Learning Language for Business

5/19/2015

Professionals who need to learn a language for use in the business context have different needs from other types of students. Professional language learners often need to learn specific terminology and master the unique colloquial of a specific country. They need to be able to read and write to a certain extent in their new language, but mostly they need to master speaking and listening skills for use in meetings, negotiations and general interactions with employees and colleagues.

For example, someone learning Spanish for business purposes will have very different needs and objectives from someone learning Spanish for an upcoming trip. Also, someone learning Spanish for business purposes in Mexico will need to learn different vocabulary and idioms from someone learning Spanish for business purposes in Spain. Class materials need to be accurate and relevant to the learner’s unique needs in order to ensure that he or she is engaged and therefore learning at a quicker pace.

In addition, each individual lesson must strike a balance between focus on accuracy and focus on fluency, so that the students are speaking correctly, but also independently and naturally. Too much of a focus on accuracy can lead to speakers over-monitoring their language output, which generally leads to a slower speaking speed. Needless to say, this can affect the impression that someone is making when speaking to colleagues or potential business partners. On the other hand, too much of a focus on fluency can lead to a natural flow, but with many distracting mistakes. Balancing these two aspects leads to confident speakers who make minimal mistakes.

Language instructors, like those at TMC’s sister company Berlitz, must be sure to tailor lessons to the needs of today’s business learners. Focusing on communication that is specific to a distinct need – such as business communications – helps students learn in a more effective and efficient way, which is good for them, their colleagues, and their companies as a whole.

Anne-Marie Salmon