When you started out as an EFL teacher you probably had an idea in your mind of what you were going to do with your qualification. You might have specifically selected a location you’d like to teach in, a country where you could learn the language you wanted to, maybe chose between teaching adults and children. The finer details get ironed out along the way. For example, your contract length, whether you’re traveling to teach as part of a couple, organizing weekends away if your timetable permits all add up together to create the lifestyle that you want out there. As an EFL teacher you have plenty of options open to you, depending on your experience. One of the easiest ways to get into a new, stimulating environment is to go sideways in your teaching and enter into the corporate world.
Teaching in a school can be very rewarding, but ultimately it’s an academic environment that you’ve been brought into as an expert in your field. There’s probably few chances for serious professional development, that sort of thing is usually offered in terms of lesson observation, passive rather than actively developing any new skills. But if you switch directions and go into the corporate world, that could really change things up for you. A different audience, a different attitude to learning and you’ll probably go into it teaching in a specific context, rather than a general one. But, as always, there are always a few things to bear in mind.
Your students will be your clients and they need to be treated as such. They will have objectives and expectations, they are going to be more mature and have a particular reason for learning English, not just as a general skill. English is the most communicated language in the world, and therefore being fluent in it is a valuable skill – especially in a business context for web meetings. Adult corporate learners of English are going to have higher things at stake than summer camp children, which is vital to be aware of. For example:
• A desire to engage with English-speaking clients.
• A need to communicate effectively with colleagues and higher management – essential for promotion and different types of roles that they might be after.
• If they’re changing job and need different skills.
• Sometimes, learning English is a work-related requirement.
You’re looking at giving persuasive, engaging, valuable lesson material to meet these particular sets of needs. On one hand that’s going to be more complex than dealing with younger English learners, but on the other hand it’s going to be far easier to keep their concentration and focus on learning.
You also have to bear in mind that in the world of business companies, there’s a particular area that you won’t find with younger pupils and that’s the corporate ‘slang’ that gets used every day, for example, ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘sign on the dotted line’, ‘think outside of the box’. These are phrases that are going to be more difficult to learn than straightforward English, so it’s important that you find an effective way for your clients to access them. They are going to want to learn the phrases that makes their English sound authentic and that can be put to use in the workplace. They’ll need a well-rounded basis for credibility and confidence in all areas of their professional life: background, ordering taxis and meals for clients, discussing current affairs, for example. Financial, technical and scientific spheres are just a quick example of a few genres.
In much the same way as younger ones, you will still need to drive your learners and use more advanced content to stimulate a different, professional cohort of pupils. You can tweak your general lesson content approach in terms of warm-ups and ice breakers and remember that all learners love to show off their knowledge and newly found skills so you can use quizzes and tests in this situation much as you would in any other classroom – just make it appropriate for your audience.
Older learners will be less passive, so harness that determination and you can use it to your advantage. You can tailor your lessons and research your clients before you start:
• What (if any) professional awards they’ve earned, when and what for.
• Any new products that have recently been launched and their best-selling leads and staple products.
• Familiarize yourself with their market and find out where they sit in it.
Make good use of the time that you have for teaching them. Corporate learners are going to be more open to continuing to learn outside the classroom and reading around the subject material so it might be useful to come up with a list of books which might help and guide them. They are also going to be more enthusiastic about engaging with other sources of material, podcasts, for example. Think about encouraging them to listen on their commute or any other dead time they might have. You can also make sure of the more advanced technology because they will already be familiar with it – projectors, tablet focused exercises, slides, online quizzes. In general they’re going to be more adaptable than younger pupils and you can use that to your advantage.