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Transferability between Academic English and Business English




Young woman with laptopLouis Rogers, author of Skills for Business Studies and an EAP teacher, discusses the special language skills pre-work Business English students need. Louis will be hosting a webinar on this topic on 12th February.

It is often debated as to what the aim of Higher Education is. Is it to simply further knowledge or is its main aim to put students in a position to gain employment? Many universities now provide Academic and Professional Skills modules that aim to develop students’ skills that meet both their immediate study needs, and also develop skills that are transferable to their future work place. Perhaps the one area where this is most apparent is studying within the field of Business. Consequently, this can leave students and teachers in the position of trying to meet both current academic needs but also future professional needs.

The wide variety of options available to students can also lead to a range of learner needs in the classroom. When teaching in Germany I had classes in a University that focused on Business English; however, the students’ aims varied greatly. Some were intending to take a year in the UK as part of the ERASMUS programme, some intended to take a postgraduate course via the medium of English, and others were there to enhance their CV before entering employment. Although there are differing needs there are also areas where goals overlap.

If we compare EAP materials or Pre-work materials with Business English materials for those in work we find that all are determined by clear contexts and goals. All sets of materials tend to take a skills-based approach, but there is a greater emphasis on grammar development in the Pre-work materials. Additionally, the focus and time spent on each skill means that the pre-work learner is perhaps not having all their needs met if a General Business English course is used in isolation. The speaking skills focus on presentations and meetings is perhaps comparable to the EAP focus of presentations and seminars. There are also similarities in listening skills with a focus on interactive dialogues and extended monologues. Yet in reading and writing skills the approach differs significantly.

In terms of the language focus, the needs and aims differ greatly with a much greater focus on lexis in EAP rather than the wide range of tenses found in most General Business courses. Arguably, a pre-work Business English course can partly claim to meet students’ immediate academic needs but a significant amount of supplementation of Reading and Writing Skills development is required, and a change in focus on the language is required as well. My upcoming webinar will explore some of the commonalities and differences between the In-work and Pre-work learner needs with particular reference to Skills for Business Studies.


  1. I think you are right when you point out the use of less language at academic business level. I had the opportunity to guide some academic students in translating business materials for oral discussion tests and I realized they were used to learn specific topics completely out of any skill to be involved into. The gap is complex to fill and the result may be an absence of competence. At high school level a professional learning could be arranged in a more competent business perspective to link theory and practice at the same time.

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