A Brief History of Business English
May 22, 2009 Business English 3001 Views
In the late 1960s and 1970s it was felt that the difference between Business English and General English was mainly specialist vocabulary, and this was reflected in the coursebooks and materials of the time. These focused largely on texts with comprehension questions, vocabulary exercises, and repetition drills. Business skills and application to real-life situations were not generally focused on.
A move towards greater skills training in a business context occurred in 1972 with the publication of the BBC coursebook and video English for Business, which incorporated greater emphasis on areas such as listening skills development, dialogue practice and role-plays, therefore accepting the need to develop students' skills to deal with practical situations. This trend continued during the mid-1970s and 1980s, when Business English teaching followed the move in General English teaching towards a more functional syllabus. The focus was now on functional language and the teaching of formulaic phrases for recommending, agreeing, disagreeing etc. These were introduced in business contexts and practised in role-plays of common business situations such as making appointments, making introductions, business lunches etc.
From the late 1980s the focus shifted to working on business communication skills. This was largely due to the development of company training programmes in the late 1980s, which began to provide employees with opportunities to attend courses in presentation techniques, negotiating and effective meeting skills, among other things. This of course led to the publication of books and materials on business communication skills. This has profoundly influenced Business English teaching up to the present day in that the focus on Business communication skills forms a major component of most current Business English courses and coursebooks.
To conclude, and broadly-speaking, the focus on real-world communication, which is prevalent in much contemporary Business English teaching, fits in neatly with the principles of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), the predominant approach to English language teaching in the world for the past twenty years. In essence this is an approach to language teaching where the underlying key objective is to develop the learners' ability to use language to communicate effectively. An important point related to CLT is that fluency and acceptable language is the primary goal. Language accuracy is judged in context.