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Exploring business English

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Evan Frendo

on 14 July 2014

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Transcript of Exploring business English

Business discourse
Business English characteristics
ELT industry
Exploring Business English
"materials-led rather than research-led"
"the global
business of English"
the "discussed about" problem
"Sometimes you have no other source of information. You always go back to the project folder and look at the powerpoint."
Winding up a conference call

David (Chinese Shanghai), Hans (German Berlin), John (Chinese Hong Kong)

David: Ok?
Hans: All fine with me
David: Ok so er do you remember the date that I told you about the … meeting ?
Hans: Yes yes
David: About the meeting day and the question after day
Hans: Ok we have all those yeah
David: Even in case some urgent questions I will contact you two or send an email to you two alright?
Hans: Yes
John: Ok
David: Any other requirement or good suggestion for me?
John: Er yes because very big Chinese festival coming soon we call Dragon boat festival or so I would like to wish all of you enjoy the festival not eat too many dumplings
Kick-off meeting

(A is project leader, B is new team member)

A: Right and I hear you 100%. I guess I’m asking erm what I’m asking erm I’m assuming you have a strong opinion and that’s why we’re asking you erm of course there’s lots of things going on.
B: Yes yes. And I think someone has to make the overall decision. There has to be one person who says ok let’s run with this.
A: So what do you think are some other types of challenges on this type of project erm this type of project team?
B: Well I think …
A: With lots of decision makers lots of people with their input coming in?
B: I think it’s the game we’re in.
A: Absolutely.
B: Right, so ...
A: So I’m assuming you don’t know a whole bunch about us? Or do you know some things?
B: Well I I I I erm learned a little years ago on another project erm very similar. But I know things have changed since then so erm I’m not in touch with erm I do know some of the people who worked with you erm that’s about it. You’ll have to brief me.
A: Yeah ok and that’ll be the kind of key getting up to speed stuff. Erm so in terms of other projects you’re working on now? Do you foresee any kind of conflicts?

Meeting to discuss a new customer

A: Yes so this is what it’s like this is what they want us to produce. Blah blah blah so in order to get any sort of currency with them I sort of put myself through the grinder I had to do all the background research and erm go and find out all the information erm I’m getting good feedback they’re actually saying you know this is very new very different but we trust you so … and it’s not quite clear yet with John just how much work there’s going to be, or how erm

B: He doesn’t know either. He’s just like you and me.

A: Exactly, so …

B: Yeah nobody knows. Nobody knows basically nobody knows at all. You know?

A: Yeah it’s a bit of a worry.

B: We’ll see. I’m enjoying it, and every day is another step forward. We’re so committed I can’t see them pulling out now.

often asymmetric
work-related as well as social-personal
requires expertise
context specific
specific lexis
sometimes conventionalized
multilingual / multicultural
not everyone is a competent user
lingua franca
discussing and evaluating
small talk
office gossip
procedural and directive discourse briefing
service encounters
Spoken genres
(Koester, 2010, p. 24-25)
fluidity vs stability
"ever-changing and may be manipulated by their participants"
"typical verbalisation patterns"
(Flowerdew, 2011)
" Someone participating in a genre who does not have a command of these specific patterns and the limits to their possible variability is quickly recognized as either incompetent or an outsider" (Flowerdew, 2011, p. 124)
Training & consulting
Train the trainer
common goals
mechanisms of intercommunication
requires participation
specific lexis
expertise required
Discourse communities
(Frendo, 2012)
"A class of communicative events"
(Swales, 1990, p. 58)
template or original writing?
telephone calls / meetings
"BELF communication is seen as content-oriented (rather than focusing on form) and requiring domain specific knowledge."

(Jenkins, Cogo & Dewey, 2011, p. 298)
Community of practice
A community of practice is an aggregate of people who come together around mutual engagement in an endeavour ... practices emerge in the course of this mutual endeavour."

(Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 1992, p. 464)
(Chan & Frendo, 2014)
Teaching contexts
Tertiary education
Adult education
Corporate education
Language use in a conventionalised communicative setting

in order to give expression to a specific set of communicative goals of a disciplinary or social institution,

which gives rise to stable structural forms by imposing constraints on the use of lexico-grammatical as well as discoursal resources.

(Bhatia, 2014)

shared repertoire
Composition of business sub-corpus

Job and placement interviews
Presentations and Q&A sessions
Informal office talk
Announcements and Q&A sessions
Service encounters
Conference calls/ video conferencing
Workplace telephone talk
produced for a mass audience (pre-experience + in-company)
often focus on the language of talking "about" business rather than the language of "doing" business
content often based on intuition not evidence
often quite old fashioned - eg treatment of conditionals / will and going to etc
"politically correct"
ability to do the job
Not testing
intercultural competence
soft skills

dealing with "general" tasks / situations
content knowledge
hardcore training - very focused
Business English is about
, not
correcting "mistakes"
imitating the "native speaker"
compared to a "standard"
For a copy of this presentation please visit my blog
Evan Frendo
"the notion of "Business English" has been adopted in local contexts to reflect often very different local circumstances"

(Bargiela-Chiappini & Zhang, 2013)
"Business English ... is often a mix of specific content (relating to a particular job area or industry), and general content (relating to general ability to communicate more effectively, albeit in business situations)"

(Ellis & Johnson, 1994, p. 3)
Foreign language (EFL)
Lingua franca (ELF)
Linguacultural norms
pre-exisiting, re-affirmed
integration, membership in
NS community
imitation, adoption
ad hoc, negotiated
communication in a NNS or mixed NNS-NS interaction
accommodation, adaptation
(Seidlhofer, 2011, p. 18)
University of International Business and Economics (Beijing) - BA in Business English

three core components:

knowledge of business disciplines
business discourse
professional practices

(Bargiela-Chiappini & Zhang, 2013, p. 202)
David: Ah yeah yeah yeah
Hans: (laughs) It’s not so much of a problem for me John here where I am
All: (laughter)
David: Ok any other points? After work, for travel or somewhere else? Hans Hans?
Hans: Er no I’m ok er I’m very happy on my last day when I’m free I have one extra day maybe I can I go into town and look at the city centre again it was so wonderful last year David the old city the old city you know?
David: Yeah last year we saw that show right?
Hans: I only have one spare day. So I am happy to do the city this time
David: Ok Ok, this time you want to er do some travel in the city?
Hans: Yea do some I can be a tourist
David: The old city right?
Hans: The old city the erm the erm yeah basically what we did last year there’s a lot to see and do
David: Also the old city has been rebuilding
Hans: Ah ok
David: So we can we can both visit the old city
Hans: (1) Right (2)
David: So just completed some time so the whole old city so we can do I can show you
Hans: Ok
David: Also er during the time we we can go somewhere
Hans: Yep of course
David: Right. So that’s why if you can tell me I can do some plan make a plan earlier
Hans: Ok
David: Thank you you two very much for great support
John: Actually the least we can do the least we can do
David: So John have a nice holiday
John: Ok
David: I will send you each of you information right
Hans: Ok (2) so John I er give our regards to Sam
David: Bye bye thank you thank you bye bye
John: Ok bye bye
Hans: Thank you
David: Thank you Hans
Hans: Bye John bye
Specific lexis
"ELF in business contexts in reliant on the business context for its interpretation, and the users themselves are also evaluated on their business acumen first, followed by their language proficiency."

(Nickerson, 2013, p. 450)

"any use of English among speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option."

(Seidlhofer, 2011, p. 7)
“conformity with standard English is seen as a fairly irrelevant concept”

(Ehrenreich, 2010, p. 418)
"reliance on materials writer's intuition about, or "informed understanding" of, business communication"
"... it is quite disconcerting that shortcomings pointed out in the literature as early as the 1980s should continue to be propogated by influential publications exported all over the world."

(Bargiela-Chiappini & Zhang, 2013, p. 197)
Teachers need to become more aware - less intuition, more evidence
The teacher???
Publishing is a compromise
formal (lockstep) courses
mass produced course books
standardized tests
reliance on the (untrained) teacher
informal learning
local contexts
learner autonomy
Time to move away?
More emphasis on?
"shared repertoire" (Wenger, 1998)
"Such a detailed product workshop presentation is something desired by the team members. It's not a sales presentation where you have only a few texts erm more pictures."
Insider perspective on presentations genre

"As mentioned this presentation sometimes also works as a project document so it has to be a bit in detail ... this document will also be used by the team members in the future to look at the details they need."
(Chan & Frendo, 2014)
Teaching contexts
Tertiary education
Adult education
Corporate education
Full transcript