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Business English Activities – Improving Materials

“Even the worlds’s greatest publishing company can produce inferior products…from time to time”

This is what the CEO of I-Ling told me the other day when I told him that his materials on businesss English skills – e-mail english, telephone english etc.. – were, quite frankly, a pile of poo. Apparently they were created in something of a rush during the period when The I-Ling system was created (and that was obviously the priority) “And…err…we never really got round to fixing them.”

Fat lot of good that did me when I was on my way to my first class with some very important people from a very important corporation. As I looked down at the matertials I had visions of students coming down with narcolepsy as they sat in a terminal state of boredom at my rubbish class.

The soloution was quite effective if I do say so myself. First I invented the previously posted – time travelling venture capitalists – and then I decided to turn the rubbish businee english materialks to my advantage and bring the important peoplke on board.

How did I do it?

Well, I made a very “I’m with you” kind of statement about how all these business skills advice materialks tended to be a pile of poo and quite patronizing so what we were going to do was to go through each supposed tip, approve or dissaprove each one and then improve them so that we could help students around the world.

The materials were onmeetings and a good example was “optimize that cofee break.” Now, according to the advice sheet students should spend the coffee break finding anyone who spoke and they didn’t understand, and ask them to explain further what they said. And the students were like “No way, canyou imagine being in a cofee break at a meeting and you’re trying to relax and then this annoying Spanish person comes asking you lots of questions?”

So,this is the format…

Get a student to read the tip.
Ask them if they agree with it.
Ask them what would be a better tip if they disagree with it.
Run through the improved list at the end and tell them you’ll publish it on a blog.

This is an interesting psycological switch. A teacher can often be the victim of bad materials. You brought them to the class so if they bomb you’re responsible. Using the above tactic,however, you avoid this. You must watch out though when criticising materials not to do it very often and not in too negative a manner – ultimtely it was you who brought them there so you’re responsible – also, people who criticise generally comes across as negative. Only criticise if you have a remedy.

Oh, and by the way, I-Ling are now working on new, improved business skills materials.


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