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October 2005 issue

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Business English in Canada

Executive language courses in Canada are evolving to meet the needs of the business world, as well as individual clients, and the increasing popularity of such courses attests to their success.

Most language schools in Canada that offer business English courses report that they first became involved in this sector in order to cater for a growing executive student market. The Canadian as a Second Language Institute (CSLI) in Vancouver, BC, first started offering English classes for executives five years ago because, according to Valéria Castro at the school, they "had a high demand from clients and agents asking for business/executive programmes".

Brenda Brandle from the Canadian English Language Centre in Toronto, ONT, says that their school has been catering exclusively for executive clients since 1986. "There was not a programme exclusively for executives and professionals available at the time and as there was a need, we filled it," she explains.

Executive language courses, therefore, are not a new phenomenon in Canada – Language Studies Canada, for example, has been offering such courses for the last 20 years – although there is evidence that the market is continuing to grow. Castro reports that their business programmes have been extremely popular with a variety of nationalities. "We usually have a full class of 16 students but [at times] we [have] had to open two classes of 16 students," she says. "It';s a great programme because it is extremely multicultural [and] usually we have many Europeans, Mexicans and Quebecois students."

At the Pacific Language Institute in Vancouver, BC, Katie Idle agrees that they generally have no trouble filling spaces on their executive language courses. "Our business programmes are extremely popular," she says. "They usually attract students between the ages of 25 to 40, and all nationalities. Many students choose to combine business English with a career-related internship for practical application of their business English outside the classroom."

In terms of course content, executive language programmes tend to stick to the same general language related themes, including giving presentations, negotiating, marketing and interviewing, although schools make a point of emphasising their attention to staying relevant within the wider business world. Some language schools, such as Linguabiz Business English School in Toronto, ONT, go to great lengths to ensure their courses are relevant to individual clients. "All our programmes are reviewed year round on a regular basis in order to keep the content current and up to date," says Majinder Singh at the school. "We design the fast-track [fully customised closed group programme] using the client company materials and documents. This ensures extremely focused and targeted learning. The client invests and expects the highest return on investment."

With executive language courses costing more than most other general language programmes, it certainly pays for schools to ensure that the standard of these types of courses is high. Singh points out that all their business courses are designed and taught by language specialists with MBAs. "This ensures that our courses are always current and focused on the language of business," he relates, "and delivered by teachers who bring with them considerable business knowledge to the classroom."

Advanced language learning is also an integral part of courses in this sector, as Brandle explains. "The [business] programme is learner-centred and as such is tailored to meet the needs and learning style of clients," she says. "We have added an advanced-plus programme [that] involves refining an already very high level of English skills for the purposes of presentations and negotiations."

According to some schools, continued communication with clients and agents is central to ensuring the development of courses, both in content and delivery. "Following requests from many agents, we launched an eight-week diploma in business communication last year," says Idle. "Professionals with limited time available can choose to study our super-intensive – 30 hours per week – or super-intensive plus at 40 hours per week."

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