Review: English for Business Communication

This review originally appeared in IATEFL Voices 281. You’ll be pleased to know that Voices reviews have a 400 word limit, which saves you the pain of all my usual rambling in reviews! Haha.

Dr Mable Chan

Routledge Applied English Language introductions (Taylor and Francis)

2020, 267 Pages

This book is aimed at students and professionals learning English for business and workplace communication. It focuses on both written and spoken communication, providing a useful overview of the language needed to complete a range of workplace tasks. Cultural norms and appropriate types of interaction (e.g. when to be direct; non-verbal behaviour) are also explained throughout the book.

The eleven chapters include advice on writing formal reports, minutes, persuasive messages, job applications, and bad news emails. Spoken tasks include delivering effective presentations, making small talk, approaching interviews, and delivering appraisals. There is also a chapter on the use of social media for business purposes which includes some interesting research summaries.

Each chapter follows the same format. They begin with reflection questions related to the chapter content. Then, they introduce the mode of communication, discussing its importance and prevalence. They move on to analyze the mode of communication, highlighting common features of structure and content. Evidence of these features in authentic communication comes from corpora and research. Sample authentic texts are provided. Each chapter concludes with post-reading tasks for learners to apply what they have read.

I feel this resource should be aimed at teachers as well as learners and professionals. It would serve as a good reference book for the type of content to cover when teaching business English (depending on learner needs). It also includes some interesting language analysis which might help teachers develop their subject knowledge.

As a self-study resource for learners the book has some value, although it is not always an accessible read. The author includes linguistic jargon in places (e.g. spatial deixis, deontic modality) which may confuse learners. The post-reading tasks can be demanding and would almost certainly require more scaffolding for learners at or working towards B2 level.  However, the book includes lots of useful lists that outline key features of written and spoken business language, along with tips for improving writing style (including how to be more concise, use positive language, and so on).

Overall, as a reference resource for teachers and learners this is a helpful book, introducing language for a broad range of business and workplace tasks. As a practical textbook (it is marketed as such) there could be more support for learners, even for those at more advanced levels.



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