Posted by: anisoarapop | September 3, 2010

Report: Teaching Business English – Grant GRU_10_MOF_48_MS_UK

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


During 18.07-31.07.2010, I attended a two week residential teacher development course:

Teaching Business English

organized by the Bell Trust in the Bell Teacher Campus of Cambridge Homerton College as a result of my enquiries with the BESIG yahoogroup and successful application with the National Agency. The BE course I chose to attend was a rich and professionally rewarding experience and since everything was excellent, I find it hard to pick up the most exciting aspect to start with.

Bell is one of the most appreciated providers of teacher professional development courses worldwide. Anually, during summer holidays, series of hundreds of teachers choose from a large variety of courses Bell offers: Refresher Language and Methodology for EFL Teachers -Young or Adult Learners –  Contemporary English, From Shakespeare to Harry Potter (teaching literature), Creativity in the Classroom, New Technologies in the Classroom, CLIL, and of course Business English, etc. (

Around Cambridge and the College

Although virtually familiar with Cambridge, visiting the real Trinity College, Cambridge University Press Bookshop, Newton’s apple, King’s College Chapel, Christ’s Church and Christ College where Darwin studied, is a unique, maybe once-in-a-lifetime experience. Cambridge gave so many personalities to the world that someone rightly said that if you shake a tree in Cambridge, a famous philosopher, physicist, or astronomer will fall out.

King's College

Walking around in Cambridge

I was impressed by the mix of medieval and contemporary architecture, large sweeping lawns and cobbled courts, the bikes, punting on the Cam behind the colleges and below ancient bridges, the pubs such as The Raven, shrouded in fantastic legends.

punting on the Cam

Homerton Campus is equally impressive and peaceful, with red brick ivy-covered buildings, lavender bushes and a Tree of Knowledge in the middle, the buttery, the magic “sesame” door leading to a local variant of the Harry Potter Dining Hall.

My first day in the campus

As usually, this summer a group of about 250 teachers from all over the world, including Quatar, Vietnam, and more exotic countries such as England (!), gathered in the splendid Homerton College campus to become students again, diligently attending courses, competing, networking, learning Salsa and cricket (besides English methodology, of course!).

The BE Group

There were 19 of us in the BE group from different European and world countries: Germany (4), Poland (3), Switzerland ( 2), Vietnam (2), Hungary (1), France (1), Slovenia (1), Romania (1), Austria ( 1), Italy (1), Quatar (1), UK (1).

The Business English class

Thanks to our tutor’s ingenuity, every morning we re-grouped according to a new rule or game, thus having the opportunity to work, network and know better another colleague from the group. We competed and negotiated, played games, applied and evaluated materials, discussed – everything while having a great time.

Curriculum and Other Lessons

The  curriculum was focused, well structured and relevant including BE core methodology (Needs Analysis, Presentations, The Role of Authentic Materials, Using Case Studies Effectively, Meetings, Role plays, Networking, Writing for Business, Negotiating, BE Vocabulary, Teaching one-to-one/ESP, Syllabus Planning and Course Design, Games) and BE Content (Corporate World, Intercultural Competence, Finance, Marketing, Management/Leadership). 

Interactivity and professionalism marked the two week sessions while the working atmosphere was motivating and pleasant, with enthusiastic and competent trainers.  Besides the variate content and methodology which will model my future classes, I have learnt more or less off the record: to try to lift activities off the page as much as possible; that grammar is second in BE, BE is about communication; that being aware of one’s favorite means of communication (i.e.: emailer, texter, twitterer) can/should be exploited; that to know another’s language and not her culture is a very good way to make a fool of oneself; that Tesco is the supermarket that “ate Britain” (we had  a vey impressive case study); that “there are three things you can predict in life: tax, death, ane more meetings” (Mike Moore) , so I must give students functional language and skills about meetings, even if I dislike meetings myself; that there’s no stupid question except for that which is not asked and many others.

Plenary/cultural talks and workshops

I have learned immensely from the plenary/cultural talks and workshops included in the programme, on themes others than BE. George Pickering reminded us and demonstrated in his cheerful and authentic style that the English people and the Americans are two nations separated by a common language while Jim Scrivener recycled an old but very effective method in teaching grammar: The Situational Grammar.

Of the 4 workshops I attended, I also remember with great pleasure Francoise Votocek’s   Idioms and Their Origin. Each workshop participant (about 16) had to read silently and bear in mind the story behind one idiom (e.g.: to button-hole someone, peeping Tom, his name is mud, by and large, a dead ringer, mad as a hatter, to flog a dead horse, etc)  and its link to the current meaning. Then in pairs each participant had to retell his own story to all the other participants while learning theirs’  so that in the end each of us had their story told  about eight times and had listened to other eight stories. From a teacher’s perspective, this was an instructive and memorable experience considering how difficult it is for our students to remember and use idioms.  

Enjoying a cuppa in The Orchard Tea House

On the first Friday afternoon I decided to follow in the footsteps of generations by sharing in the great English tradition of afternoon tea with real scones, jam and clotted cream. Therefore,  three of us set off for a  ‘nice’ walk from Cambridge to the idyllic Orchchard Tea House of Grantchester. We soon realized the meaning of ‘nice’ as our walk turned out to be an adventure trip involving a local bus with construction workers giggling and throwing glances at three seemingly lost ladies, and finally a free taxi ride to get to this recluse corner of England, where “time stands still as the outside world rushes by”.

It was a relaxing and most exquisitely English experience in a genteel setting “where more famous people have taken tea than anywhere else in the world”, Virginia Woolf among others. We walked the whole way back to Cambridge along the meadows and while passing through a small village we met a smartly dressed old lady trimming her garden whom we asked about our way. She confessed of having come to Cambridge from Switzerland about 50 years before, never to return, of feeding the wild ducks a loaf of bread on her daily strolls and of having escaped from the envious wild he-swan’s attack, and so on.

Imbued with culture

The social programme was so complex and varied that it was almost impossible not to miss something special. Besides the Saturday trip to London and a guided tour of Cambridge included in the course fee,  Friday afternoon trips to nearby highlights such as Ely, Bury St. Edmund’s were organized.

Rediscovering London with Kate: 2:45pm, July 24th 2010

On Sunday I took the opportunity to rediscover the English country-side (Woodbridge in Sufflolk) and spent the afternoon at the sea-side with newly-made friends, while others chose to visit Oxford.

It's 4:52pm, July 25 2010 at the English Seaside

Theatre lovers were offered a special second week night to London musicalls and plays including the Globe, among other regular evening outdoor Shakespeare plays in Cambridge.  The organizers made every effort to entertain us with regular night buskers’ and  jazz music, not to mention the Pub Quiz, which under the skill of the grand master of ceremonies, Mr. Jim Scrivener, incited the spirits and everyone strived to win either the grand prize or the last (a wooden spoon!).

Back home

Time flew and I still can hardly believe I used to walk around the same grounds as famous  Newton, Maxwell, Thomson, Rutherford, Eddington and Bragg did many years ago.

I learned a lot from all points of view. I  accomplished myself professionally, made new friends and met some older ones,  spent a hectic time in one of the world’s greatest capitals of knowledge, learning, and history.

I consolidated my conviction that learning through application is sustainable, collaborative and cooperative, that learning in a group is memorable, and learning through cultural immersion is both memorable and sustainable. 

Cambridge will remain a place that has enhanced me professionally, culturally and humanly.

I highly and warmly recommend this course to those involved in teaching Business English. They will definitely not regret it. 


My gratitude goes to all those who made this unique experience possible: the European Commission – LLP Grundtvig, The  National Agency, Andreea Samoila, the tutors at Bell Teacher Campus, my university and my family for their constant and unconditioned support.



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