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BUSINESS ENGLISH: how to improve your command of the language

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Most executive education programmes are conducted in English, so a good working knowledge of the language is absolutely essential to take the maximum out of the programme.

And, of course, it is today a fundamental skill if you seriously aspire to a top executive position.

Not fluent in English? Here are a few things you can do.

A – If you are in a hurry and there is no time to properly address the issue.

get a translator: almost impossible but just check it. While we have found some custom programmes that are translated on the spot into another language, namely Russian, this is extremely rare and not all practical. Most business schools will reject your application if you fail to demonstrate evidence of your proficiency when required to.

expose yourself to english: start immediately to practice: watch tv programmes broadcasted in english, read newspapers and magazines, look for any oportunity to talk that you might have on your job or in your private life.

get private lessons: hire a good teacher that can give you private one-on-one sessions at home or at the office. Make sure that they are good in teaching business english. Look for professionals that teach exam preparation for the GMAT or TOEFL in your region. A good place to look is at the your local Business School. We list a few people at the end of this post in the Lisbon and Porto regions. Contact us if you want to reach them.

B – you are planning ahead and you have time

go to a residential language programmes: this is the best option of all and in my view the most efficient. Of course this is the most expensive solution. You will spend one week or two completely immersed into an english-speaking environment. Yes, they really mean it: you will not be allowed to talk in any other language during your whole stay there. If you can, choose a place in an english-speaking country. UK is our favorite, of course. We do recommend CERAN. We have used their services in the past with several clients and it really worked. Other alternatives includes Marcus Evans Linguarama and Richard Lewis Communications at the Riversdown House. Do not forget to mention www.execeducation.biz in your first contact to get special conditions or contact us: we are happy to help you.

take business english classes: this option is slower, less efficient but is cheaper. Eventually, you will get results if you take it seriously. Perseverance is key. Choose a school with good references and a good brand in your region. Again ask your local Business School who they would recommend.

take a teach yourself course: take this option only if you are a believer. We used this method to learn Portuguese more than 20 years ago and it worked (well, at least people seemed to understand me at the time…). Choose a good product. ASSIMIL is very popular in the french-speaking countries.

expose yourself: try to watch TV programmes, get a subscription to a newspaper or magazine. Of course we definitely recommend the Financial Times or The Economist. Plan to spend part of your next vacation in an english-speaking country. There is a lot to choose from. And not all of the english-speaking countries are as rainy as the UK!


Teachers in Porto:  Joseph Guerra (profile on facebook) | Allan Marshall Weed (profile on LinkedIn; also GMAT preparation)

Teachers in Lisbon: Michele Majewski, GMAT preparation; We suggest you contact also the British Council in Lisbon.

Note: choose your teacher carefully as you would choose a coach (more on this soon). Don’t be shy or afraid to ask prospective teachers tough questions: How much and how often I will have to pay you? Can you give me the contacts of recent students of yours? What are your qualifications? For how long have you been teaching english to adults? What schools or institutions have you worked with? etc.. We think students should be aware of the answers to these questions when comparing possible teachers of English. And choose on the basis of what you want to achieve and on how much you are ready to invest.

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