The difference between business English courses and general English

The difference between business English courses and general English

Published: Jan 12, 2023 | By: Lucas Weaver

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The difference between business English courses and general English courses primarily relates to the focus of their course content. They might also have unique course structures or language use goals for the end of the course.

For example, in a general English course on a lesson on the Present Simple verb tense, you might be asked to discuss your hobbies or daily home routines. In a business English course, however, you might be asked to speak about your job duties and daily work tasks and other topics shaped to fit a business context.

As a course goal for the end of a business English course, you could be required to give a final presentation on a business topic you're knowledgeable about. In a general English course, you might be asked to just speak about a random topic for a certain required amount of time.

using business english to talk to colleagues

What is business English?

Business English refers to the type of English used in professional environments. This includes the common business vocabulary you would learn in business-focused classes in university.

Think of words in your language that you would only use at work and would almost never use while out to eat with your friends.

For example, at dinner with a friend, you might ask, "What are you going to get?" but in a meeting with a potential client, you might ask, "What required specifications do you have in mind?".

What is a business English course?

A business English course, therefore, will focus on improving your English language skills to communicate successfully in an English-speaking company or in international business situations.

"I'm afraid of using the wrong word and seeming unprofessional or incompetent."

"I find it frustrating when I'm speaking with a client and I can't think of the right word to say. It feels like my vocabulary is holding me back and preventing me from expressing myself fully."

Above are the types of things you will hear from professionals in the business world who are motivated to follow a business English course.

In a business English course, you will usually learn various topics, ranging from business vocabulary and idioms to cultural differences.

You will also go in-depth into more topics in a professional context, such as writing business emails, writing reports, giving presentations, negotiating, and how to speak in business meetings.

Some courses (like ours) may also include role-playing activities that give you the chance to practice using your business English skills in realistic business scenarios.

talk to customers easier after business english course

Benefits of business English courses

Taking a business English course can help improve your career in many ways. The most important is confidence.

Speaking confidence

To be completely honest, I've taught some students in the past who didn't actually improve their English skills dramatically. But the truth is, their English was already better than they thought it was at the beginning of the course. They just needed a boost of confidence.

I'm not talking about flattery or compliments. I mean the type of confidence that comes with knowing you have the ability to do something.

It's much easier to speak English in business meetings or when you have been speaking English consistently in an English course and getting more comfortable with it.

This consistent speaking will help you speak more fluently and help you feel more confident when you speak English at work.

Improve your vocabulary for the business world

When you find yourself facing the problem of searching for words in English, the solution to the problem doesn't require rocket science: you just need to learn more words!

By learning the specific vocabulary words you need every day at your job, you won't have to stop and think about which word to say next.

But to get to that point, you'll need to learn the words you don't currently know. If you take a business English course, they will expose you to new words, teach you their meanings, and give you the chance to practice speaking them.

If you study on your own, you'll have to find your own ways to expose yourself to new business vocabulary and teach yourself its meanings.

The difference in business English vocabulary

Business English vocabulary is much more like what you would learn in a business course in university rather than the general English words you would learn in a general English course.

You'll end up learning a lot about the business world in general if you take a business English course that was designed by people who are business professionals themselves.

This can help you far and above how a general course would because you're not only learning English, but you're learning about topics that will help you in your career as well.

Learning about specialized business topics

Topics like salary or deal negotiation, asking for a raise, giving presentations, sales meetings, marketing, finance, design, customer service, and various business sectors; there's really no limit to the topics that could be covered.

I once had a business English student in one of my courses tell me he thought my course was "like a mini MBA!". You can always ask what topics will be covered in a course before you take it to see if it will cover topics that will either help you advance your career or your personal development.

Your time is too precious to ever waste time on something that's not going to help you improve core skills or make progress toward your professional goals.

using business english and talking at work

What is a general English course?

A general English course is similar to a business English course, but it won't cover things related to business settings or business vocabulary as much.

Many people who want to improve their English language skills aren't necessarily interested in business topics. They might want to improve their English in order to get a better job, but that doesn't mean the skills they need to improve are business related.

For people like this, a general English course is perfectly beneficial.

A general English course will help you improve your English skills overall. If you find yourself making mistakes with the verb tenses, structuring your sentences incorrectly in speaking or writing, or consistently searching for vocabulary words, all of these can be helped with a course.

Benefits of general English courses

By taking a general English course, you can study not only your basic grammar and vocabulary but also more advanced topics like conditional verb tenses and advanced writing styles.

It all depends on the focus you want and the level of course you take.

You can learn proper English grammar that will help you improve your writing and speaking, things like intonation that will help you sound more like a native speaker, as well as expand your vocabulary and learn the best ways to sound natural using the new words you learn.

You will be able to better communicate in international environments, making things like traveling abroad much easier, as well as understanding English easier when it's spoken to you.

English courses vs. independent study

You could always try to learn English on your own, but the benefit of learning in a course is that the course will be structured in a way that has been shown to be effective in helping you improve.

A course can also keep you on schedule and help prevent you from procrastinating and letting your learning journey get derailed.

The focus of general English vocabulary

General English courses will focus on the everyday language you need when using the English language.

Lower-level courses will focus on basic vocabulary, trying to start with the basic knowledge you need to build a proper foundation for learning English going forward.

More advanced courses will try and teach you more complex vocabulary. One of the best things about English is also the worst: you can say things in many different ways.

While this is great when you want to use the English language for writing persuasive or entertaining text, it sure does make it more difficult to learn.

Advanced courses will focus on this while also covering things like Latin roots and context reading, aiming to give you the skills to understand words you might not know but can decipher using these tools.

difference between general english and business english

Why might someone choose a general English course?

If you want to learn skills like explaining your ideas more thoroughly or communicating your ideas in a more advanced way in English, a general English course could work perfectly for you.

Whether you're a doctor, an attorney, or an architect, almost anyone can benefit from a general English course when it comes to taking your ability to use the English language to a new level.

Why might someone take a business English course?

If you're someone whose job is deeply rooted in the business world and you almost exclusively use your English skills for business purposes, a business English course could be an even better option for you.

The business context of the lessons or the opportunities for professional growth that come with these types of courses could be better suited for your professional situation or goals.

general english and business english

Do you need a business English course?

Depending on your learning style and your individual needs, either of these two types of courses could be beneficial for you.

Now that you're at the end of this post, hopefully, you not only understand the difference between business English courses and general English courses, but you can also decide which of our online English courses is the best option for you.

If you're looking for a business English course, we have an incredible one for you here, and if you're sold on a general English course for your situation, check out our general Advanced English course here.

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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