teaching professional people english
Learners who come to english as a tool for their management career can be a challenge. I have ways of getting people to talk (although I’m careful not to leave scars). However, although I know that the talking really is what brings about the most progress, I sometimes find myself feeling as though I’m chatting vacuously rather than actually working. Taking some formal lesson content along to use before I coax the student into extensive conversation helps me with this.
A very good source of material for managers is the British Council website, and I’d like to recommend one of their podcasts for use in the classroom. You can download the audio from here as well as a pdf transcript with some preliminary true/false questions. There are lots of interactive exercises to accompany these podcasts but they are probably better used by students outside classroom time. That said, if you think that the listening might be a stretch for your weaker students you can visit these and pick up ideas for vocabulary to pre-teach, for example.
Here’s how I have used this piece recently.
Set-up: I explain that I have brought along a listening exercise from the British council website, and that I shall stop the audio strategically in order for the student to give his opinion. I give him the first page of the pdf folded so that he can only see the questions, not the transcript. Sometimes the questions help, sometimes they don’t. Make sure you give the student a brief pause so that he can read them.
Listening: I start the audio and keep an eye on the transcript. Try to make a mental note of the point at which the exercise actually starts – that way when you replay it, you can by-pass the introduction. When the dialogue reaches ‘…and that’s another thing. He never listens!’ hit pause and ask the student what he thinks. Does the complaint sound reasonable? If he was the HR manager, what would he recommend? What seems to be the problem exactly? When was the tipping point in this situation? Have you ever been in a situation like this (from any angle)?
You may need to play the audio more than once but more often than not that won’t be necessary. When you hit upon the obvious question – why hasn’t this chap spoken to his line manager directly? resume playback.. I just play the next two lines of the script, from ‘Right ..’. to ‘he has no time for us’. Does this shed any light on the situation? (‘For us’? Are other people in the department having problems as well? Given that pinning the manager down is proving to be difficult, what advice would the student give? Usually they will recommend either e-mailing the manager, or calling a 3-way meeting with the employee, the manager, and HR..)
When this discussion has run its course, play the onversation to the end and see how the student evaluates the HR manager’s performance. Usually it is felt that she gives a good account of herself and that the situation may be salvageable.
Follow-up: At this point, I have had very interesting discussions about preparing for difficult meetings and about employee relations. Some points which you may be able to bring up are;
I daresay that there is enough material here to keep you occupied for a lesson.. have fun!