What Distinguishes Business English From General English?

What Distinguishes Business English From General English

Today we live in a global society, where communication with nearly every area of the world is achievable. The spread of English as a language of international communication makes it even more important for individuals dealing with foreign clients and partners to learn English. This allows them to create productive working relationships.

To be able to satisfy the demands of modern day employers, everyone from university graduates to senior managers should be able use English for work. Effective external and internal communication is important to the prosperity of any organization. The experts who do not have a solid background in general English can greatly benefit from learning Business English.

What makes Business English Different from General English?

The reality is that you will find probably more similarities than differences. Both require core skills in fluency, reading, writing and listening, the use of linguistic principles and, obviously, lots of effort. Having a strong foundation in General English is necessary in order to communicate effectively in business English. However, Business English courses focus on aspects of English that are applicable to the business environment and allow you to communicate accurately. Here are a few examples:

Writing emails/reports

Being involved with negotiations

Participating in meetings

Doing presentations

Making phone/conference calls

Additionally, you will be able to focus on topics that are related to your industry or business, for example, finance, medicine, law, IT, marketing or human resources, while simultaneously improving your General English skills.

Some Other Differences

Business English is cross-cultural

Many people using Business English in the global workplace are non-native English speakers, from different cultures, languages and nationalities, all using what is becoming, essentially, the ‘international’ language of planet Earth. Therefore, an essential part of Business English is that it is cross-cultural. Learning general English generally involves having some understanding of the culture that the language represents, while Business English depends greatly on the cultures. A good Business English trainer may have an acute understanding of this and can adapt the usage of English to the culture the trainee belongs to instead of doing just the opposite.

Business English is not about Learning a New Language

Business English will not be so much about learning to speak a brand new language. Rather, it is about learning how to use the language we already know in business communication. Most of the skills used in business English are the ones that native speakers should also learn. When learning general English, it is helpful if all the learners have the same level of understanding of the language. While helpful, this is not always necessary for learning business English. Since Business English focuses on acquiring special skills that can be used for communicating business needs, it is not necessary to have all the group members at the same level. However, experts believe that some knowledge of general English is necessary for learning business English.

Time is an important Factor:

A person learning business English needs to acquire all the necessary language skills quickly. There is not much time for lengthy courses that generally include skills a trainee will never need to use.


While various teaching approaches and methodologies can be applied to learning general English, the approach in learning business English is basically an activity-based one, i.e. Learning-by-doing.

John Chen is a travel writer currently located in Bangkok, Thailand. He likes writing about Thailand and he writes not only about traveling in Thailand, but also about business, culture, economy and food. If you want to learn Business English in Bangkok, visit www.languageexpress.co.th/en/business-english/