Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Irish evolution

The market for business English courses in Ireland continues to grow and evolve

This article first appeared in the English language teaching industry trade paper English Language Gazette, May 2008

The business English market in Ireland is growing. But, as Adrian Cummins of the Irish national association for English language schools MEI-Relsa told the Gazette, Ireland is keen to ensure that there’s a good mix of general business English courses and more ‘high-end’ intensive courses for executives, and a mix of nationalities on those courses.

Thirty per cent of the employees in Dublin’s International Centre free trade zone are reportedly non-Irish nationals, and most language schools in Ireland now offer business English courses, usually ‘combination’ programmes, with, for example, general English in the morning and business English in the afternoon. Students on combination business English courses are a mixture of executives, those relatively new to business and a new type of customer – longer-term students from international companies sent to Ireland.

The executive sector is a growth market which is being actively targeted, especially executives from Spain, who take advantage of Spanish government MEC grants to study English. Few EFL schools in Ireland offer business English exams. Some run courses that end in the Cambridge Esol Business English Certificate (BEC). Adrian says some business English students ‘like to be certified’ at the end of their course, and thinks these tend to be university students at the pre-experience end of the business English market.

Work experience programmes have always been a strong point in Ireland and continue to grow, with students from Germany, France and Italy particularly well represented. These are typically four to six weeks long and ‘cross sector’, with stints in all sorts of industries. A lot of work experience people find placements in IT or administration. Some schools offering work experience specialise in certain markets, with one school having won a contract with a Korean company for business English courses followed by an internship.

Current target markets are ‘those where visas are easier’, countries whose nationals don’t need a visa to study in Ireland for a stay of up to three months, like Korea or Japan.

With the relatively sudden influx of migrants to Ireland, there’s an embryonic public- sector Esol industry, with further education colleges offering general Esol to migrants, most of whom come from the EU. Adrian says that privately owned business English providers are already encountering competition from this new sector.

Gary Tennant, director of business English courses at Dublin’s Atlas Language College, says that when he came to the UK five years ago he found that in ‘quite prominent schools, business English was topic-based with a heavy reliance on textbooks’. Now schools like Atlas are emerging as business English specialists. Atlas now offers tailored programmes, with clients choosing from a menu of skills-based mini-course options.

Kilkenny School of English in the south-west of the country also seems to be branding itself as a specialist business English school, with tailored in-company business English classes, and by moving into the English for Specific Purposes (ESP) market.

How are teachers recruited for Irish business English courses? According to Adrian, ‘teachers recruited through the usual means’ usually have a the initial Celta qualification or the higher Delta or equivalent but not a specific business English qualification. Adrian wasn’t aware of any course provider in Ireland that offered specialist courses in teaching business English. He admitted that there were not a lot of business English teachers and that there’s a demand for ‘teachers with proper criteria… We’d like to attract more native speaker teachers, although work permits are an issue.’ Gary says that the quality of training courses has improved vastly over recent years, with accrediting body Acels ‘upping the standard every year’.

Celta - Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults
Delta - Diploma in English Language Teaching for Adults

Matt Salusbury, news and features editor English Language Gazette
Copyright: English Language Gazette

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