So, you know English. Maybe you studied for a while, maybe you travelled once to Disney. Maybe you have taken a 5‑week course to gain a certificate that says you are qualified to teach English. So, you grab your camera, make a video and voilà, you’re now an “expert” in your field and can advertise yourself on Facebook or Instagram with your “learn English fast”, “speak like a native in 2‑weeks” or “learn English while you sleep” or some other such bunk. We’ve all seen it. There are thousands advertising themselves as English teachers who lack the the uproar years ago with Open English and the teacher doing the chicken dance? I do. I remember how vocal teachers were when these were aired in Brazil. I’ve listened for almost 2 decades to teachers complaining how native‑speaking vacationers, what I call “tourist teachers”, would come to Brazil and take away their students just because they are native. I have sat through countless hours of presentations discussing how being a native‑speaker isn’t a job qualification. I agree. Education, expertise, training, a basis of skills and practice are certainly needed to be a “qualified” English teacher.
So, we are in complete agreement that training, expertise and experience are necessary qualifications. A firm and formal foundation in methodology, teaching skills, interpersonal skills and subject matter should be the benchmark for the minimum to be called an English teacher. Correct? Shouldn’t these same criteria be applied to calling oneself a Business English teacher or a Language Coach or any “expert”?
Many teachers have been making the transformation from General English teaching to in‑company English classes, private classes, face‑to‑face or online, with business professionals due to the growing demand for improvement in the business market that Brazil is continuing to experience. But there needs to be a clear distinction made between teaching Business English and teaching English in a business. Now, for me, an experienced business professional who studied business, worked in business, owned businesses all before becoming an English teacher, there has been a definite advantage. I teach C1 and C2 business professionals how to use the language skills they already know and mix them with the business skills that they possess in order to speak at a truly professional level. I, and others in the field, feel that A1 to B1 and often B2 levels still require an English teacher to learn the basics of grammar, structure, listening and speaking. This calls for an English teacher that may use some coursebooks to give the basics of business jargon while learning the language. This is great. Many fine coursebooks offer this to English teachers. But what of the advanced learner. The professional that knows the jargon, the vocabulary, advanced grammar and the like but needs someone to be sure they are connecting it all in a coherent and sophisticated yet communicative style?
I am not faulting teachers for not knowing Business English. I am however just as adamant against calling oneself a Business English teacher without any knowledge of what Business English entails. This is a highly specialized field of English teaching and not
How can one teach intercultural communication skills when they themselves have no knowledge and have never worked, taught or communicated outside of their own culture. While we can’t expect that all English teachers will have experience in these specific fields, like any ESP subject, we should expect that they have some training, education and knowledge of them.
for “vacationers” looking to make extra money. There are, like any specialization in any field, specific terminologies, methodologies, skills and principles required in order to properly and professionally produce and deliver classes while facilitating learners needs and objectives. How can one teach intercultural communication skills when they themselves have no knowledge and have never worked, taught or communicated outside of their own culture. While we can’t expect that all English teachers will have experience in these specific fields, like any ESP subject, we should expect that they have some training, education and knowledge of them.
At the higher C1 and C2 levels of a student’s ability, the learning outcome and learner objectives are different. They, in most cases, are already expert in their knowledge of business terminology. They have probably studied business in university or have years of experience at their jobs. They are also, most of the time, adept at communicating thoughts and ideas in English. For them, it is essential to be able to put both aspects together in order to achieve or maintain a position in the hierarchy within their department, their company or to communicate with people outside of their company without appearing subpar due to a lack of ability to deliver articulately, concisely and accurately. As with any student, they will look towards the teacher to provide feedback, correction, encouragement and recommendations on their speech patterns, level of formality and etiquette. If not properly trained in intercultural communication, how will an untrained teacher foster them? As in all areas of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) from IT to Finance, Oil and Gas to Law, Manufacturing to Project Management, advanced students have an expectation of their teacher’s prior knowledge of the subject‑matter. Being a subject‑matter expert (SME), or domain expert, comes with expertise, study and, generally, hands‑on experience. When reaching out for help with professional presentations and negotiations, students deserve a professional with experience or at least, training in these abilities.
I remember a query made by Adrian Underhill and Jim Scrivener a few years back during the Demand‑High era about our need to “stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning.1” But how can one deep dive to the depths of the student’s needs when they aren’t even in the water? Shouldn’t we as educated and responsible teachers be demanding more of ourselves and other teaching professionals as we do from “tourist teachers?” Shouldn’t we expect a teacher promoting themselves as a Business English teacher to understand what it is to be a Business English teacher and understand business?
This leads me to the latest trend making its way firmly into EFL, but one which is being highly abused. Coaching. Last year, you were hard pressed to find a language coach in Brazil (I believe I was the third). You still are. Yes, many certified life coaches exist, executive coaches are on the rise but there are only 300 certified language coaches registered in the marketplace worldwide. In coaching, as in teaching, a general overview of techniques and methods exist. I do not have a problem with a certified life coach who is trained in properly administrating coaching techniques using them to teach English. But note the key word above. Certified. There is a growing trend to call oneself a coach without any training, credentials or certification. As you may know, coaching is not a regulated field. While it is not illegal to call oneself a coach, it is immoral if not misleading. Is this any different from the “tourist teacher” calling themselves an English teacher? No. Just because one has read an article or two doesn’t make them a coach and, by advertising oneself as one, is false advertising to learners and discredits both the coaching and teaching professions.
Another colleague has just posted on a Facebook thread, “just because we give out an aspirin or a bandage in the classroom doesn’t make us a doctor.” No. She’s a teacher who cares. My son and I have been to Cape Canaveral, watched Apollo 13, every episode of Star Trek (the real one) and look to the stars every clear night. This doesn’t make us astronauts. We laugh at these statements but yet allow others in our profession to diminish our reputation, our profession and the future of our career by claiming what they are not?
I studied Neurolanguage Coaching with the founder of Neurolanguage Coaching. It was worth all the hours to add to my teaching arsenal. I’ll continue to become a Master Trainer once I reach 3000 hours of experience and practice. I double majored in Business Management & Marketing, Computer Science and minored in Secondary Education at a U.S. teaching university. I did TDI and TKT and have close to 20 years of experience teaching English. I have attended around 100 conferences and events for my own continuing professional development (CPD). I have held many different positions within business for years before moving to Brazil.
So, kudos to those of you who are either experienced, studying, becoming certified coaches, those of you with TKT, or TEFL or CELTA yet continue to develop professionally. Congrats to those of you taking legitimate courses from professionals that really have experience and are subject‑matter experts in what they teach. Let’s take pride in our profession and continue to become truly professional. Work with what you know and are qualified for. If you don’t know it, learn it. There are many legitimate courses for coaching certification, Business English teaching and a large amount of resources available from a variety of international educators who are licensed coaches, who know how to do business and who know how to teach Business English and not just offering a course because the topic is hot and it will take your money. Let us proudly and honestly call ourselves what we are, whether it be a Coach, a Business English teacher or a teacher teaching English in a business.
| 1 – https://demandhighelt.wordpress.com/ | what-is-demand-high/ Adrian Underhill & Jim Scrivener June 2012 – January 2015) |
https://skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/2497.pdf | The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) DOC 9835 Manual on the Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements
|Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center, partner at Business Language Training Institute and founder of EFLtalks. He is a speaker worldwide on Business English, Online Teaching, Self-Publishing, Student Retention and Image Presentation. He is Joint Coordinator of the IATEFL BESIG Web and Online Team, Online and Video Coordinator and Video Interviewer for the Visual Arts Circle as well as co‑founder with Dorothy Zemach of the Independent Authors & Publishers. He has authored and coauthored several books for EFL. He was nominated for the 2016 British Council’s ELTon Award for Innovation in Teacher Development. He lives in Brazil and Poland. | www.RobHoward.me|