Business English, Fluent English, General English? Which course best suits your needs?


Which English Language course best suits your needs?

Some Statistics

English is the most widely spoken and written language in the world.

According to Wikipedia, it is the primary language of over 350million native speakers.

Over 700 million people speak it as a secondary language.

Its influence is felt in all aspects of life from films and music to being the language of the internet and the business world.

English is therefore also the most widely taught and learned language in the world.
If you are interested in learning English, then you would be spoilt for choice. There are a multitude of courses to choose from: General English, Fluent English, Business English, Executive English, Professional English, Business Communication skills, English for Specific Purposes and so on.
So many courses and so many schools! This can be daunting for anyone attempting to choose a course.

So how do you choose which English course best suits your learning needs and goals?
First of all you have to decide what your learning objectives or goals are?

Do you want to improve your grammar?

Do you want to develop your writing skills?

Do you want to improve your English as you are going on holiday soon?

Do you need English for your work?

Once you have established what your learning goals are then you can choose which English language course is for you.

In this article I am going to explain some of the most commonly used terms and phrases by language centres around the world and also give you a background of how we, at ETI, decide which course best suits YOU.

Understanding the Terminology

Words such as fluent, business English, executive English, English for specific purposes are words you will come across when you are researching English Language courses. Are these words and terms just marketing tools? Do they clearly explain what each English course offers?

Although these are generic terms used in the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and ESL (English as a Secondary Language) world, agents, students and trainees should research a school’s website, social media channels and any other published material in order to ascertain what a particular language centre’s interpretation of these terms are.

What is English Language Proficiency?

Language proficiency consists of two main areas:

  • English Language knowledge systems
  •  Vocabulary
  •  Grammar
  • Pronunciation


  • English Language communication skills
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

Effective communication in English requires you to be accurate in your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, and fluent when using the communication skills.

How do we differentiate between courses?

General English

A General English course focuses on the language required for ‘general everyday purposes’. A good General English course gives students the opportunity to work on their English Language Knowledge, by working on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, as well as give you ample opportunity to develop your English Language Communication skills, by practising speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.

Fluent English

If a General English course primarily concentrates on a student’s ability to use the language communication skills, then this would be termed a Fluent English course. During these training sessions you would be mainly focusing on developing your four communication skills; reading, speaking, listening and writing. The infographic highlights the English language knowledge and English language communication skills you would work on during such courses.

Business English

If your learning goal is to improve your English language for ‘business purposes’, then we need to adapt this framework for a business context. The vocabulary content would target general business terminology, whereas the communication skills would relate to the different ways professionals communicate with each other in the workplace. For example, you would be looking at improving skills such as Presentation skills, Meeting skills and Negotiation skills. The following graphic, gives you a detailed list of skills that you would want to be working on a Business English course.

ETI Malta. What is the difference between Business English, General English and Fluent English?


Executive English or Business Communication Skills

An ‘Executive’ as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business. So this definition would imply owners, directors, heads of department and anyone in a senior management position. An Executive English, or as we call it here at ETI, a Business Communication course is a training programme that puts more emphasis on the development and practice of the professional communication skills used in the business world. So you would be looking at developing skills such as meetings, negotiations, presentations, email and report writing, just to name a few.
During our training programmes we provide a dynamic participative environment where trainees practise the language for more accuracy and the skills for more fluency; hence becoming more effective English communicators.

English for Specific Purposes

Finally, we have English for specific purposes. This phrase is used to mean ‘language for a particular subject field’, examples of which would be English for Sales and Marketing, English for Aviation, English for Human Resources, English for the Energy Industry, English for Banking, English for Finance, Legal English and so on. During an ESP course you would expect to develop and practise the vocabulary needed in your particular field. You would also look at improving your communication skills highlighted in both sections our infographic, that is those under Fluent and General English and under Business English.

Management English Masterclasses

Together with our sister school York Associates based in York, England, we also offer a number of complimentary courses designed for training in the skills proven necessary to communicate successfully in the world of international business.

Our Management English Masterclass series covers four key aspects of international business operations: Leading People, Managing Projects, Managing Change and Working Virtually. This training is delivered through extensive speaking and listening activities, professional input, skills practice, intercultural awareness-raising and case study discussions.

Intercultural and Communication Skills

Another course available is our Intercultural and Communication Skills where we focus on the theories and approaches to intercultural communication, the competences required and the interpersonal communication skills that underpin successful communication across cultures.

ETI’s Training Philosophy

Peter F. Drucker, described as the founder of modern management, developed the concept of ‘management by objectives’. He coined the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) to set goals and targets for managers.
One can extend these principles to many other spheres, even in language centres.

At ETI, we use this SMART principle as a basis for everything we do; designing our training programmes, selecting our teaching resources and activities, giving and receiving feedback, handling bookings and enquiries, and dealing with customer services. Our trainers, all native speakers, have been drawn from the world of business and have vast experience in a variety of techniques and principles of language teaching.
We offer tailor-made dynamic training programmes, which focus specifically on the Business Communication skills and English Language knowledge that you will need to perform effectively in today’s global marketplace.

If you are interested in General English Language courses then contact our sister school, ESE.

Our courses are designed to address the needs of adults and professionals who are already in-service and who wish to communicate more confidently and effectively in English.

The average age of our trainees is 40 and the minimum age is 24.
In our experience, our trainees have all the competences required to do business in their native language. They have the knowledge of all the communication skills (business writing, telephoning, presentation skills etc) required to perform their job. Their English language proficiency level is medium to good. So, what they are looking for is help and training to be more effective in English and therefore to become more confident when communicating in English.

  • We use the SMART principle to assess our trainee’s needs and learning goals. We
    • study what our trainees wish to achieve and what their learning objectives are through an in-depth pre-course questionnaire
    • use an on-line pre-course language and skills test to place the trainees in an appropriate language level group
    • review the situation immediately after their first training session

Our trainers take all of the above into consideration and develop a training programme that best suits their trainees’ learning objectives.
Our programmes are designed to enable trainees to practise and develop the language they need in a SMART manner.

We customise and adapt each training programme to fit each trainee’s individual learning objectives. Our training programmes are needs-driven, not resource-driven; we do not use a course book. Our experienced trainers decide what training resources and activities are needed to achieve each trainee’s learning goals.
However, many trainees have learning goals that cannot always be addressed in groups; they are too specific. This is where a combination programme of mini-group work and one-to-one sessions has the flexibility to satisfy their needs.

This type of combination programme allows opportunities to develop specific skill areas and work on weaknesses, for example:

  • practising informal/formal language while chairing or participating in meetings and problem-solving activities
  • developing polite/direct language during negotiation role plays
  • delivering effective presentations followed by SMART feedback
  • making arrangements on the telephone
  • expressing different views and beliefs in professional discussions
  • giving SMART feedback on performance in all activities

These areas are usually best served in our mini-groups sessions.

However, there are other areas that are better suited to individual tuition, such as

  • preparing and practising an important presentation
  • writing specific business emails or reports
  • practising or developing work-related language for specific purposes
  • re-visiting and enhancing English grammar and pronunciation


In our experience, executives prefer to mix with like-minded mature peers; hence why we offer our training programmes to adults over the age of 25.
They want to deal with knowledgeable and efficient people who can assist them with the details of their whole package, be they academic, accommodation or cultural activities; hence we use experienced staff.
We provide a modern learning environment with the latest technology in the classrooms and a comfortable lounge area where one can catch up with correspondence, network or prepare for the next day’s sessions. Our lounge area is a perfect place for you to socialise and practise realistic small talk.
Our Executive or Business Communication courses are specifically designed for the busy executive by professional trainers who, as a result of their own working experience, fully understand the meaning of SMART management and effective communication.

Every ETI trainee is assessed independently. We take an in-depth look at the trainee’s needs and learning objectives and devise a customised training programme which enables you to reach your learning objectives in the shortest time possible.

As Michael LeBoeuf so aptly put it, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” – this is our number one belief at ETI.

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This blog article was written by Pierre Naudi, our Director of Studies.