2006, Volume 1
E-Book pps 43-46
The Law of Business English in China.*
Dr. James P Kelly
Dr. Kelly has a PhD in Education and an
MBA. He currently lives in Korea teaching
Business studies and MBA studies.
Second Language Teachers, Business English,
Business English qualifications
Each year thousands of foreign language
teachers descend on Asia to teach English.
The majority are unqualified. Almost all
have absolutely no qualifications to teach
Business English, let alone English. As
China develops into an economic giant,
the demand for Business English grows
at an exponential rate. Yet those teaching
and those providing the medium for teaching
are doing the future business leaders
of China a great disservice. Small professional
schools are appearing - but it is imperative
the Chinese government consider legislative
action in the near term to develop and
promote professional business English
schools and to regulate the Foreign Service
providers. Whilst China is the focus of
this work, it should be noted that other
Asian economies such as Korea, Vietnam
and Korea are also beset by issues of
incompetent business English teachers
practicing their pseudo trade. The law
of Business English is a misnomer - there
is no law covering a field that is neither
established nor credible.
There is no doubt that the surge of interest
in English skills is consuming China.
Along with this general demand is the
growing Chinese economy - much of it dealing
with the west. On the whole the foreign
experts found in China in schools and
Universities are graduates from Universities
who are merely out for a one-year adventure
and have no skills at teaching.
At the other end of the spectrum are the
more elderly teachers who in fact have
do have experience in Business English
-many are retired from such professions
as law, business or other professional
ways of life - and they have gone to China
in their retirement. However, across China,
as much of Asia, age is a barrier to teaching
to English. The average Asian school demands
a western female in her mid twenties.
Discrimination in job advertising is rife
and goes on unabated, helped along by
job boards that perpetuate the discrimination.
Discrimination in employment is not a
law that is actively pursued in many Asian
Yet the irony is that schools demand experienced
Business English teachers - but are not
willing to accommodate those over 35.
Griffith (2005) notes,
the rumors, a native's knowledge of
the English language is not an automatic
passport to employment anywhere abroad.
It can, however, be put to profitable
use in many Asian countries. In Korea,
Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and, increasingly,
China a high proportion of the population
are eager for tuition from English speakers.
A university degree in any subject is
the only prerequisite, though in some
cases just a degree of enthusiasm will
in English teaching, there are no written
laws governing this field. An examination
of Asian laws covering Education Law,
Immigration law, Business Practice Law,
Trade Practices laws, shows no reference
at all to the subject of Business English.
The distinction between an English teacher
and a Business English teacher is seemingly
non-existent. An example can be seen through
a leading employer of Business English
teachers in Korea. The wage for teaching
company executives and the wage for teaching
kindergarten English is the same.
Demand for Business English
Across Asia there is a growing demand
for teachers with business English skills
to teach the subject. Oxford University
Press offers a variety of good textbooks,
yet according to the company, sales of
books are slow. Thus we have the unique
phenomenon of the market demanding skilled
teachers, the market supplying good materials,
yet no one to fulfill the demand. A glimpse
at Korea and Vietnam shows companies subcontracting
out 'expert business English teachers,'
yet teachers are no more than the backpacking
One case involves an international company
who has in house business English teachers.
Reports from those studying at this unit
show the teachers to be poorly trained
in business skills and which said positions
are filled by those who fit the criteria
of youth first, with reference to business
skills rarely considered. One manager
taught by the unit noted the writer in
survey form that he felt the teachers
were poorly equipped to train the management,
and that the company was wasting money
on such a poorly skilled unit. This sentiment
has also been found at two other global
companies, one in China and one in Japan.
In Beijing three companies hire out business
English teachers, yet it is clear these
teachers know no more than that which
appears in the text books they teach from.
Fees paid by companies are high, yet the
teacher receives a fraction of that payment.
Invariably, the teacher teaches for one
or two months and the students or company
loses interest as there is no structure,
and the teaching finishes.
Thus the irony is that whilst Business
English tries to establish itself as a
serious profession, the willingness of
the end user to accept teachers who are
not qualified is taking the profession
in the wrong direction.
Business English Teachers
What qualifications does a business English
teacher need to teach in Asia? The answer:
none. There are various reasons for this
ranging from non-regulated teaching institutions
to poor government legislation. At a recent
conference I attended in Seoul for English
teachers, a presentation on Business English
skills was given by a teacher of English
who clearly had little or no understanding
of Business English concepts - yet the
audience eagerly accepted her lecture
which contained frequent false and misleading
information, both as to business English
skills, and company issues.
Secondly, business's themselves, whilst
demanding business English, have no clear
concept of just what business English
is. This can reflect may reasons from
business's run by non qualified ventures,
to business's run by top heavy management,
whose age is high 50s to 60s, and who
have no concept or understanding just
what business English or should achieve.
Japan is the jewel in the crown of thorns.
Business English has take on a serious
face - one of professionalism and regulation.
Organizations produce business English
manuals - hold conferences and training
sessions - and promote the professionalism
needed in such a trade
One of the important issues to remember
is that whilst universities and colleges
across Asia teach business studies, business
English is assumed to rest in the hands
of the native English speaker. As most
teachers of English are not qualified
to teach English, those who are invariably
have no business English skills training.
One may even present the hypotheses that
business English is an industry built
on a false conception, and that there
is no such thing as business English.
Rather, business English is in fact a
specific entity using English. We do not,
for example, call airline English, pilot
English or stewardess English (Jung, 2005),
thus to label business English speaking
as business English is another example
of market manipulation at the expense
Remedies in theory and remedies in practice
are poles apart. The issue is not one
of just poorly trained teachers pretending
to teach business skills. It is also a
matter of companies accepting second best
- trying to cut corners by paying poor
salaries for something that needs only
professionals. A look, for example, at
the materials use by Samsung in Korea
show they are poorly prepared, at times
wrong, at times false and misleading,
and at times not reflecting sound business
English training skills.
Until Asian countries stop employing backpacking
tourists who pretend to be a teacher for
one year, the situation will deteriorate.
However, as long as countries such as
China and Vietnam pay mere hundreds of
dollars for such teachers, no serious
professional would ever consider going
to such countries.
Clearly, for business English to become
a recognized and serious filed of English
language teaching, course providers, TESOL
certificates or Ma TESOL. Universities
should implement units that include this
area of study.
Business English training in most Asian
countries, with the exclusion of Japan,
will, for the foreseeable future, rest
in the hands of the incompetent teachers
and poorly advised company managers. Laws
do not exist to cover this area of training
or education. The time is clearly ripe
for any professional well-financed Educational
entity to enter the markets and provide
professional services. One company could
supply over 10,000 teachers across China.
This company would thus be in apposition
to provide well-trained business English
teacher, and assure the Asian companies
that they were getting value for their
money and skills that would enhance the
A. (2003). Business Grammar, Style
& Usage (English). NY. Aspatore
Griffith, S. (2005) Teaching English
in Asia. Retrieved 11 November 2005
Guffy, M. (2001). Business English.
Jung. J. (2005). The Airline Job Interview.
Pusan, S. Korea Lulu.
Jaderstrom, S., & Miller, S. (2002).
Business English at Work. Lond.
Mascull, B.(2001). Business vocabulary
in use. Cambridge, CUP
Patil, Z. N. (2005). Oral Presentation
Skills for Prospective Business Executives.
Asian Business Journal Volume 1
Issue 3 Retrieved from www.asian-business-journal.com
Article is a modified version of China:
Business English: - A new wave.
Asian Business Journal Volume 1 Issue
3. Reprinted with permissions