Saturday, May 5, 2007

Business Emails for ESL Students

Many of my ESL students live and work in the U.S. Their English skills are proficient, however, they want to specifically improve their business English skills. Among these skills is writing effective business emails. While their grammar and vocabulary may be alright, it’s the tone of the emails that most ESL speakers need to improve.

Finding the right tone is difficult even for native-English speakers. Most of us have learned that playful sarcasm does not come across well in a two-dimensional email. We’ve had to learn to deal with this form of communication to effectively communicate our ideas or to get what we want. For an ESL speaker, finding the right tone is even more difficult. The nuances of the language are difficult to discern.

The way that I help ESL speakers to write more effective emails is to review their emails in class with them. I explain the feeling that their emails convey and confirm whether this is what they intended. I also ask them what the relationship is with the person they are emailing. Sometimes, if their English is not very advanced, I may have to ask what the main point is that they are trying to communicate.

After discussing the meaning, feeling, relationship, etc., of the email, I then show alternative ways to write the email. We usually review a week’s worth of emails (usually about two pages) in one session. I recommend that the ESL student then make notes of phrases or expressions that we’ve used on their own, so that they may use them in future emails. In future classes, we again review the previous week’s emails to look for uses of what we’ve already studied and also to look for new challenges.

BTW Happy Cinco de Mayo!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good ideas! Thanks.