Business English for Non-Native Speakers

I.     Course Prefix/Number: EGL 095

       Course Name: Business English for Non-Native Speakers

       Credits: 4 (4 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

WSAT Placement in EGL 090 or consent of instructor. Recommended: Experience with word processing.

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course is designed for non-native English speakers who wish to improve their English vocabulary, writing and speaking skills for the world of work. Focus is on writing business-related documents and speaking in business-related situations using correct grammar and precise language. Also covered are English word forms and American writing style that pose difficulty for ESL students.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  • Understand and apply conventional American Business oral and written language style.
  • Recognize differences between formal and informal language.
  • Use appropriate level of style and formality in business documents and interactions.
  • Recognize and apply correct formats and components for memos, letters, e-mails, and informal reports.
  • Recognize unconventional language structures and avoid slang, cliché and jargon.
  • Increase awareness and correct application of English grammar in business documents and interactions.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at
www.oakton.edu/studentlife/student-handbook.pdf

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Proposed Sequence of Topics: (It should be noted that various documentation models (memos, letters, e-mails, reports), oral communication, and language/vocabulary instruction will be integrated in addressing the proposed topics listed below)

  • Components and Idiosyncrasies of American Business Culture
    • Hierarchical organization vs. “team” organizational models
    • Relationship of organizational structures to writing and speaking (lateral, downward, and upward communication styles)
  • American Business Communication Style
    • Tone in speaking and writing; turn-taking in speaking; pronunciation and stress patterns of English; nonverbal communication; small talk
    • Useful expressions, e.g., for stating opinions, agreeing/disagreeing, making suggestions
    • Appropriate use of imperative mode verbs (“telling” vs. “asking” or “explaining”)
    • Objective vs. subjective language
    • When and how to use e-mail (language vs. code)
    • Memo formats and structure
    • Letter formats and structure
  • Typically used Idioms in American Business (application – e-mail and informal discussion)
    • Connotative vs. Denotative meanings/language
    • Business jargon (commonly used words and phrases)
    • Cliché and Slang – examples as inappropriate for business communication
    • Formal vs. informal language (conversational vs. written)
  • Identifying and Analyzing Audiences (readers) and Communication Purposes
    • Achieving Audience vs. Writer-focused communication
    • Articulating communication purposes from audience perspectives
    • Identifying and using appropriate and precise abstract verbs (e.g. “the purpose of this document is to explain the current procedure so the intended readers can determine if modifications are necessary)
  • Using Articles Correctly in Business documents (applications – e-mail, memos, letters)
    • Count/non-count nouns
    • Singular and Plural noun forms
    • Singular and Plural pronoun forms
    • Pronoun-antecedent agreement
  • Requesting Information/Inquiries (applications – inquiry letters and meetings)
    • Forming and posing questions
    • Review of Verb Tense Basics
    • Subject-verb agreement
    • Sentence Structure I: Constructing Simple and Compound Sentences using appropriate conjunctions and transitional devices)
    • Listing and Parallel Structure
    • Commonly used and confused words and phrases (e.g. “Please send me” vs. “Please to send me”)
  • Narrating and Summarizing Events (application – progress/periodic reports and/or meeting minutes and informal presentations)
    • When to use first or third person point of view
    • Perfect and progressive verbs
    • Modal verbs
    • Sentence Structure II: Building complex and compound-complex sentences: Subordinating conjunctions
    • Using Adverbial Conjunctions for emphasis and transitional devices
    • Commonly used and confused words and phrases (e.g. “Let’s discuss this” vs. “Let’s discuss about this”)
  • Explaining Processes (application – memo reports, product literature)
    • Using passive voice verbs
    • Present vs. progressive verb use
    • Key prepositions and prepositional phrases
    • Common transitional devices
    • Commonly used and confused words and phrases (e.g. “during the process” vs. “in the process”; “after removing the latch, . . .” vs. “after remove the latch”)
    • Integrating visual elements properly in documents
  • Providing Instructions (application – instructional memos, training material and presentation for tutorials)
    • Imperative Mode Verb Use
    • Precise, active verb vocabulary
    • Integration of graphic components in instructions
    • Key prepositions and prepositional phrases
  • Researching and Analyzing Data (applications – formal investigative reports, formal presentation)
    • Primary and Secondary research strategies
    • Designing and using Tables for data presentation
    • Sentence Structure III: Using subordination and coordination for logical analysis and emphasis
    • Appropriate use of third-person narration
    • Formal Presentation Strategies (PowerPoint, etc)

VII.  Methods of Instruction

  • Lecture
  • Discussion
  • Computer Lab
  • Writing Assignments
  • Presentation
  • Role-Playing

All course content, activities, and assignments will be simulations of actual business communication situations.


Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Course may be taught as a face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

  • Completing and submitting acceptable versions of all assignments.
  • All assignments (except “exercises”) will be typed, using conventional business document formats.
  • Participation in in-class activities.
  • Required minimum of 15 pages.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

 Suggested Texts:

  • Oxford Business English Dictionary (for learners of English)
  • Business Options, Adrian Wallwork, Oxford University Press
  • Executive Writing, Diamond and Fahey; words at work or other ESL grammar/business writing software.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Instructor evaluation of student writing, exercises and quizzes.

XI.   Other Course Information

  • Attendance policy
  • Individualized feedback on grammar and pronunciation
  • Use of the Learning Center and Speakeasy, as needed


If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.