English for Business Life

Title: English for Business Life Series
(Elementary and Pre-Intermediate)
Author: Ian Badger and Pete Menzies
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Reviewed by: Paula Swenson
Review date: September 2005

I was looking forward to seeing these books (especially the Elementary level) because I have been disappointed with English for Business texts at this level in the past, which seem to be either too simplistic for the intelligent business person, or not really Elementary at all. I wasn’t disappointed by these materials, which assume a high basic intelligence level while keeping things simple enough for the English learner who hasn’t much formal English background.

The materials consist of a Course Book, a CD, a Trainer’s manual, and a Self-study Guide with CD for each level. It is the Self­study guide which really sold me. It is written in a straightforward yet friendly manner, and feels a bit like being taught by a knowledgeable friend. The learner has the feeling of really being guided through the lessons and supported via a very conversational approach. I was also impressed with how much basic English (a/an, good/better/best, etc) the authors managed to work in within the context of teaching you what to say in business situations. It is less like being ‘taught grammar’ and more like a colleague sharing tips, which I think will be well received by business executive types who need to study, but don’t want to feel like they have ‘gone back to the schoolroom’.

Both the Course Book and the Self-Study Guide are arranged in 36 bite-sized units, perfect for the ubiquitous 50 ­ 90 minute lessons we all face. In fact, the authors designed the Course to be flexible and suggest exactly what you might do (and leave out) for three ‘levels’ of study: Fast-track (40 hours). Standard (60 hours), and Comprehensive (90 hours). The Self-study Guide can be used alone or as an integral part of the ‘Comprehensive’ study track. The Trainer’s Manual should be helpful in two directions: to build confidence for Business Trainers with less EFL experience as well as for TEFL teachers with less business experience.

The listenings are another strong point. Given the large percentage of Business English learners who will use their newfound language skills mainly with other non-native speakers, I feel that the approach taken here is a profoundly sensible one. In the introduction to the Self-study Guide the authors state that “The recordings include standard accents and examples of people from different parts of the world speaking English.” The course book describes the listenings as designed to “encapsulate target language” while trying to “develop sensitivity to different types of English, in line with the fact that English is used as an International Language between speakers of many nationalities.” My only quibble was the inclusion, on a number of tracks. of a woman with a slight lisp, which some listeners may find distracting.

With the Elementary level targeting those who have studied minimally or picked up English without formal study, and the Pre-Intermediate level for those who have studied for 2 ­ 4 years and “can probably handle straightforward situations in English if the range of discussion is limited, but have difficulty handling the unexpected”-- these books, CDs and Self-study materials seem a welcome edition to a market crowded with high-level texts and, often, lower-level learners.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesPaula Swenson has taught English, including Business English, in Poland and Germany, and is currently teaching students from around the world at Language Studies International in San Diego, California. She has a BA in Communications, TEFL/TESL Certification from the International College of Applied Linguistics, and the FCTBE from London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examinations Board.