10 Ways to Master Teaching Adults English

Adult English language learner in online class in front of computer wearing glasses and headphones and giving thumbs up for teaching adult English language learners by Suzanne Marie



Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Teaching adult English language learners about business communication can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved. With the proper tools and resources, your students will be well-prepared to enter the business world with compelling writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills. 

This guide will cover the basics of teaching English language learners business communication and provide best practices for success.


Teaching has been my passion for more than two decades. Seeing my students improve their English skills and learn more about English culture has been incredibly gratifying.

Most recently, I have had the privilege of teaching business professionals in China who are eager to learn and interested in all things English.

It is truly a rewarding experience to teach such enthusiastic students and help them succeed in their language development.

My students, who are emergent English language learners, are eager to practice and develop English language skills specific to business communication. In addition, they are motivated by the prospect of using their new skills in a real-world context. 

My classes focus on developing my student’s ability to read, listen, write, and speak clearly and concisely. Topics include real-world situations in a business setting and opportunities to practice giving and responding to written and verbal requests.

By the end of the course, my students gain the confidence necessary to communicate effectively in various business settings.

This guide includes best practices based on my extensive experience teaching adult English language learners. 

Teaching Adult English Language Learners

Teaching adult English language learners to develop business communication skills is increasingly in demand. 

In today’s increasingly connected world, proficiency in business English is essential for success in the global marketplace.

By mastering business English, adult learners open professional and personal opportunities.

Business English

Business English is a vital skill for anyone hoping to succeed in the modern world.

To be successful, adult English language learners need to be able to communicate effectively in a business setting. Lessons that focus on relatable and meaningful topics are an effective way to help them develop these skills.

Business English covers many topics, from email etiquette to small talk and networking. For many adult learners, mastering business English can be the key to landing their dream job or advancing their career.

In addition, communicating effectively in business English can help adults build lasting relationships with colleagues and clients worldwide.

Teaching Adults Business English

Teachers who specialize in teaching English for business purposes can help these learners to develop the skills they need to be successful.

By focusing on real-world scenarios and using authentic materials, teachers help learners gain the confidence and competence they need to communicate effectively in various business settings.

In addition, these teachers can help learners understand the business culture and how to conduct themselves professionally in international business settings.

Get strategies and techniques for teaching adult English language learners about the influence of culture on business communication in this blog post:

Here are four vital elements to include when teaching English to adult English language learners. 

Understand Your Learners’ Needs

The first step in teaching adult English language learners business communication is to get to know your students and understand their needs.

It’s crucial to find out what language skills they have and what background knowledge they bring. In addition, know their goals so you can tailor the course to help them reach those objectives. 

To better understand your learners’ needs, start by asking questions these key questions:

  • Do they have a general knowledge of the English language?
  • What is their background in English language learning?
  • Do they already possess some business communication-specific terminology? 
  • In what kind of businesses would they like to apply their skills? (hospitality and tourism, IT, finance, or something else?)
  • What topics are they interested in learning?
  • What do they enjoy reading? Watching? Listening to?
  • What experiences do they have interacting with native English speakers?

Knowing this information can give you an idea of which specific topics and tasks will likely be most meaningful to them.

Therefore, understanding your learners’ needs is the foundation for any successful adult English language business course.

Provide Context Based on Needs

To become proficient in a new language, learners must be exposed to authentic materials and tasks relevant to their needs. This means providing them with opportunities to practice using English in various realistic contexts. 

For example, they might read a short story set in an urban environment and then discuss it with their classmates. Or they might role-play a conversation between two people trying to make plans for the weekend. 

The more exposure learners have to authentic materials and tasks, the better equipped they will be to use English in real-world situations.

English lessons focused on relatable and realistic activities for real-world contexts enhance English language learners’ development of the English language. 

Equip Learners with Relevant Materials

English business communication teachers must provide learners with materials that are meaningful and relevant to their needs.

For example, if you’re teaching a public speaking course, ensure to provide them with samples of presentations given by professionals in their field. Give them tips and guidance on effective speech writing. Then they can use these resources to practice constructing effective presentations suited to their specific industry.

Similarly, if you’re teaching English language learners about emails and written correspondence, guide them through creating a professional message.

Ensure to provide email samples like the types of emails they might send in their industry. Examples include customer inquiry responses or sales proposals. 

Providing relevant materials ensures learners gain greater insight into how building relationships in a business setting work, improving their communication abilities with potential clients and colleagues.

Focus on Practical Applications and Real-World Examples

To ensure adult English language learners apply their new skills and knowledge effectively, focus on providing goal-oriented activities with a real-world context.

For example, give them professional emails to write using appropriate phrasing or provide case studies that illustrate best practices in business communication. In addition, remind them of the importance of keeping messages clear and concise when communicating with business associates or clients.

Adult English language learners must understand how new concepts are applied in the workplace.

Here are some examples of how to incorporate real-world examples into a lesson:

  • Have students practice identifying active and passive sentences.
  • Review the appropriate use of capitalization with real-world examples. 
  • Provide case studies of successful business communication that they can analyze and discuss with one another while tying the topics covered in class to their job roles. 

When English lessons focus on activities relatable to students’ lives and interests, they understand and use the language more proficiently.

Additionally, relatable activities allow them to see the relevance of learning English in their everyday lives.

Finally, practicing English with relatable exercises motivates English language learners to continue developing their skills outside the classroom.

Vocabulary Development

High-frequency vocabulary is vital in teaching adults English because it allows them to understand more complex concepts and express themselves more clearly.

In addition, when English language learners study high-frequency words, they see how English works. Therefore, learning high-frequency vocabulary helps them to understand how to use English in different situations.

Teachers can do a few things to help their students with vocabulary learning. To start, I recommend using translanguaging when teaching new vocabulary. 


Translanguaging is when a multilingual person’s entire linguistic repertoire is used and honored instead of forcing them to use only the target language in class.

For example, when providing new vocabulary words in the target language, ask the students for the word in their mother-tongue language. This strategy helps English language learners bridge the meaning of words between their mother-tongue language and the English language. 

Tips for Vocabulary Development

Next, it’s essential to include the following in vocabulary development activities: 

  • Provide students with a list of words used in class. This helps students familiarize themselves with the terms before encountering them in class. 
  • Discuss the words in English and the mother-tongue language. This helps English language learners connect with the target vocabulary’s meaning and use.
  • Give students opportunities to practice using the words in context. This is achieved through sentence completion exercises or other activities requiring students to use the words meaningfully. 
  • Use formative assessment to measure students’ vocabulary development. This can be done by giving students quizzes or tests on the vocabulary words to help them gauge their understanding.

One way to effectively teach vocabulary is to provide students with realistic contexts to use the words.

For example, phone calls, to-do lists, short emails, and text messages are great opportunities to introduce new vocabulary in a relevant and engaging way for students. 

By providing students with these real-world examples, they will remember the new words they are learning. But, more importantly, they will develop proficiency and accuracy in how to use the new terms. 

Speaking Skills

In a classroom setting, giving students ample opportunity to speak is essential.

Practicing speaking allows them to practice their communication skills. In addition, it will enable them to share their thoughts and ideas with the class.

The balance of talk time recommended in a language lesson is 90% student talk time and 10% teacher talk time. 

Here are a few simple ways to maximize student speaking time in your lesson plans.

One way is to create opportunities for group work. This can be in small groups or pairs working together on an assignment or project. Not only will this give students more time to talk, but it will also promote collaboration and teamwork skills.

Another way to increase student speaking time is to incorporate questions into your lectures and discussions. Asking questions gets students thinking about the topic and allows them to share their ideas with the class. 

In addition, be sure to give students time to answer questions before moving on. This will ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute.

By following these simple tips, you can help your students become better communicators and encourage them to participate more in class discussions.

Here are some additional examples of student discussions easily incorporated into business English lessons:

  • What methods might you use to make your new product attractive to a potential customer?
  • Perspectives on a recent article in the Economist, New York Times, Maclean’s Magazine, etc.
  • Define and briefly explain the impact of innovation on business in general and your industry in particular. 

Functional Language

One of the essential things that English language learners need to learn is functional language.

Functional language is the type of language we use to perform everyday tasks such as asking for directions, ordering food, or making small talk.

These phrases are usually short and straightforward, but they can be difficult for English language learners to master because of the cultural context.

Teaching students to be aware of useful phrases and functional language in speaking and writing helps them to practice in various contexts. For instance, when greeting visitors (“Nice to meet you.”), they can memorize these utterances and put them to immediate use outside the classroom.

One way to help your students learn functional language is to teach them common phrases they can use in everyday situations.

For example, you can teach them how to ask for directions, order food, or make small talk. You can also provide them with opportunities to practice using these phrases. For example, you can role-play different situations or have them practice with each other.

Another way to help your students learn functional language is to provide resources they can use outside class.

For example, you can recommend websites, apps, or books they can use to practice on their own time. By doing this, you will help your students become more confident and proficient in using functional language.

Incorporate Regular Self-assessment and Feedback into the Coursework

Conducting regular self-assessments and providing feedback should be incorporated into the coursework. This is important to help your adult English language learners identify their progress, measure their development, and adjust if needed. 

Invite them to assess their recent work – emails, presentations, or other tasks they’ve completed. Then, consider using an online tool like a rubric or checklist to measure each student’s competency levels in specific skills related to business communication.

Giving feedback should be non-judgmental, experiential, and motivational. This is accomplished by: 

  • Giving specific constructive criticisms and positive reinforcement. 
  • Encouraging students to think objectively about their performance and reflect upon their accomplishments and areas that need further improvement. 
  • Ensuring they understand what type of effort is expected to reach the desired level of work and how this can influence their business projects. 

With clear objectives and a scaffolded approach to learning, your adult English language learners will have a better chance of understanding complex business communication concepts and mastering the applicable skills.

See an example of how to use language assessment tools in this blog post:

Global Marketplace for English Teachers

Since 2020, opportunities for English teachers have exploded in the global marketplace. With online teaching becoming the norm, it is easy for English language learners to achieve their goals. 

Teaching English Online

There are now many platforms and websites which offer online English classes taught by native speakers. This means there is a high demand for English teachers to teach online. 

Online teaching can be a great way to earn a living, as it offers much flexibility and can be done anywhere in the world.

The hours are also often very flexible, which is perfect for those who want to work around other commitments, especially teachers who want to travel and explore the world. 

Demand for English Language Skills

As the demand for English language skills among business professionals continues to grow, there is an increasing need for high-quality English lessons focusing on business communication. 

Now is the time to produce and share these lessons with the broader teaching community. Therefore, I’ve put together a comprehensive suite of lessons specifically designed for English language learners seeking business communication courses.


By including more realistic and relatable activities in English lessons, teachers help English language learners develop a more robust understanding and use of the language.

This will ultimately benefit them in their everyday lives and future endeavors.


  1. Understand English language learners’ needs. The first step in teaching adult English language learners business communication is to build rapport and understand their needs and interests.
  2. Provide context based on student needs. This means providing English language learners opportunities to practice using English in realistic contexts.
  3. Equip English language learners with relevant materials. Providing suitable materials ensures learners gain greater insight into how building relationships in a business setting work, improving their communication abilities with potential clients and colleagues.
  4. Focus on practical applications and real-world examples. When English lessons focus on activities relatable to students’ lives, it helps them understand and use the language more proficiently.
  5. Include Regular Self-assessment and Feedback in the Coursework. With clear objectives and a scaffolded approach to learning, your adult English language learners will have a better chance of understanding complex business communication concepts and mastering the applicable skills.
  6. The global marketplace for English language teachers. I’ve put together a comprehensive suite of lessons designed for English language learners seeking business communication courses.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Before you go, browse our Shop of ESL lessons for adults with teaching materials: Shop.

Until next time,


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