Are you feeling overwhelmed by Business English? There seems so much to learn yet so little time and energy to do it?
First of all, let’s change our perspective. Instead of focusing on all the things you might need to do in the future, just concentrate on the one thing you can do now.
How will you know what that one thing is? Read my advice in the three steps below. I’ll do my best to be brief, I know your time is precious, but rest assured that my objective is to help you gain time in the long run.
So, first of all:
- Define your why
Why do you want to improve your Business English? Is it because you believe it will help you to do your job better, get a promotion, change company, work abroad, travel, …?
Whatever it may be, think about how you will feel when you achieve it. And remember, it needs to be so inspiring that it will make you want to practice English even when you are ready to drop into bed or flop on the sofa in front of the TV.
Once you have established your “why”, you are ready to move on to the next question:
What will I need to do in English to achieve my “why”?
Perhaps you need to be able to make conversation over dinner with clients, write monthly reports, lead conference calls, facilitate meetings, promote your product etc.
Make a list of what you want to be able to do.
Then, break it down further:
For each item on your list, ask yourself, in order to be able to do that, what language do I actually need? It might involve being able to ask open-ended questions to get your clients connecting with you, having a few short interesting stories to tell or being able to express your opinion on latest news topics.
And, last but not least, ask yourself: what could my first step be?
For example, you could watch or listen to the news in English in the evening, practice question structures for the past, present and future, learn some specific small talk vocabulary for different scenarios such as “how to ensure the conversation flows” or “how to end a conversation politely” and so on. A Business English Coach should be able to help you with this brainstorming process.
So let’s recap. There are 4 questions to remember:
- What is my why?
- What will I need to do to achieve it? (scenarios)
- What language do I need (for each scenario)?
- What could my first step be?
Once you have this written down, the learning journey becomes a whole lot clearer. Your blurred vision starts taking shape, almost like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time. By reducing everything down to “bite-sized” chunks, the sense of frustration, stress or anxiety initially felt is also reduced. In short, it means that you can finally start working towards specific milestones rather than some far-off finish line.
- Apply the 80/20 principle
We all know the Pareto principle according to which 80% of our results come from 20% of our activities. This of course also applies to language learning. So the question you need to ask yourself is: what 20% of activities will be the most useful for me? What will bring the most benefit?
If you have already taken the time to do item 1 on this list, then you should have a good idea of what you need to be doing but perhaps it can be fine-tuned further?
In a nutshell, when you lack time, make sure you don’t waste it on learning words or expressions that you will hardly use or spend hours on grammar rules or text books (too general) when what you most need is highly-specific speaking practice.
- Personalize the Language
Make the language about YOU and what you do. It’s important that everything you learn, you make it your own. This will help you to retain it in your long-term memory.
Don’t forget to write down the new words in a dedicated notebook (separated into subjects/themes or whichever categories suit you the best) as writing down the words helps us to welcome them into our mind and memory. Then, make sure you place the words in a meaningful sentence that you can see YOURSELF using in a particular scenario. For example, you may have just learned the idiom “to see eye-to-eye”, which means to agree with someone. So perhaps you could use it to talk about a new client, saying “I hope we’ll see eye-to-eye on the contractual details”.
What is more, by making it all about you and your life, learning becomes a lot more fun! Associate your new vocabulary with your interests. For example, if you’re a sports fan, you can study sports idioms used in business. You can turn vocabulary into a game by setting yourself the challenge of learning 5 new words/expressions each day and trying to use them the next day. You can sign up for blogs about your interests and read about them in English. You could choose someone you admire in English and listen to them. Copy their tone, their intonation, their pace, their body language. You can laugh along with a business-based comedy series such as “the Office”, or be entertained or bemused by the tactics in a TV show like “the Apprentice”. The world is your oyster in terms of possibilities.
Once again, let’s recap:
- Make everything you learn “relevant” to you
- Keep track of your new vocabulary in useful phrases about yourself
- Make it fun by associating your learning with your interests
And finally, of course, let’s not forget:
Practice & review – Practice & review – Practice & review consistently!
Ready to “take the plunge”?