Whether you have English training at your companies or private training out of work, you probably know that to really improve your business English you need to take responsibility and control of your learning. Just sitting passively in a training session once a week isn’t enough. The good news is that according to popular research into language learning, we are all born autonomous learners. It is in our nature to be proactive, explore, and respond to our environment. We naturally take charge of our learning by setting ourselves goals and we are driven by our own motivations and needs. This could be getting a promotion at work, being able to participate effectively in a meeting, working confidently on an international project or giving a successful presentation. To help you learn autonomously, knowing effective ways you can improve your business English independently is essential. Here are some tried and tested strategies to improve your Business English by yourself!
Set yourself learning goals
Setting yourself goals is motivating in anything you do and a great way to understand your own learning process. These goals can be daily, weekly or monthly and ones, which are achievable and realistic. Try to focus on SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). Your goals can be as simple as “I will record and learn 10 new business phrases I can use in project meetings”. Once you have set yourself a goal you can assess yourself using simple online tools such as Quizlet. You can also download the app on your phone in order to review and assess progress on the go!
Put yourself in real life situations where you have to use business English. Take every opportunity to speak to your international business colleagues. Instead of writing an email, go ahead and pick up the phone! Try to participate in meetings, events, conferences and projects where you have the opportunity to practice. Communicate and socialize with English speakers you know at work or out of work, this could be going for a coffee, lunch or dinner.
Watch and listen
Try to take a little time every day to watch or listen to business related resources online. This could be news, podcasts, or videos. The more you watch and listen to business English, the more you will train this skill and the easier it will get when you have a real situation at work. The web is full of resources but to get you started TED Talks always has interesting speakers, The BBC’s Business Daily site has plenty of videos and audio reports and check out the Harvard Business Reviews’ Ideacast (also available on itunes) and videos.
Recording new vocabulary
Keep a small notebook or use your notes on your phone to record useful/ relevant business English phrases and words. If you want to get more creative, I suggest using a voice recorder to record this information. Instead of just writing the English word and the equivalent in your language, try to also write an example sentence, something relevant/ personal to you and something you are likely to remember e.g. Word: negotiate “We had to negotiate with the supplier to get the best price”. Try to review the new vocabulary daily in order to internalize it and challenge yourself to use a new word during your next meeting, in an email or on a presentation slide.
Start by downloading Grammarly. This is a free tool with which you can check all daily emails, presentations and documents in order to avoid grammar mistakes and punctuation errors. You can also keep a diary of your day or about your learning experience, which will give you some extra writing practice and is a great strategy for self-reflection. I train a senior project manager who takes 10 minutes at the end of each day to write notes on reflections, insights and ideas. He does this to practice writing notes in English to help with his many meetings, but also to ensure he has reflection time and can focus on what is important to his project.
Reading business related material
Reading improves all areas of a language, including vocabulary, grammar, spelling and writing. The more you read the more input the brain gets about how the language works. Context helps you figure out meaning and repetition of vocabulary helps you remember the words. If you don’t want to read long articles or blogs you can always download Twitter and subscribe to news or anything of interest to get your 15 minutes of reading practice a day. Our blog is a great place to start so bookmark it and there are plenty of online magazines and newspapers which are free.
The single most important thing though is to .. do something regularly.