it’s highly lucrative and it’s a great opportunity to develop your own teaching skills. What more could you ask for?