Having thought about this question for a while, I have arrived to a number of aspects which I think constitute the meaning of Business English for me. I am saying “for me” because it really may mean different things to different people. Therefore, my personal point of view is very subjective and is as follows.
Business English is “business” in its nature. The majority of learners are businessmen and women who are always on the move, seem to be very active, ambitious, and sometimes I get the impression that they really know what they want. They are “business” in the way they look, walk, talk, think, and so on. It certainly has really strong impact on the atmosphere in the class. For this reason it is highly important to clarify or set strong and motivating goals for them. These may be passing BEC tests, getting ready for an MBA course in the future, or a possibility to get promoted. It is quite essential, otherwise, there might be a threat for them to get unmotivated because there is no “here and now” thing. Thus, a clear “vision” (why) and a trustworthy strategic “plan” (how) to assist us this study process are crucial. It is more like Kerrie’s PBL (project-based learning) approach – there is a clear task with clear requirements which needs clear outcome and result. Even more than that I keep reminding my students on how well the things we are going and what may help them get better in the course. As business people learners of BE are often not willing to be simply led by someone, they want to take part and even be “in control” of the process.
Secondly, Business English is more about communication skills. Usually, such things as telephoning, negotiating, email writing, conducting meetings, and travelling are a lot more of an interest to learners, than grammar, punctuation and spelling. Thirdly, the students show high interest in business related issues, i.e. company structure, advertising, international trade, social corporate responsibility, and so on. One of my students recently told me that she’d learnt a lot of valuable insights into business matters which she was going to apply in her management (i.e time management, human recourses management, security). It was nice to hear. Thus, communications skills are the number one priority in BE studies, however, the things related to business matters in general and the language to be used in such themes shouldn’t be ignored.
To sum up I think these three aspects underline what Business English is and is about.