There is a disappointingly small amount of downloadable Business English material on the internet, and only some of this is free. This article briefly evaluates a sample of sites offering free downloads that can be used in the business English classroom.
Evaluation of material will be influenced by a number of factors, for example: Do the exercises and activities relate to the needs of a particular group? Is the material suitable for different learning styles and cultural expectations? Can the material be easily adapted if necessary?
My principal criterion in choosing my sites was: Could I find what I wanted within one minute? There were sites which looked promising but the one-minute principle eliminated them. Evaluation of sites that passed the one-minute principle involved a further four criteria.
1. How motivating could this material be?
2. Could the material be easily adapted?
3. How extensive was the range of material on offer? Was the material suitable for several levels of language ability?
4. Was the material culture-specific or was it suitable for use in a variety of cultures?
In order of preference here are my choices.
A really good site with loads of links to texts with exercises and teachers’notes for the inexperienced. The site claims to be updated regularly and has an archive of past material. Excellent site which satisfied all my criteria and more!
Macmillan’s site offers downloadable material on a variety of business topics with worksheets and teachers’ notes. Different levels are catered for. There are also web guides, word lists and case studies, e-lessons with podcasts and powerpoint presentations.
This site offers a business English course, and opinions from business guru Charles Handy. It also examines the experiences of foreigners who have come to live and work in Britain. The site is very good on intercultural issues and offers some interviews but I was unable to download the tapescripts.
A site for teachers of Business Studies, Accounting, Economics, Leisure, Tourism and Travel. There are worksheets, case studies, simulations and activities in the major fields of business. Additionally there are links to other sites, for example: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ This has very useful material that can be used as carrier content. Another good link is http://www.upmystreet.com/ where you can find anything you need to know about a particular area.
From IBM Global Services, a good site for intermediate level and above for those teachers looking for case studies and podcasts. These cover a wide variety of industry sectors from Aerospace to Education.
This site is dedicated to general ELT but has some material on Business English. In particular, there is some good stuff on the main communicative events of business English, that is: meetings, negotiations, presentations and writing letters. The site would be particularly good for self-access but most of the material could be printed out and adapted although the material does not look as if it were written for downloading.
Access to company reports for financial English. These are not designed for classroom use but they could be very useful as carrier content (comparisons with last year’s results) or for teaching the language of finance and accounting.
An example of a major company website with downloadable files on: the annual report, interim reports, ecology and employees and society. Could be useful for reading skills at any level or for authentic material for the language of finance and accounting.
The skills for life site. This covers a variety of work settings including the office and business environment. Other topics are more ESP-related, for example: hairdressing, catering, health and safety and production line manufacturing. There are teachers’ notes and exercises. The usefulness of these materials will depend on a particular group and may well need to be adapted.
An interesting site dedicated to business English vocabulary. The site attempts to show how Business English differs from General English and likewise how the Business English presented in published materials differed from “real” Business English.
This site offers a number of interesting links which might be worth following up, for example:
Department for Education and Skills, http://www.dfes.gov.uk/
Basic Skills Agency http://www.basic-skills.co.uk/