For those wishing to study business English, Australia offers everything from exam-based programmes to specific courses tailored to individuals’ needs, a flexibility typified by Languages Studies International (LSI), Brisbane, QLD, which, as Heather Clark explains, has many executive students who either have private lessons, join a full-time business English course or sometimes do both.
West Coast International College of English, in Bunbury, WA, specialises in bespoke programmes, relates Jenny Byatt, “We usually deliver one-to-one, one-to-two or one-to-three tutorials according to what the student or their company has requested. For example, we have designed and delivered a civil engineers’ report writing class.” For Claire Sprunt at Phoenix Academy, Perth, WA, “The first step to successful programmes... is ensuring a sound understanding of the training and business needs of our clients. Using an in-house testing service and the Common European Framework (CEFR) we can accurately define English language competency.” Specialised trainers then deliver customised programmes in class and online, she adds.
Alternatively, students can choose longer courses leading to recognised qualifications. Browns English Language School runs programmes in Brisbane and the Gold Coast based on the Cambridge Business English Certificate (Bec). “The course aims to improve the students’ ability to use English in a business context, improve skills to sit the exam and increase the students’ awareness of the global business world,” says Michael Griffiths at the Gold Coast campus.
Small classes are a benefit of many executive courses. “These intensive tailored programmes ensure each student is constantly involved and challenged in their learning and supported by their teacher, resulting in maximum progress in minimum time,” enthuses Helen Ayers at OISE Sydney, NSW, which has a maximum of four students per class.
In terms of skills covered, courses cover presenting, negotiating, clarifying, networking, correspondence and current affairs. Byatt extols the virtues of grammar in business English, “I believe grammar is the foundation on which all other skills are built if the grammar is shaky, everything else will always lack the polish and level of professional control that companies like their staff to have in business communication.” The importance of cultural understanding is also emphasised. “We equip students with cross-cultural understanding, diversity in thinking, and the ability to adapt to different work environments,” informs Janelle Adams at the University of Sydney, Centre for English Teaching.
Sue Woods at Australian Catholic University (ACU), Brisbane, QLD, acknowledges the need for companies to produce globally literate staff with cultural and linguistic competence. “So in designing our English programmes, we need to add elements unique to our particular setting to make study in Australia a worthwhile investment. Workplace experience, professional visits, specialist lectures and workshops rate highly.”
There are a number of “real world” techniques utilised to enhance business study. At LSI, for example, “Each week culminates in a case study based on real-life situations during which students will take part in such things as a meeting, a negotiation or give a presentation,” explains Clark. Meanwhile at Browns, as Griffiths relates, every course involves a business simulation project. “Students work in groups to come up with a real product, write a business plan, market the product and sell it.”
As might be expected, several programmes offer the opportunity to combine study with some practical work experience. ACU offers an optional five hours per week internship which “runs concurrently with the course so that students can bring their real-life experience back to the classroom for discussion and reflection”, explains Woods. LSI, meanwhile, works with an internship company so that students can follow up their classes with seven-to-26 weeks work experience.
Many schools highlighted the Australian economy as a reason for studying there. “Australia, and Queensland in particular, has weathered the global financial crisis better than many other parts of the world,” argues Griffiths. Within Australia, schools are quick to integrate themselves with the needs of local industry. “Most executives we teach are going to be working in mining-related industries in regional Western Australia,” relates Byatt. As the only regional college in the area, they are “uniquely placed” to provide assistance in helping students understand regional life and avoid culture shock. Griffiths, meanwhile, points to the strength of the tourism and hospitality industries in Queensland and the employment opportunities available within them.