teaching professional people english
A recent post on this site provided some lesson materials on the subject of managing change. It was a ‘classic’ scenario – a well-introduced white urban professional, and an established business with a track record in an existing market place. One of the reasons I picked that particular video was the accent the businessman has – a nice, neutral mainstream American accent. Not too difficult. Of course, lots of people – millions of them – in emerging economies, have very different accents. Teachers tend to classify them as ‘difficult’ and ‘not standard’… and eliminate them from our materials. Often, this is doing students a grave disservice because they are going to be working with these very people when they get out into the wider world.
For all these reasons, and also because I think that this story is appealing in its own right, I decided that this article and audio were something that some of my advanced students would benefit from working on. See what you think..
First of all, my picture definitely has NOTHING to do with business… but I have found a video of a market in Accra, Ghana which will set the mood very nicely. There is sound, but no speaking, and you can turn it down and just use the images to stimulate conversation. I expect that this will be a good forum for airing stereotypes of all kinds… which may or may not be disproved by the article.
Sample questions for discussion;
What types of business do you think could thrive in an environment like this?
Which members of the community are most likely to go into business for themselves?
What do you expect the biggest challenges are? Are there any advantages to living in an emerging economy if you want to start a small business?
How much start-up capital do you expect a small business would need?
What types of raw materials do you think people have access to?
It’s quite possible that people will give very negative answers… typical considerations will involve corruption, violence, lack of infrastructure, political instability… womens’ issues may come up, as well as a lack of access to education and its consequences for companies looking to recruit a workforce. The subject of micro-credit may be mentioned when you get on to the topic of start-up capital.
Article and audio
This being a lesson for advanced learners, I suggest just giving students the article, or access to the web page. The BBC site has a ‘print’ button should you choose to use it. There are some language points which I think are important;
I just love the down-to-earth advice this man gives – and that he doesn’t mention any of the negative, stereotypical concepts that spring to mind when we discuss African business.
When you’re satisfied that your students have grasped the language and concepts in the article, they can tackle the audio. It is challenging for anyone who is not familiar with African accents, but as it is the material which served to inspire the article it follows the same broad lines, and there are just a few additional pieces of information.
In cases like this, I ask the class to listen and compare the information with what they already know. Are there contradictions, omissions, or additional points?
The BBC has lots of additional materials linked from this page, and students could reasonably be asked to take a look before the next class and report back on something they had watched or read. Alternatively, they may have encountered other stories or people from a similar background, and have lots of things to say on the subject.
Once again, ‘how the world has changed’ may be a thread – entrepreneurs in emerging economies don’t have the red-tape issues we do in the west. We used to operate in the same kind of unregulated business environment. One possible area of follow-up discussion could be an evaluation of what the negative and positive aspects of modern western business regulation are, and what emerging economies might want to avoid …