What is the best way to improve your knowledge of business English vocabulary? Read. And I don’t mean read business English textbooks, which can be useful in a classroom setting.
Read business newspapers, magazines, and websites. Choose articles that interest you and are related to your business. If you work for a bank, read the latest news about banking. If you’re a stock broker, read about the stock market. If you work in information technology, read about the IT sector.
Maybe you are already in the habit of reading the business news in English every day. If you aren’t – and your excuse is that you’re too busy – consider this: you can make a big improvement with your English in just 10-15 minutes per day.
How do you improve your business English in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee?
If you don’t have time to leisurely unfold the Wall Street Journal while sitting at an outdoor café, go to one of these websites:
The Economist – a venerable British magazine with a very global reach. In the online version of The Economist, Try: Business this week, a weekly summary of the main business stories; People, profiles of people in the news– a great way to learn both business and everyday vocabulary; and the Opinion section – whether you agree or disagree you’ll learn new words that will help you explain your position on the issue.
Slate – an exclusively online news magazine with elegantly-written and often witty articles and extensive links. Try: Today’s Business Press – Slate‘s daily business news highlights; Moneybox – Slate‘s commentary on business and finance; and Slate‘s Technology column on the latest tech news.
Bloomberg – offering lots of technical information on the business and financial world, and therefore a strong infusion of useful business terms.
Or you can just go to Google News (in English!), enter the name of your country, region, or business sector, and click on one of the many business articles that pop up.
Once you have chosen an article, follow these simple steps:
1) Read through the whole article and try to get a feel for the general meaning. Read the headline (title) and photo captions but don’t give up if they are hard to understand. To save space, headlines omit prepositions, articles (the, a, an), and auxiliary verbs and often use words that are less common just because they’re shorter (eg, vow instead of promise; vie instead of compete). Also, don’t give up if the first paragraph seems very hard. In the first paragraph, the writer is usually trying to catch your attention by saying things in a colorful way or by telling a story or even a joke. Keep reading to the end of the article and chances are it will get much easier to understand.
2) With the general meaning of the article in mind, now go back to the beginning of the article and start to read it again – this time slowly. Take notice of any new words or phrases that are unfamiliar to you. Try to guess at the meaning from context – how the word or phrase is used in the sentence. Look it up in an online dictionary. Because most words have more than one meaning, look for the meaning that best matches the context.
In 10 or 15 minutes, you may only have time to read one short article. But if you read it slowly and with care, and search for new words and phrases and look closely at how they’re used in context, in just a few weeks you’ll discover that the dictionary is becoming less and less necessary while you read. And you’ll be happy to find that it is a lot easier to participate in conversations on business topics.
If you have a business news website that you like, or a tip on learning business vocabulary in English, leave a comment here!