Devil’s Advocate vs Mike Hogan on Business English Teaching and Training

This series is inspired by a conversation between Mike Hogan and myself about examining the controversies in ELT. We wanted to consider the different positions taken by different members of the industry. However, to do so, we’d need a debate, a disagreement of sorts. And it became apparent that we either tend to agree with members of our PLN (flying creatures of the same feathers and all that), or would keep an open mind and be fairly polite and supportive of one another (that is why we tweet and blog). We concluded that the only way to get a real debate going was to actively play Devil’s Advocate (DA). After all, it’s always healthy to rethink our views as we attempt to justify them.

The following debate took place as an Instant-Messaging Chat on Skype.  The statements of here are of the DA and in no way represent my beliefs about teaching. This is merely a tool to spark a dialogue between you, the reader, and all those involved in this project.

So the first victim in the hot seat is my co-conspirator, Mike Hogan.  

Mike currently gives communication skills training to corporate clients based in Germany. He also creates bespoke training concepts for clients and advises clients, training providers and publishers on issues relating to corporate training. Mike is also a Business English coursebook writer. Find out more about him here and follow him on Twitter here.

Chia : The area of Business English teaching is a very grey one…It is often unclear as to whether the BE teacher is teaching English or teaching Business skills.

While some say the two should not and cannot be separated, and that BE teachers should also be well-versed in business, others say that we are simply not paid enough to act as consultants.

Mike: Hi Chia, you’ve definitely brought up an interesting and relevant topic, but before we delve into it, I think you’re confusing the different job/roles.

Consultants and business English teachers are simply not the same thing

Chia : Pray tell. What are the differences?

Mike: Well, before we look at that, let’s just focus first on the BE teacher and what’s expected of them. What is their task?

Chia : What WHO is expecting of them? The clients? The TEFL BE specialists? The layperson? Everyone seems to have a different definition of what is expected of the BE teacher. Some expect a course in Business, some expect communication skills, some expect presentation or negotiation skills, some just want some grammar…

Mike : Right, so you’ve listed communications skills, presentations & negotiation skills and grammar….. We’re getting closer to the big 6: Telephoning, Correspondence, Presentations, Meetings, Negotiations, Socializing/Small Talk. These are the skills which most course books cover, and also those listed in books like:

How to Teach Business English                         or                                                                                                                The Business English Teacher

Chia : So are you saying that the definition of a BE teacher is one that teaches English used to carry out those 6 skills and what is expected of a trainer or a consultant is different then?

Mike : Yes, those ‘6’ are certainly what seems to be expected from a BE teacher , although not limited to those. The expectations of the latter two are fundamentally different, as is what they deliver.

Let’s stick with ‘teacher’ for a moment though. A teacher can come into BE teaching from a number of areas, right? Although it’s often though the CELTA route, right?

Chia : Yes.

Mike : Ok, and many of those may not have had what one might call “professional” business experience before doing their CELTA. (I include myself among them).

So, then those starting out lack the practical experience and knowledge of business meetings and presentations necessary to train their learners. They teach from the coursebooks provided to them and use them as the basis from which to further their own knowledge of said subjects.

As Frendo puts it in the aforementioned book, “a teacher is someone who teaches (for general purposes of general improvement). A trainer is someone who is required to change a person’s behaviour or ability so that they can do a specific job. Training is job-oriented.”

Chia: Isn’t that simply rhetoric? Take the English teaching field outside of BE for example. We call them teachers but many would be pretty up in arms if you were to suggest that they were just teaching for ‘general improvement’. We live in a world of ‘niche markets’ and English teaching is becoming more and more needs-based than ever.

Does that mean that outside of BE, all teachers who attempt a needs-based, job-oriented focus is a trainer?

Mike: Hold on… “Teacher as coach is someone who can help the learner to take advantage of the learning opportunities in their learning environments … to better understand their own strengths/weaknesses, and plan accordingly. This is related to learner autonomy, where the learner takes full responsibility for their learning.” They generally work in-company – as does the trainer – as opposed to within a school environment, a place where ‘the teacher’ is often found.

Chia: All the definitions you are giving seems like pure rhetoric to me. The word ‘general’ in General English is a misnomer. Most experienced teachers will tell you that… And any teacher engaged in 1-to-1 classes will without doubt be using goal-oriented needs-based lessons… You are just giving me definitions after definitions…

Mike: And as you’ve said above, yes the teaching world is a world of niche markets and I wasn’t aiming at making a sweeping statement about what teachers do or what they call themselves, but fundamentally, the definitions are there and they are different from each other. This is how they can be distinguished.

Chia: The boundaries between a teacher, a trainer, and a consultant is not always that clear in real life.

Mike: I haven’t mentioned consultant yet … and yes, there’s a huge difference here: experience and what they do.

Consultants are neither “teaching” nor “training”, but can use their expertise to run needs analyses within companies, create training concepts, analyse the structures in place within, potentially recommend training suppliers, conduct negotiations (rather than ‘teach’ the language for them, or ‘train’ the skill)…and so on.

Following my point of experience (just above) – a consultant (or coach) very often has ‘real’ business experience…and their educational background may well have been a business MA rather than one in TESOL.

Am I getting closer to not just using rhetoric to highlight the differences?

[Note: that was in no way a value statement relating to either type of MA, and I have great amounts of respect for anyone who further their development through further learning, regardless of what it is they’re learning. It should be relevant to them, their needs and direction].

And over the years teachers may, yes, develop into trainers, and from there into coaches or consultants … but it also comes with continual development and not just teaching experience.

Further training and also often ‘real’ business experience are necessary to make that leap/step…as well as the implementation of many of the skills found in our BE course books, i.e. marketing, networking, presentations and negotiations … in order to ‘place’ oneself.

Wikipedia: “Business English means different things to different people. For some, it focuses on vocabulary and topics used in the worlds of business, trade, finance, and international relations. For others it refers to the communication skills used in the workplace, and focuses on the language and skills needed for typical business communication such as presentations, negotiations, meetings, small talk, socializing, correspondence, report writing, and so on.”

Chia: As you have so clearly just shown with your wiki definition of BE, the boundaries aren’t always clear…But don’t you think that part of the issue in the Business world is a failure for clients to recognise what the BE teacher/trainer/coach does? (I’m going to leave out consultant as you have clearly shown that that warrants a whole different discussion) And thus the status of the BE teacher/trainer/coach isn’t clear too

Mike: I believe that one should tread lightly when using the term ‘coach’ as it can often be misconstrued in the psychological or life coach sense … and also in the business coach sense …which is getting closer to the consultant definition I gave above.

Chia: What I’m saying is a lot of BE teachers might be doing the very things that you defined as what a trainer, or even a coach does … but just because of where they work and how they package themselves, they don’t earn the same title and therefore the same remuneration.

Mike: I’m sorry, I have to disagree.

As I’ve just said above … the coach uses very many different techniques to the teacher or trainer. ‘Coaching Toolkit for Business English Trainers’  aims to looks at some of the differences and highlight coaching approaches which can be used be those thinking about making the transition or expanding their own skill set. It’s been co-authored by a Business English trainer who has re-trained as a coach (Anna Stowers) – which also follows my previous point about (continual) development.

So, can we please remove that designation from your objections above and focus then on the distinction between teacher and trainer?

Chia: OK, fair point. I recede.

Mike: I thought you would. ; )  Anyway, coming back to ‘where they work’ and ‘how they package themselves’ and that ‘they don’t earn the same title or remuneration’.

Does a doctor who works in his/her own specialist practice earn more than a ‘general’ ‘non-specialist’ doctor working in a hospital?

Does a mechanic who works for a Formula 1 team make more than the guy around the corner who fixes my car?

Chia: A doctor’s or a F1 mechanic’s specialist knowledge isn’t quite the common sense knowledge that a business trainer needs…

Mike: But are you agreeing that specialist knowledge is worth a higher fee?

Chia: Yes. But common sense packaged as specialist knowledge isn’t necessarily that specialist.

Mike: Ok, and are you also then saying that business (English) trainers’ knowledge of business need just be that at a level of ‘common’ sense?

Chia: It depends on how you define common sense, which of course as we know isn’t that common.

Mike: Common = most people know it.

Chia: Common sense isn’t quite common as such. It’s an ability for logical thinking and as defined by Merriam-Webster as, “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”

It’s an ability to make such judgment – an ability that could be honed from experience, or be instinctive…

But certainly not the same kind of specialist knowledge that a doctor has…

Mike: Yes, there are very many excellent teachers out there, with very high levels of ‘common sense’ that would also make excellent trainers, but common sense is not enough. ‘Specialist’ knowledge of how business works is also necessary. For such people, with (or without) prior professional experience, investing in professional development could greatly help, such as the Cert iBet, or an Intercultural Trainer’s Cert … as is attending the conferences where we see each other and our peers. That combined with practice, i.e. the experience I was talking about earlier, will help them to make the next steps in their career (if they decide to want to go in that direction).

OK, given your background in trading , or sales & marketing … If you were giving BE teaching/training to a group of sales/marketing people or traders, do you not think that you’d be able to relate more to them and their needs than someone who has no idea of these industries (and may not be flexible enough to take a Dogme approach to it)?

Chia: I like the way you sneakily slip Dogme in there to get me on your side… But not today, Mike…not today…

Mike: Well, as I’ve said before (today), the concepts behind Dogme aren’t new (in Business English) teaching, and people teaching/training in this industry need to be particularly adaptable to the needs of their learners.

Chia: Absolutely. But again, I take you back to the initial argument. Most good teachers already practise some form of principled eclectism, which by definition is needs-based.

On my Celta courses, I spend the whole month getting my trainees to elicit, to deal with emergent language, to work with learners’ interests and learners’ needs … even at a Celta level, one could claim that I’m training them to be trainers rather than teachers as such … after all, isn’t that what the communicative approach to teaching about? So is there really a difference between trainer and teacher?

Mike: Yes, there is – context, expectations, delivery, experience, ability, (possible) specialization … and not necessarily location …

There is a growing importance of and focus on improved performance in the workplace rather than mere language level practice and improvement. This means more importance is being given to the level of transfer between what is covered by the TRAINER and how applicable that is in learners’ working lives. It’s not enough for learners to be able to successfully complete activities, role-plays and simulations in training sessions. They need to complete their professional tasks more successfully.

OK. let’s try a different angle…

Do you call yourself a trainer?

Chia : No

Mike: Why not? If it’s just a matter of rhetoric (as you say) and results in higher rates for doing the same thing?? Then it would be a no-brainer to call yourself one, right?

Chia: Because I work for a school and it says ‘teacher’ on my pay slip. Which is exactly my point… I could be doing all the things a trainer does but labels only matter if you are a free-lancer… Thus, my point being, the labels are not about what we do, it’s about who we work for and how much we get paid. In an ideal world, we would be defined by the duties we perform, but in actuality, it is about the marketing and being the free-lancer and not about the job we do as such…

Purely playing Devil’s Advocate, don’t you think it’s extremely unfair that we have to do the marketing and repackaging of ourselves to ‘fool’ the clients into thinking we aren’t the bog-standard ‘English teacher’. Shouldn’t we instead be trying to change the lay person’s view of what an English teacher does so as to ensure they understand the impact we can have on their communicative competencies in their businesses? Shouldn’t we be trying to educate the lay person instead of trying to differentiate ourselves from English teachers?

Mike: We’re not re-packaging ourselves and I don’t know what you mean by ‘bog standard’ teacher. Who is the lay person? Our client?? and what sort of ‘fooling’ are we doing? Regardless of what our clients’ expectations of what a BE teacher is or isn’t.

I believe the best way to fulfill clients needs is to find out what they are (rather than telling them what they are – based on what we want to sell), to consult them and clearly identify their needs then those of their organisation. The person consulting is not necessarily the teacher/trainer/deliverer. It is quite often a centre manager, sales person, external consultant, etc. Then a suitable programme/offer/course/package can be put together for an appropriate fee, with the appropriate type of professional taking care of the delivery.

The key word is ‘appropriate’. Then we can ensure that our client’s needs (and expectations) are met. …and this type of consultancy work should be done be a consultant who can draw on the necessary and appropriate resources to deliver.

Appropriate meaning; what does this individual, group or client need? A teacher, trainer, coach or mix of all.

As I said above, the consultant and the training/coaching/teaching provider are not necessarily one and the same person, but they could be – although as you’ve indirectly pointed out, this could lead to a conflict of expectation in terms of rates.

…and responding to your comment above; there are many (training) institutions which use trainer to delivery their training – drawing on the differences highlighted at the top, and so it’s the distinction is not limited to whether the provider of the service is in a ‘school’ (or agency), or in-company.

Mike: Further to my comment earlier about trainers, coaches and consultants often have business training backgrounds rather than TESOL MA and such, I also think that training of the type that our participants get, i.e. active business people, would also be potentially very useful. I’m talking about fundamental training in the principles of project management, team leadership and such areas. Such training would give the basis for increased insight into business communication and business practices, which again serve to draw a distinction between the titles of professional we are talking about. They could be useful for people aiming to further develop in the fields of corporate training.

In addition, training in international competency development could also be beneficial. There are many specialist course available for thse coming from Business English teaching background, such as those offered by Barry Tomalin at IH, London; Adrian Pilbeam at LTC Bath; York Associates or WorldWork in the UK; or Skylight in Germany.

Yes, it’s about where we do it and how much we get paid, but crucially, it is also about WHAT we do.  Training is about training someone for a change in their behaviour, or ability so that they can do a SPECIFIC job. It’s context based and led by situation … and not just because unit5 of the book deals with business trips and negotiations. [Aside: IF you work with course books, they need to be flexible and adaptable with opportunity for personalization]

Chia: Sure. You can call that training and I can call that good teaching and continual professional development…

Mike: OK fine, but there is a difference in the terms/titles used, built upon (further) training, practical (i.e. business) experience, client expectations, and what is actually being delivered. There are also some key qualities necessary, including, but not limited to, openness, desire to self-improve/invest, ability to become an ‘expert’ in your clients’ field quickly, and others. Maybe we can save the rest for a sequel?

Chia: Thank you, Mike. That is a really concise summary of what we discussed. Sorry for giving you a hard time.


Come back soon for the next DA session, with a new person in the hot seat.

Chia

Epilogue: Mike & Chia are still friends! Mike’s opinions are his own and do not represent any organization he is associated with. Chia was just playing DA.

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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

38 thoughts on “Devil’s Advocate vs Mike Hogan on Business English Teaching and Training”

  1. This raises some good points which I’ve been arguing over for years.The main one being that BE teachers (not just doing an option class, but a course) should be paid more as bosses want people with Biz experience. I also know a heck of a lot of teachers who WON’T teach BE as they say they know nothing about it.

    I spent about 7 years banging on about this to the ADOS,DOS,Director,course head and even the CEO but the line was “no, they are still EFL teachers”.This meant that I had to do everything but strangely enough the Uni prep folk got about 40 quid an hour while the EFLers teaching EAP only got 15. From time to time though (to save money) the EFLers got hired to teach Uni prep at a big saving.

    I’m happy to say that I consider myself as a BE teacher and at one point I did it FT but I never got paid extra. Now I do it in-company and I do. Yes, I do some ESP things like on Incoterms and Logistics but it needs doing.

    This also leads onto the issue of What is BE? Many sites/schools do lessons like ‘what’s a cool CV’ or ‘the working week’. This isn’t BE in my book but just GE with a business topic. Picking up Market Leader and doing something on takeovers and bringing it a live with modern examples and business speaking skills requires more than the average GE class, well I think so anyway. Cue backlash!

  2. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments, Phil… I feel another lovely debate brewing…

    First things first, I don’t understand…are ‘uni prep teachers’ not simply EAP teachers? And can’t EFL teachers become EAP teachers? What do the bosses think is different between EFL and EAP?

    As for BE, I do agree that doing a lesson on writing CVs or one’s working routine doesn’t quite qualify it as a BE class. However, a lot of the language and even sometimes the skills taught in BE classes are not that different from GE, albeit in a different context. Of course, the teacher needs to be knowledgeable and flexible enough to mediate and extend discussions regarding more business-related topics and contexts.

    Ultimately, the client is most likely to know more about his business and his field much more than the BE teacher/trainer could ever know, even if the teacher/trainer had business experience.

    So, perhaps what is required to deliver a BE lesson that is more than the average GE class is a huge dose of curiosity. Curiosity about my client’s business and area of expertise, curiosity about my client’s opinions and take on different issues that he’s concerned about and interested in. Curiosity about the business world and how it all works.

  3. And lexis.

    I did one this morning on transportation and I had to know stuff like the difference between Crates, Containers, Drums, maximim payload and tare weight then Bills of Lading and FCA FAS. This isn’t general GE territory and if I didn’t have a degree in Business and have taught it I couldn’t add this dimension.

    EAP? Well, I know a few EFLers who got into it and teach at uni for lots of money, you can even do it as a FT job but I also know a lot of teacher teachers who do EAP and aren’t EFLers. Which is best, I don’t know.

    1. Ah yes, but Phil, you managed to swot up on crates, maximum payload, Incoterms, and whatever is required because you are flexible, curious and simply a genius…and I’m sure you delivered a marvellous lesson! So not having a degree in Business didn’t really stop you, did it?

      1. Hmm. OK other situations:

        1)You are teaching ‘the book’ as usual and students who are paying quite a lot for this class ask for more indepth Business content or actually want to learn something about Business
        2)You are using one of the Businessy books like Market Leader or Business Studies for Economic Students and you don’t get the text/topic and the students grill you on it.

        The line is that many schools want people with Business backgrounds knowledge but won’t pay extra but this is also the fault of EFL as there isn’t a real career/study path for BE folk. So in BE you have CELTA types, business people or anyone who can bluff their way in.

        I personally learned more about Business from teaching BE than I did at uni or work but I also had to design and teach Business foundation/pre-MBA courses which NOBODY and I mean NOBODY (CELTA/DELTA teachers in the school) else in our school would touch. If they’s hired corporate or Foundation (working at uni) teachers it would have been easy but they preferred to throw in EFLers and it NEVER worked.Cancelled classes, teachers quit, students complained, teachers walked out,teachers refused to teach..All the average EFLer could do was use a worksheet from Reward or a BE book, a 10 week course in Management, Entrepreneurship, Direct Marketing or International Trade was not suitable for them.

        Yes, as you argue, I saw teachers ‘swat up’ but you would hear “I didn’t have a clue and they knew it” or “they asked me…I didn’t know”.

        On the few occasions I found experts it was amazing. They taught classes at the drop of a hat and brought amazing ideas and stories to the courses.

        So, do we need experts for BE content classes? Perhaps yes.
        Do we need people with BE background/knowledge to teach Unit X of InCompany on Stress at Work? No.

        It depends what your students want and where you stand on the Business English/Business content discussion.

    2. Hi Phil, thanks for commenting. In reply to your comments below from 5:29, you’re right about the type of teacher most schools look for: CELTA Qualified (with exceptions, of course 🙂 ) to be then given in-house training, while many BE freelancers either are ex (or still current) school teachers or the businessy types you refer to below, or poeple with both backgrounds.
      The hurdle for CELTA graduates is that many language school (BE) stipulate 2 years experience teaching BE before they’ll take you on. The obvious objection is how can one get the 2 years experience if no one will give you the courses/job? Catch 22! I was in exactly that situation and got a lucky break (thanks again – you know who you are if you’re reading this). I think the important thing is the willingness on the teacher’s part to want to take on new challenges, to seek out a mentor/peers for support, to put in the time learning, developing and growing, and also be willing to further invest in themselves to build competency. This is when the ‘lucky breaks’ will come. It’s important, however, that the new challenges are realistic and people are not taking on training for which they are not suitable. As you’ve mentioned colleagues saying NO below. It’s OK to say no.

      You also mentioned the lack of a career /study path for BE folk – I believe (rightly or wrongly) it is grounded in ELT qualifications, for example applicatants for the Cert iBet must have an ESOL/ELT qualification (http://www.trinitycollege.co.uk/site/?id=1469). So, there is a starting point and a pth in place. The further training options I mentioned above can also be often gained without an ELT starting point.

      And yes, the expert you’ve written about could teach at the drop of a hat as EXPERIENCE was on their side – an obvious but very important fact. (regardless of whether one’s looking at this from a business school/uni (you) or an in-company (me) training point of view.

      Of course, as I mentioned in the original discussion with Chia, it’s important to think of the goal of the learners’ training: is it based on language acquisition or professional skills development, e.g. Sales training in English for German sales people at B2+ English level? Would the trainer need to have a sales background if they were teaching from a book, or conversely, a teaching background if they had no book? BE trainers may often find themselves competing with trainers with, e.g. a sales and training (not ELT) background, and so business knowledge will be essential to offer added value when pitching against them for training contracts. Do you know what I mean?

      …and, finally, Yes, I do agree with your yes/no position of teaching BE content vs teaching from a book. But then again, who JUST teaches from a book? I don’t know anyone in BE (in-company corporate) who does, and if they do, they should be asking themselves if they are delivering the best their learners can get and need.

    1. Thanks Brad. Don’t worry…No bloodshed here…
      I think Mike and myself really thrived on the sparring…My adrenaline starts to pump just reading the dialogue back….wouldn’t you say, Mike?

  4. As I expected, a lively and forthright exchange of views! Thank you both.

    Quite a lot of the debate circles around defining a meaningful difference between what it means to teach GE and what it means to teach BE, as well as what other differences are implied by the terms teacher, trainer, coach and consultant, am I right?

    As far as I can see, Mike makes the point that BE “professionals” (to avoid using a disputed noun here for now) require greater specific subject knowledge and/or the ability to service greater specific subject client needs – justifying thereby a higher price tag.

    Now, that is based on the a priori argument that the kind of subject knowledge and or the kind of skills required to service client needs is in fact more demanding (and therefore more specialised, and therefore more expensive) than that which a GE professional would require.

    I think that’s debatable.

    First of all, we are all aware of the fact that GE classes are full of individuals, people who – taken seriously and on their own terms – each present a unique learning challenge for the teacher.

    In order to service each person’s needs, the teacher needs to either be conversant with each person’s subject interests, specialisms and likely domains of use of the L2. And in a GE course, there is a de facto requirement for the GE professional to be able to do this for each learner’s personal and professional dimensions.

    In this sense, the GE professional might be said to be required in practice to do – at least in part – the job of the BE professional as well as being “just” the GE professional. And that with lower remuneration (and no matter what one may say to the contrary, our industry does not permit as much fee negotiation as those who say “if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth!” – it may work for Rocky, but that’s Hollywood, not Holyhead Language Academy*…

    Here’s a working example. A friend of mine has just started language lessons, ostensibly for personal (GE) reasons. They work in town planning as a PA – but do not explicitly want this to be part of their classes. So far, so good, as this looks like typical GE fodder…

    But then, in lesson one, the teacher gets thrown a curve ball. Turns out my friend is hugely interested in “Theaterwissenschaft” as that’s what they studied and are interested in in their spare time. “Oh, you mean acting?” No. “Oh, drama?” Erm, no. The GE professional in this case has drawn the short straw – a GE student with ESP needs and interests. And they have a duty to service that: I foresee some midnight oil being burnt there, or my friend’s needs and interests getting short shrift.

    And of course, this reveals the truth of the matter, doesn’t it? ESP professionals have long argued that “there is no such thing as General English”, there are only specific purposes and needs. Each learner is a case in point.

    Every GE professional who teaches a class at a lower rate of pay than a BE professional has drawn the short straw – because the label may be “general”, but people don’t work like that.

    That being so, isn’t it time we admitted that maintaining a false hierarchy between GE and BE justified on the insulting basis that a learner who comes to class for ostensibly private reasons requires less of a skilled worker than someone who declares that they “need English for work”, thereby enabling those with vested interests in keeping teacher remuneration as low as it can be pushed, is wrong?

    And that instead of this, shouldn’t we – learners, teachers, trainers, coaches, consultants, schools, and the companies who have training budgets – actually grow some ethical guts and raise the bar, instead of fighting for scraps at the table by seeing if by calling ourselves a different job title we can yap a bit more loudly than the rest of the pack.

    Yours in devilish spirit,

    Anthony

    * = Holyhead Language Academy is a fictional example and so don’t even think of suing me. Anyway, I’m not teaching BE these days and hence I’m skint 😉

    1. Thanks Anthony for expanding on the blurry difference between a BE teacher and a so called ‘General’ English teacher. Considering that you are on the side of the Devil for this one, I’m going to hand over to Mike to respond first. ; )
      Mike, for heaven’s sake, don’t pile on the definitions again…Anthony is not going to buy it…
      *wink* (you know I really love you, Mike)

  5. Chia and Mike – thanks for the interesting debate.

    Personally in the mind of the client/company you are either an EFL teacher or a consultant/trainer. From a marketing perspective EFL owns the segment.

    Maybe in Germany clients know the difference between Gen, BE, ESP and will pay, but here in Spain a less sophisticated market they just want a native EFL teacher.

    We offer biz skills and intercultural skills and offer it in both Spanish and English that way in clients’ minds we are a Training and Consultancy company and we charge a lot more.

    In Spain its either EFL or Business Training, BE fits in EFL.

    Harsh but true. If you give me the marketing budget to compete with EFL in Spain maybe I could convince clients of BEs value added.

    To give you an eg I was a president / am a member of Toastmasters in english in spain where I target potential clients. They pay us top rates but there are members who are teachers who get paid as EFL teachers for offering the same skills and experience. Why? They tell client they’re BE teachers and they only hear English and teacher.

    1. Thanks Christopher for your insightful comments.

      To reiterate what you just said, you have encountered teachers who offer the same skills and experience as those from a Training and Consultancy firm but are paid only as EFL teachers because of their ‘English Teacher’ label?

      Are you hearing this, Mike?

      ; )

      1. Hi Chia,

        The point I wanted to make is about perception and marketing.

        Two people with Toastmaster experience wanted to sell presentation skills training to potential clients who visit toastmasters.

        The Biz Trainer (me) was able to charge 3-4 times more than the EFL teacher. Why? Because the client hears EFL and teacher while with me its biz training and consultant.

        Or for e.g. Biz Schools here in Spain that offer BE with business modules and biz skills that they also offer in spanish. The pay difference between the lecturer and EFL teacher is again 3-4 times.

        Chris

      2. Indeed, Chris, perception and marketing means a lot. In my debate with Mike above, I tried to play DA by saying the following:

        Shouldn’t we instead be trying to change the lay person’s view of what an English teacher does so as to ensure they understand the impact we can have on their communicative competencies in their businesses? Shouldn’t we be trying to educate the lay person instead of trying to differentiate ourselves from English teachers?

        To which of course one of Mike’s reply was:

        Yes, it’s about where we do it and how much we get paid, but crucially, it is also about WHAT we do.

        I know Anthony has also picked up the above quote…and I think it’s an important one…
        Is it simply perception, marketing and the labels that we give ourselves, or is it really more than that? Is the product offered that different? Should Business English teachers who are conscientious and already delivering needs-based sessions with a focus on communication and business skills quit the language schools they work for and simply for free-lance or offer their services in a training and consultancy firm like yours?

    2. Hi Christoper,
      Thanks for joining the discussion. Great points. Yes, here in Germany there are similar distinctions. The ‘privately paid for’ lessons/courses are generally labelled as GE, even if they’re in a local vocation school (e.g. evening classes) and often end up being like those Anthony’s friend is now teaching.

      Companies are looking for BE, ESP and Business Training. Following an adequate consultation to define needs, an appropriate service can be offered (see my comments on expectations in my reply to Anthony).
      Teacher in German translates to ‘Lehrer’, something associated with school in the primary/secondary education sense. Hence the reason many professionals for in-company training here are ‘trainers’ as clients often have the same hearing issues they do in Spain – although the distinction in titles I’ve made above should be borne in mind.

  6. You mean a favourable Dogme reference or two won’t placate him Chia?

    Thanks a lot Anthony for joining the discussion. In answer to your first question, I’d say that the debate’s more about the differences implied by the different BE professional ‘nouns’ in terms of ability, experience, expectations and marketing, rather than the distinction between what it means to teach GE and BE, although at times Chia was also looking at it from a GE point viewpoint.

    You’ve made some really good points about the GE, BE & ESP distinctions.
    Let me jump in after the bit in bold.

    Good point. I haven’t taught GE in over 10 years, but drew on exactly these competencies when making the switch to BE, something I come back to in the final comment below.

    Yes, the GE professional needs the aforementioned training skills to teach BE, on the level you’ve described, but see my comments above (to Phil 6:20) about BE professionals then having to compete with other training professionals (non-BE/GE/ELT). This is where further skills and experience are necessary. Your GE professionals would then have to compete with both.

    Holyhead Language Academy – Yes, nice point, but in terms of the law of supply and demand, are you not worth whatever it is you’re supplying in the face of your competition and the demand for said product/service? Of course, what you’re worth and what you get are not always the same thing when ‘middlemen’ are involved. Cue: the negotiation skills that are in many BE course books from which we ourselves can also learn.

    I like the example of your friend, and you’ve hit on two really good points:
    1) a thorough needs analysis before the course begins is essential so that everyone’s got the same expectations, which can then be met for a suitable price. ‘Expectations’ as a key concept is something I’ve highlighted before. [Although, yes I know that the cartoonishly stereotypical school owner may want to fob off incoming learners by promising the world. All I’ll say there is they’re risking their reputation. That sort of carry on isn’t, or definitely shouldn’t be, sustainable.]
    2) In any profession, progression comes through hard work and a certain amount of midnight oil. Through continuing in this direction, is your friend not increasing his/her transferable skill set which could then be added to their repertoire of ESP areas? With more practice comes more ability, and more knowledge … learning-by-doing, if you will. So, I’d tell your friend to go for it, burn some oil, learn lots, and see what new (stage) doors it may open.

    In response to your statement that ‘there is no such thing as GE. There are only specific purposes and needs.’ Yes, even buying bananas in the market, something everyone needs to be able to do, could be seen as ESP, although difficult to sell it as that, unless your client is Chiquita. Do you see what I’m getting at?

    As you may remember in a previous blog entry (May 14th) Chia and many others discussed the issue of pay and ‘labels/titles’, which we tried to leave out of this debate in favour of focussing on roles, requirements and expectations. (see link below)

    And yes, false hierarchies are wrong, where they exist. But this brings me back again to the law of supply and demand in terms of GE courses/schools. If school owners scrapped GE courses tomorrow in favour of ‘all ESP’ and raised their prices, their competitors would be laughing all the way to bank as there will always be those who maintain (and expect) the hierarchy, learners included! I agree that raising the bar is definitely a good way to go, but there’ll always be those who pull it back down again by happily working for ‘the scraps’ (see Evan Frendo’s comments in same post May 16th), thus forcing the rest of us to specialize, develop, continue learning and market ourselves in order to get the rates we feel we’re worth.

    (note: the post & discussion on rates of pay: https://chiasuanchong.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/why-are-business-english-teachers-paid-so-badly/ )

    1. Thanks for the reply Mike. As you pointed out I perhaps missed the central thrust of the discussion (which I readily concede, and thank you for pointing it out) soI went back and read it more carefully. In doing so, I found the following comments from you which I’d like your help to make sense of.

      1) “Yes, it’s about where we do it and how much we get paid, but crucially, it is also about WHAT we do. “

      – If I read your reply to me (and your comment t Phil 6:20 notwithstanding) correctly, then you would acknowledge that committed GE professionals and committed BE professionals, other things remaining equal, Do the SAME thing, in that they identify needs and service them, to the degree that the client’s individual circumstance requires – and as we I think agreed, all learners are de facto unique, this removes the argument that BE work is in any meaningful sense more “specialised”. That being so, WHAT we do is the same, surely?

      2) “OK fine, but there is a difference in the terms/titles used, built upon (further) training, practical (i.e. business) experience, client expectations, and what is actually being delivered. There are also some key qualities necessary, including, but not limited to, openness, desire to self-improve/invest, ability to become an ‘expert’ in your clients’ field quickly, and others.”

      – These key qualities seem to be identical to those employed by a GE professional doing their job and worth their salt, surely?

      (And don’t pull out the argument that “those doing their job and worth their salt are not the majority, as this is a double-edged argument 😉 )

      3) “but in terms of the law of supply and demand, are you not worth whatever it is you’re supplying in the face of your competition and the demand for said product/service?”

      – Wouldn’t you say that the commodification of education is the root difficulty here? Even if we accept that “training” or even “consultancy” are only quasi-educational pursuits, it doesn’t change the fact that accepting that language teaching (in whatever context) is subject to market forces (meaning financial forces, in reality) means we may as well give up any notion of ourselves as educators and accept that we are in fact market-driven service providers, no more nor less essential than, say, telephone sanitisers (and if you think they are non-essential, Douglas Adams disagrees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Places_in_The_Hitchhiker's_Guide_to_the_Galaxy#Golgafrincham ) 😉

      And doesn’t it suggest that access to “specialised” BE professionals becomes less a case of supply and demand and more a case of capacity to pay, which is subtly different and ethically less easy to go to sleep after?

      4) “Yes, even buying bananas in the market, something everyone needs to be able to do, could be seen as ESP, although difficult to sell it as that, unless your client is Chiquita. Do you see what I’m getting at?”

      – Yes, I see you are getting at a reductio ad absurdum! Of course, this is not really an argument, is it? But to take it seriously for a moment, yes, if we are to take our education and work seriously (as teachers, or as learners) we need to grasp the basic truth that our learning is as individualised and differentiated as your bananas example suggests.

      Where we differ is you suggest that the market would use this reality as a price leverage point, whereas I would suggest that truly realising it would remove its force: a case of BE, ESP or consultancy in opposition to what has hitherto been called GE etc simply a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes…

      Because when everything is truly different, the price ends up being the same – thus removing, incidentally, the Prisoner’S Dilemma situation you posit with the maverick school using a shift in GE-ESP policy to raise prices leading to a race to the bottom. It’s really only the Prisoner’S Dilemma keeping us all in line, isn’t it? That and greed driven by a peculiar grasp of “market forces” and how they relate to learning…

      *Light blue touchpaper, stand well back*

      😉

      PS: I hope you are having even half as much fun with this as I am!

      1. Hi Anthony,

        Thanks for having another look at the discussion. I’m more than happy to clarify your queries.

        1. Yes, identifying needs and servicing them is crucial, although rather than removing the argument that BE is more specialized that GE, might I in agreement quote your previous post, “ESP professionals have long argued that “there is no such thing as General English”, there are only specific purposes and needs. Each learner is a case in point.” and propose that the bar needs to be raised on GE to replace it with ESP?
        My comment you’ve quoted was in reply to Chia’s “Thus, my point being, the labels are not about what we do, it’s about who we work for and how much we get paid.” (just above the freelancer pic). I highlighted the WHAT of what we do in reference to the previously supplied definitions of teacher and trainer. Please see my doctor+mechanic analogies in the original discussion, which support the point I’m trying to make of specialization, expertise and experience….in addition to the skills and qualities you’ve mentioned above and in point 2 below. (remembering that the original debate was not specifically focusing on GE vs BE, but BE titles)

        2. Yes, absolutely. I agree, although these qualities cannot not assumed in all (BE or GE professionals. Dale is a model example (see his comment below – Dec22, 7:51). He may not have got more salt for the commitment and engagement he has shown, but he has developed a certain expertise, which I for one, don’t have. So sure, he’s worth more than me (and probably many of his local peers) to those learners.

        3. I agree with your idealism in principle, but I’m also a fatalist to a certain degree. It’s the fault of the society in which we live. We don’t all have patrons and hang out in the market square with Socrates and his mates to enlighten ourselves and teach those around us without care for providing the necessities of life for ourselves (and our families). Such is today’s society and have to ‘play ball’.
        (And I was in no way suggesting raising rates to clients with a higher capacity to pay!?! Have I misunderstood that? Sound ethics and business integrity are non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned. Such a practice display neither. My point is that professionals should get paid what they are worth … a point I believe you’re also making.

        4. Nice try, but I’m not trying a reductio ad absurdum …although I might save that for whatever’s thrown at me next! Yes, the market would use that example as a price leverage point.
        Learning to buy bananas in the market would need a specific lexical set of phrases, and possibly practice in the language of haggling. Right? The corporate buyer would need those too, but much more on top. Company scale procurement needs to be able to rate suppliers, know incoterms, about tenders, bidding processes, mitigated risk, and so on. This, I believe, is something a trainer (with business experience or compound teaching/training experience) should be doing.

        I agree with your Emperor’s New Clothes point and also that the prisoner’s Dilemma is keeping us in line. See my fatalistic comments in 3.

        I hope I this helps you make sense of my comments and wish you a great Christmas. Remember it’s cold out there, especially if you’ve borrowed the Emperor’s clothes! 🙂

  7. Hi Chia and Mike

    Just to offer my praises for the idea of DA, it’s already got some healthy debate going. I’m looking forward to the next installment(s)…

    As with any debate though, there might be some people who take offence. Consider the GE teacher who does burn the midnight oil researching their students’ needs. Just this summer I taught two super advanced students who needed English for translation, which took me into translation theory and also down a long and enlightening road to modification of noun phrases, previously unchartered territory for me.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that GE teachers who take on a business trainer role don’t get the same sort of recognition or payslip. But, if teachers are to take their jobs seriously, surely this is what they should do anyway? Of course, this could work visa-versa in the sense that a business trainer is blind to their students’ needs and simply teaches. Which do you think is more common?

    1. Thanks for your support, Dale. I think we both know who would be in the hot seat for the next instalment… ; )

      In a way, I’m glad this debate has taken a turn into one that questions the specialisation of both GE and BE teachers, and how much we tailor our lessons to suit our students’ needs.

      We can definitely argue that if done well, all English teaching/training should be needs-based and all teachers should be involved in continual professional development (like yourself). But the question, as you implied, is how many teachers belong to such a category, BE or GE or otherwise?

      1. Chia,
        I agree it should always be needs based if its going to reach its goal.

        And teachers/trainers/coaches should put professional development first.

        My question is, is it in the interest of EFL to let BE and ESP become business recognised disciplines?

        My feeling is that if BE had been started by someone with a business background instead of a EFL or academic background we wouldn’t be having this debate.

      2. If we look around at how specialised things are getting then how can we keep up? We can’t keep training or swatting up on every new subject/area. Yes corporate companies can, in theory, hire a ‘legal specialist to teach lawyers but as things get more and more specialised it will get impossible to find someone with exactly the right specialism. The solution of course is online courses. Books are getting more particular but they are slow to come out and teachers aren’t always comfortable with them. For example, I’ve had my head stuck in OUP ESP books for ages but I wouldn’t like to teach those subjects in fear of “what does…?”.

        The other possibility which is occurring is that instead of doing a 6 month BE course, students just enroll on a Business course in English.In-company wise, I think trainers/teachers… will always be used (whether we are actually needed or just hired due to mandatory training or budgetary spending is another topic).

        I’ve lost track of the amount of BE classes I’ve set up but I think the more content ones were popular with higher levels while the skills (communication/pres/negotiating etc) were for lower levels. At one point we even adopted an A-Level text as the class book and it really worked.

    2. Hi Dale,

      Obsolutely no offence meant to anyone. The idea behind a debate and the DA concept is to get people thinking, talking, and questioning established norms. I’ve actually just been lauding you in my comment above to Anthony (my point 2). How you reacted is a great example of the skills Anthony quotes in his point2 above.
      Yes, it is, of course more difficult to get a change on your payslip when fully employed by a school Vs being a freelancer. However, if there’s more of a need for what you’ve learned about translation theory, why not create a specialized workshop/course around it, present it to you DOS, and offer it to local companies/agencies. If you’re the only one offering this and the need it there, then you are more valuable than your peers. This is the supply/demand point I was making in comments to Anthony above.
      On your final point/question – it’s difficult to say which is more common, but definitely true that both types exist in both BE and GE.

  8. Exactly, some DOS’s encourage this as it brings more to the school. I used to offer a range of possible BE courses and depending on sign-up numbers I ran them. Others included Sociology, Drama, Psychology, Art history.. All run by teachers with a background or just an interest in them. They were VERY popular and led to whole 9 month courses.

  9. Another interesting branch would be :

    What IS a BE lesson?

    Is it just ‘doing the book’? In the case which one is more/less BE?

    After trying quite a few with students the results were:

    InCompany=Just for skills and not realistic enough
    International Express=Too kiddy
    Business Class=Great but too old
    Market Leader=Perfect balance of authentic content and English focus
    English for Business Studies=Real Business content
    Powerhouse=Not British English
    Intelligent Business=Good but still EFL style

    The student choice was ML(int) ML(up-int) EFBS(pre-adv+)

    Their arguments were that they still needed some English help but wanted to do it via authentic texts and realistic BE situations but after up-int just wanted Business stuff.

    Phil

    1. Well done for being number 30, Phil!

      I know quite a few BE teachers who would claim that simply going through each chapter of a course book isn’t very BE at all… (then again, I would say that no teacher, BE or GE, should be just taking their students through each chapter of any course book).

      I suppose BE by its label is meant to be more specialised than GE in a ‘specific purpose’ sense (or is it? *wink*). This would therefore suggest that some kind of needs analysis is needed to tailor the lesson to suit the students…which seems to be the anti-thesis of course books.

      Of course, those like Anthony and Dale (and myself), who argue that all classes should be designed to suit the needs of the students involved, Dogme is clearly the obvious approach to use in all classes sans course books.

      Having said that, as Mike mentioned previously, for BE teachers who have limited business experience, the BE course book acts as a crutch by providing what might otherwise be an unfamiliar context, field, or skill for the teacher to work round.

      However, the question is should we be using these course books cover to cover? Should we use the chapters in their entirety? Or should we just dip into them for resources (like I do with the often useful case studies in Market Leader)?

      If the latter is the case, than why are publishers not just focussing on publishing resource packs and authentic materials with case studies that can be exploited, rather than focussing on fixed syllabi in courseboooks that could risk coming across condescending, or as you say, kiddish, or unrealistic?

      And publishers are publishing them, there must be schools which prescribe them as part of their fixed syllabi. Surely, that’s not very BE? If so, then why are schools that claim to offer BE still doing that?

      A topic to be dealt with now or something for a separate debate?

  10. OK.Short answer as I wrote a long one but it’s vanished.

    On a short ‘BE option’ class for GE students at a language school a Dogme-style course may work as it would be probably be very vague businessy themes like ‘CVs’ or ‘team work’ etc but and this is a big one. On a serious BE course, say a 9 month Foundation, pre-MA, pre-MBE or even BA/MA course a set syllabus needs to be established as if you have 6 classes all doing different things how do you test them all and what can they do in T2/3/4? I’ve done classes and courses with teachers who dipped into everything and I constantly heard “we did this”.

    With a book (used in any manner) or at least as set syllabus you can make sure there’s continuity in T2/3 etc. You can also be pretty sure that when/if they go for internships/uni interviews what they’ll know.

    From my own experience of working with ‘business experts’ they tend to do what they’re good at in all the classes so a Marketer will feed it into every class and this is why students came to me and said “we do marketing in every class with X teacher”.

    Also, never underestimate the addiction of getting sucked into coursebook, practice book, test boo, extra reading book, online book..Yes, I have prescribed ‘the book as course’ to other teachers but only when I’d gained confidence have I adapted/reinvented the book.Also, having a book gives students something to take away as reference, extra reading or consolidation.When I’ve done ‘handouts’ they get lost or left behind.PPT BE classes also get students who sit and listen and just wait for copies of the slides. A book used well does solve these issues BUT a lot of my students have not been happy with books that say Business English on and even unhappier if they don’t have real Business content.

    Yes, resource books I think are really good. I used to worship Business Builder and Harvard Case Studies. BE books keep coming out but I don’t know if they are getting better. On one course I agreed for the teacher to use an A level Business Studies book and the class loved it. They talked, analysed and she helped out wit language but by this level (up-int+) they had enough English to enjoy it.

    It think it all comes down to experience and knowing what the aims/goals are of the course and students. In a language school you may be ‘student-needs’ driven but in a pre-uni or uni course you are judged more on grades, although student FB is increasingly important. This does create some backwash and forced input but as I found out for my dELTA research, if you ask them what they want you, or I, get told ‘videos’, ‘internet sites’, ‘business to help my career’,’talking’, ‘everything to help me pass my TOEIC’. In that case I created a suitable course as a compromise, using BL, online sites, TOEICy topics, video listening, real business situations and discussion. The only reason I was not fired was because that course was 100% participation mark. The result was that all 6 teachers did whatever they wanted and there was a lot of confusion in FB about why some courses were apparently ‘better’ than others.

    Last point: What exactly IS BE? Where does your class sit on the Business vs English continuum?

  11. Hi Chia and Mike – first of all well done on getting such an interesting discussion going – so much good stuff, both in the initial discussion and in the follow-up comments. Not sure what happened to the comment I posted a couple of weeks ago, but here’s another go 🙂

    If someone asked me to explain the difference between GE and BE I would probably start by pointing them towards research by people like Mike Nelson, Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, Winnie Cheng, Helen Spencer-Oatey, Almut Koester and Janet Holmes. Business English refers to the types of discourse found in business contexts, and we can point to specific genres, lexico-grammatical features and socio-pragmatic features which make it distinctive. At its most basic level teaching business English involves an understanding of, and an emphasis on, those distinctions. Yes, needs analysis is an important part of the equation, but has been quite rightly pointed out, needs analysis is not unique to business English. Needs analysis is simply what distinguishes ESP (English for Specific Purposes) from TENOR (Teaching English for No Obvious Reason).

    I think part of the problem is our fixation on definitions. Yes, they can be useful, but words have so many different meaings and connotations that when we talk about “business English” we are really not being very precise at all. It’s a bit like the term “native speaker” – none of us like using it, but we all do because we sort of all understand roughly what we mean. Sort of. But the reality is that we don’t all do the same thing. I work almost entirely in the corporate world, and I would argue that what I do has very little in common with people who teach in a language school or in a university – these are quite different worlds, with quite different philosophies and expectations. My understanding of “business English” is different too.

    Chia’s observation that teaching is about “niche markets” is key. I would add that the whole point about niche markets is that they are not the same – they play by different rules. They have different suppliers, different products, different competitors, different branding … and different rumeration. Even in the same market differentiation is normal. What is surprising is that teachers are surprised by this, or think that it is somehow unfair. It’s simply the way markets work.

    1. Hi Evan,
      Unfortunately, this is the first I’m hearing about the comment you posted a couple of weeks ago. I’m afraid it might have got lost in the ether… Glad you came back and posted again though!

      Thanks so much for your very lucid comments. It is indeed easy to get caught up by definitions, but I suppose Mike was using them as a starting point so as to lay the foundation as for any further argument…and rightly so…(I’m so clearly not playing Devil’s Advocate now…Mike would be sniggering in glee…grr…)

      I really liked what you said about the needs analysis not being the definition of BE but of ESP, which in a way, is what we are all doing, aren’t we? After all, TENOR (Teaching English for No Obvious Reason) does sound quite innocuous, favourless, sullied, undecided and vague, doesn’t it?

  12. Hi Chia

    Yes you’re right about all of us doing ESP. But I see it as a continuum, with hardcore ESP at one end, and TENOR at the other. All of us are between these two points, but at different places. Like “business English”, the term “needs analysis” means very different things to different people.

    1. Absolutely. That’s why definitions can also take us so far, right, Evan? Definitions serve to categorise and distinguish, whereas in reality, everything really takes place on a sort of continuum, a cline. Needs analysis mean different things and definitely is carried out very differently by different people too. Nevertheless, perhaps good to think about what this means to our individual teaching contexts…?

  13. Fascinating read here! I just stumbled onto it somehow by searching around for ideas on naming a language training “company” (meaning me, myself, and I). Interesting points all around, and I just thought I’d add a postcard from the ELT scene here in France.

    The problem seems similar to that mentioned regarding Spain. Most language training companies are looking for trainers that are/have, in order of pritority:

    1. Native speaker
    2. Experience (in any ELT field)
    3. Qualification of some sort
    4. Experience teaching BE
    5. Other professional experience that can be carried over into teaching BE

    However, it seems that for most companies looking to train their staff for a particular purpose (acing international presentations, attracting international scientists, etc.), the priority list goes in almost exactly the opposite direction.

    This means that companies who send their staff to a language training center for some sort of very specific training may end up with a native speaker who has more or less experience, more or less qualifications/training, and more or less experience in BE. That is, unless they are very clear about their goals and reasons for doing the training from the start.

    Just to give two personal examples of this:

    I am currently running a course on web and publicity writing for scientists at a lab here. Before coming to me (through a language school), they spent two years looking for a course that met their needs. They agreed to work with me because I submitted a program to them prior to the first lesson (stating that it was an example and that we would do a needs analysis during the first meeting), have experience writing web and publicity copy, 2/3 of the DELTA, and nearly 10 years experience in teaching. I’m not sure how much my “native speaker-ness” influenced them.

    The city where I live has France’s 2nd largest population of English speakers after Paris, meaning there is no shortage of native speaker teachers, but that simply wasn’t enough. It took this group 2 years to find training that met their needs.

    Here’s another example that was quite different and illustrates part of the problem in differentiating EFL teachers in companies from BE trainers here in France. In France, all full time employees have the right to 20 hours of training per year, paid for by their company. Many of them choose English, but more the TENOR type (see Evan’s post above), which is why NS-ness ranks high on language school’s list of job applicant qualities. Unless it’s company policy (and this varies widely) a needs analysis is at the discretion of the trainer and trainers are attributed to trainees often on the basis of schedule compatibility.

    This was a case for one of my clients via the language school. The client wanted English lessons because he could have them and I happened to get paired with him. During our 1st meeting/needs analysis, it turned out he wanted some highly specific presentation skills to be able to give impressive, TED-style talks at international meetings. (This is where I would personally like to thank Mark Powell and his wonderful book “Dynamic Presentations” for allowing me to cater to the client and learn lots of interesting things along the way). I loved the class because I learned all kinds of things about presentation skills, but on the flip side, I spent way more prep time on this course because I was learning the skills myself.

    Chia mentioned that curiosity is a prime quality for teachers to have and Mike mentioned the desire for teachers/trainers to invest in continuous professional development. If I (or another teacher assigned to him–there are lots of curious developing trainers out there) hadn’t had both of these, this guy might not have gotten what he wanted.

    The disconnect then comes from when clients sign up for English lessons because their company gives them the possibility to do so as a perk (like a company phone, lunch vouchers, etc. that everyone is entitled to) and the company goes to their default supplier (language school) to meet their legal obligation. The supplier assigns the client a trainer (more or less at random), who does a needs analysis (or not), and they go about their business for 20 hours of lessons, ranging from extreme ESP to TENOR, but always with that same randomly chosen trainer. This is what makes it difficult for the trainer/coach end of the spectrum to move away from the GE practitioner end (and thus ask for the increased pay that comes with differentiation).

    I realize that’s a novel of a post, but it seems that the system here in France does little to help BE trainers get the recognition (and pay) they deserve for bring added value to the classroom. This is why the more niche-market trainers strike out on their own to be able to market themselves as “language consultants”, “English coaches”, “linguistic trainers,” “international communication coaches,” or what have you, to avoid (as in Spain) the equation of English + teacher = lower pay.

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