IATEFL BESIG is coming up to its thirty year anniversary. As part of the celebrations, various people were asked to write commemorative articles for the BESIG newsletter (Business Issues). This is my contribution - a review of the last thirty years of business English research.

(PS – while we’re on the topic of research, BESIG is hosting an online panel discussion on 4 June 2016 entitled Research into practice - closing the gap, with Catherine Nickerson and David Kertzner as panellists, and me as moderator. The event is open to non-members and is free. Hope you can join us.)

Research Review: Thirty years of business English research (from Business Issues Summer 2016 Issue 93)

Let’s cast our minds back thirty years, to the dawn of BESIG. These were exciting times.

The context

I sometimes get native speakers of English joining my higher level in-company courses in Germany. They come for different reasons – I remember one Indian manager who turned up because his (German) boss thought he needed training to smooth out his accent. His English was excellent, but it was also true that he spoke a variety of English which the Germans struggled with.

I enjoy conferences, and I am lucky enough to go to quite a few. It’s a chance to meet up with friends and colleagues, to learn, to network, to see the rock stars, and so on. And like many of us, when I can’t attend in person, I like to spend time on the conference websites and on social media following what is happening. I can see what people are up to, get links to useful resources, and simply enjoy the buzz.

As most readers of this blog know, I work in corporate language training. Years ago I was asked by an HR manager to test a German employee who had been shortlisted for a possible job in Asia.  The job would entail negotiating in English with engineering suppliers all over Asia.

This year has seen the publication of some really excellent books for anyone teaching English for the Workplace. I thought it might be nice to finish off the year with short descriptions of three of my favourites.

Exploring Professional Communication – Stephanie Schnurr  (Routledge).

This book looks at professional communication from an Applied Linguistics perspective. Full of examples of authentic discourse, it provides a very useful grounding in what such communication is all about.

Almost time for the annual IATEFL BESIG conference. This time it's in Prague, and there'll be around 400 participants. Can't wait.

One innovation this year was for speakers to publish a 1-3 min video preview of their talk. Lots of people took up the challenge, and you can see many of the results on the IATEFL BESIG Youtube channel. My own talk is on Impression Management, and I thought I would try out Videoscribe. See what you think. Just click the link here.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at the Teaching English for Healthcare conference in Locarno, Switzerland. As always at these events, there was lots of discussion prompted by the talks.

Yesterday I stayed at home and went to a conference. It was IATEFL BESIG’s first attempt at a large online conference, and what an excellent event it was too. The focus was on materials writing for business English and ESP, and there were speakers and attendees from all over the world.

Readers of this blog may know that Clarice Chan and I are currently co-editing a new book in TESOL’s New Ways series, called New Ways in Teaching Business English. The book is basically a collection of activities which teachers can use in their own classes, and includes traditional style activities to practice spoken and written business communication, as well as lots of new activities which make use of things like social media and technology.

Another country, another conference, and yet another chance to meet up with ESP colleagues from around the world and discuss and debate issues and concerns. This time the conference was TESOL in Dallas, and a full programme of talks and sessions about ESP and teaching English.

One thing struck me again – how far corporate language training is from the academic perspective of ESP offered in tertiary institutes around the world.