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Business English - 3. Enlarging the vocabulary
16.05.2012, 09:42

3. Enlarging the vocabulary



1. What do you know about the system of the English vocabulary?

2.     What systems of the description of the English vocabulary do you know?

3.     Why is it important for learners of English to have a shot at business English?

4.     What are the essential preconditions for the course of Business English to be a success?


         Some people dismiss Business English altogether as an optional and unimportant element in the teaching of English. The main argument against Business English seems to be as follows: most of its vocabulary lies beyond the reach of every day needs and is used only in specific, rather limited spheres of communication (henceforth, it is heavily loaded with terms).

         This opinion is only partially true. In the first place, with the progress of literacy and civilization humanity is expanding its vocabulary. Words which until recently were used only by specialists  are constantly enriching the vocabulary of every day conversation. The long-standing belief that 3000 words will meet the needs of every day conversation looks now to be very vulnerable to criticism, to say the least.

                As far as the vocabulary of the so called passive use is concerned ( according to some estimates, it comprises about 50000 words) the language of business occupies quite a privileged position there, because the English speaking nations have never known any other economy but that of a free market. It means that every member of society was actively involved in the running of the economy and naturally was expected to have at his disposal the corresponding word stock. Quite predictably, the English have developed the linguistic picture of the world loaded with their own life experience which is considerably that of doing business. Examples to this effect are numerous (I won’t buy it = I don’t believe it; The idea doesn’t sell = The idea isn’t popular, etc.)

         In the second place, modern occupations are concerned more and more with know-how, technical documentation and highly-developed forms of scientific progress. Michael Crighton, author of "Jurassic Park” and "The Lost World” in his novel "Airframe” elaborates on very interesting statistics: a Pontiac has five thousand parts, an airliner has one million parts. A logical conclusion would be that a mind that produced such wonders must have invented as many terms for these parts. And what’s even more important is that this ingenious mind was bound to produce a following and multiply in numbers.

         In the third place, news from the sphere of business and economy is always in the focus of mass media. One cannot claim a decent knowledge of English if one does not have the least idea about the nitty-gritty of business. This is considered to be a natural ingredient of the cultural scope of any educated man.

         All the above mentioned reasons (the traditional business-centred mentality of the English, the revolution in science and information technologies and the place of business news in mass media) find their glaring reflection in the illustrating contexts provided by modern dictionaries (some of the business idioms widely used in every day language can be found below in Assignments for self-control).

 It would be worthwhile taking notice of a considerable gap existing between the rich diversity of dictionaries existing on sale and the outdated ways of relying on traditional (very often – quite primitive!) bilingual dictionaries. It takes to master a good command of at least two dictionaries for the student to arrive at the minimum basis for being able to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of the theory behind a dictionary. It’s a deplorable fact that the practical skills required for the efficient use of dictionaries on the part of the students remain very often at a low level.

 Underestimation of Business English is just as detrimental to the process of learning as its overestimation. Some people stop short of demanding that the whole process of teaching English should be based on Business English. This is an approach that is likely to produce poor results for the following reasons:

1.     Diversity of the teaching material ensures the presence of the hedonistic touch in the process of learning. Concentrating entirely on this variety of English may entail boredom and fatigue.

2.     Overemphasis on Business English may entail the hazards of putting other important aspects of teaching English into the background: grammar, literature, history, geography and culture of the country etc. Business English must never be regarded as a substitute for other, presumably outdated, disciplines.

3.     One can imagine, of course, learning English, for example, on business news text. However, one must always remember that English is not a mere sequence of signs. It is a certain mentality, it has a soul of its own. Placed within a cultural context, Business English tackles but the most primitive manifestations of this soul. Byron and Poe, Dickens and Twain, Wells and London will pave one’s way into most involved and highly organized forms of the English language.

4.     Business English is mostly in place at an advanced stage of learning the language. With the beginners it is a hazardous venture an experienced instructor will never embark on.

5.     There are many directions of enlarging one’s vocabulary. Business English is merely one of them.

Building up one’s vocabulary requires the ability to split the newly acquired units into autonomous parcels called topics.

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