English for Professionals
In the last 30 years I have supervised – and taught on – courses for people from some of the world’s top international companies. The people I teach come from every area of business – finance, marketing, legal, HR, production, IT, sales, customer service and R&D.
And my work extends beyond the corporate market – I have also taught architects, diplomats, solicitors, flight attendants, surgeons, teachers, chefs, musicians and tour guides (not to mention the occasional sommelier and fighter pilot).
What these very different people have in common, of course, is their (or their boss’s!) desire to improve their English. I am happy to say that all my clients feel that they have not only improved their English language skills, they have also enjoyed themselves at the same time. This is very much my philosophy – to provide expert, professional training in a friendly and relaxed environment.
‘In-company’ (sometimes referred to as in-house) is for me a broad term, that covers all the work we do for people living and working in the UK. So ‘company’ includes, for example, oil companies, insurance companies and management consultants, but also includes banks, investment banks, hotels, law firms, restaurants, shops, fitness centres and embassies.
All the people I teach have specific, job-related language needs which it is my job to cater for. They also need language which will help them feel comfortable in their working and living environment. This is language which goes beyond the formulaic. To take one simple example: a Japanese client recently said to me: “Every morning for the last month my colleagues have asked ‘How are you?’, and I’ve replied, ‘Fine, thanks. And you?’. OK, so now what?!” My job is to help fill in such gaps, by developing a learner’s language in a specific, cultural context.
Here are a few of the companies and organisations that I’ve worked with, and a brief description of the work done:
ELT has provided language training for over a hundred of JP Morgan’s analysts and associates, and I personally taught nearly half of them! A large number of areas was covered from writing (reports, self-appraisals and emails) to speaking (pronunciation and presentation skills).
I worked for over three years with five retail analysts, both in a group and on a 1-1 basis. The focus was mainly on writing skills.
Over 100 managers from every area in Pfizer attended intensive 1-1 courses with ELT in London. I also carried out a 1-week training programme for Production Supervisors in Freiburg.
Schuco sent seven of its top managers to ELT. Much of the work has been to train these managers in the top-level English they need, for example sourcing foreign suppliers, negotiating with contractors and participating in international teams.
ELT ran a highly-intensive one-week programme for the whole administrative team of this renowned music and arts centre. The course content ranged from visitor introduction and induction to the vocabulary of music and special events.
I worked for over a year with a senior member of the Human Resources Department, employed by BP as a kind of cultural troubleshooter. The sessions therefore included not only specifics such as the language of meetings, but also the broader issues of cross-cultural communication.
The interpreters I’ve trained all work for the United Nations, and need their language skills to function without hesitation, at speed and under pressure: arguably theirs is the most demanding of jobs involving language. Most need only occasional input on structure, as their level is usually as close to native as is possible.
So most of my work is in the following areas:
- describing progress made
- expressing appreciation
- praising, honouring someone
- criticism and demanding action
- different levels of condemnation
- softeners, intensifiers
- alliteration and assonance
- triads, eg a speedy, orderly and complete withdrawal
- rhetorical questions
Interpreters need words to come to them without thought or hesitation, so I tend to spend a lot of time focussing on vocabulary skills. Here are some areas I’ve worked on with clients:
- attitudinal adverbs, eg inevitably, regrettably
- reporting verbs, eg cast doubt on, counter, concede
- lexical fields, eg problem, progress, aid
- clines, eg dislike, deplore, condemn
And, above all, they need language in ‘chunks’, pieces of ready-made language that come to them automatically, so collocation is perhaps the most important area I find myself giving time to when I work in this area:
- Adverb + Verb, eg flatly deny, readily accept
- Adjective + Noun, eg staunch supporter, veiled threat
- Fixed phrases: make an unwavering commitment to
- Idioms: see something through to the bitter end
I have worked with analysts from a number of sectors, in particular finance and retail. Their English is usually advanced, and they want it to be near native – or even better! As one of my students said: “I don’t want to be at a disadvantage when I’m pitching against someone from the UK”.
A major part of what I do is to build on the passive language they gain from extensive reading, and expand their active vocabulary – helping them to go beyond the “safe” language they will tend to fall back on. To achieve this, we take key terms or concepts in their work, analyse all the ways these concepts can be expressed, and then use case studies as the basis for intensive practice. Typical areas are:
- Market position
- Growth, development and change
- Recent performance
- Investment potential
- Prediction and projections
They will often need to write a lot in English – and write with speed and confidence. The techniques I teach include:
- Comparing and contrasting
- Summarising skills
- Use of softeners and intensifiers
- Effective bullet-pointing
- Using ‘buzz’words …but avoiding cliché