There are a wide variety of English courses available for those wanting to learn the specialist language of their business field, with English for law, tourism, finance, the military and aviation just some of the courses on offer. Many language schools in the UK offer such specialisations as part of their suite of business courses or otherwise enable their students to choose a particular subject as part of their one-to-one language teaching provision.
Ian Harrington, Managing Director at Berlitz Manchester, says that 10 per cent of their business comes from English for professionals courses, including English for law, English for aviation and English for the military. He believes that such courses have become more popular in recent years as “clients are becoming more focused on courses tailored to their specific needs”.
The recent economic slowdown has generated mixed results for this particular sector of language teaching as the high price attached to such specialist courses makes them less popular at a time when companies and individuals are trying to make cut backs. However, Robin Garforth, Director of Sales and Marketing at St Giles International in London, says that he noticed the opposite effect last year, with growth in this area exceeding expectations. “2010 has been a strong one and without doubt this is a reflection of a good quality product, with careful price structuring, providing the skills and training that companies need to keep ahead in a more competitive commercial environment,” he adds. “It reinforces the fact that as the commercial environment becomes more competitive, developing these key skills becomes more and more important.”
Emily Shaw from Anglo-Continental in Bournemouth says that students are increasingly seeing the benefits of a more focused English language course and numbers have gone up in recent years. “Potential clients are more aware that it can be more beneficial to follow a course which involves development of language useful for the context within which they work, rather than general English.”
Garforth also notes that the trend has been towards shorter, more intensive courses with a clear focus on skills training as business people seek to get the most out of their study abroad trip in the shortest time. He has also noticed a broadening of training areas delivered over the last year. “From military English designed for senior land forces officers from the Middle East, to air traffic controllers in France to veterinary sciences from the Baltics we’ve seen it all this year!”
Isobel Clarke from Wimbledon School of English in London says that they have recently introduced International Financial English with Cambridge ICFE preparation and are hoping that it takes off. “Our English for professionals courses have really become more popular in recent years [and] we believe this to be because generally students are more aware of their goals and what they hope to achieve. They tend to be more focused and interested in current affairs.”
In terms of the nationalities attracted to professional English courses, schools in the UK report differing student markets for this sector. Clarke says, “We have a wide variety of nationalities participating in these courses. Currently we have students from Argentina, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Russia.” Indeed interest in business specific courses seems to span all geographic regions.
Garforth says, “Top nationalities are still primarily from Western Europe, Switzerland in particular, and this is a region that, while not having the strongest growth, has benefited considerably from a strong exchange rate with [the pound] sterling. The largest increases last year were from the Middle East UAE and KSA in particular largely due to group tenders.”