English for employability: Why teaching general English is not enough

Ehsan Gorji
Ehsan Gorji
A teacher stood at the front of the class talking to her class
Reading time: 4 minutes

Many English language learners are studying English with the aim of getting down to the nitty-gritty of the language they need for their profession. Whether the learner is an engineer, a lawyer, a nanny, a nurse, a police officer, a cook, or a salesperson, simply teaching general English or even English for specific purposes is not enough. We need to improve our learners’ skills for employability.

The four maxims of conversation

In his article Logic and Conversation, Paul Grice, a philosopher of language, proposes that every conversation is based on four maxims: quantity, quality, relation and manner. He believes that if these maxims combine successfully, then the best conversation will take place and the right message will be delivered to the right person at the right time.

The four maxims take on a deeper significance when it comes to the workplace, where things are often more formal and more urgent. Many human resources (HR) managers have spent hours fine-tuning workplace conversations simply because a job candidate or employee has not been adequately educated to the level of English language that a job role demands. This, coupled with the fact that many companies across the globe are adopting English as their official corporate language, has resulted in a new requirement in the world of business: mastery of the English language.

It would not be satisfactory for an employee to be turned down for a job vacancy, to be disqualified after a while; or fail to fulfil his or her assigned tasks, because their English language profile either does not correlate with what the job fully expects or does not possess even the essential must-have can-dos of the job role.

How the GSE Job Profiles can help

The Job Profiles within the Global Scale of English (GSE) Teacher Toolkit can help target those ‘must-have can-dos’ related to various job roles. The ‘Choose Learner’ drop-down menu offers the opportunity to view GSE Learning Objectives for four learner types: in this case, select ‘Professional Learners’. You can then click on the ‘Choose Job Role’ button to narrow down the objectives specific for a particular job role – for example, ‘Office and Administrative Support’ and then ‘Hotel, Motel and Resort Desk Clerks’.

Then, I can choose the GSE/CEFR range I want to apply to my results. In this example, I would like to know what English language skills a hotel desk clerk is expected to master for B1-B1+/GSE: 43-58.

Screenshot of gse toolkit

When I click ‘Show Results’, I am presented with a list of 13 learning objectives in the four skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing. For example:

  • Speaking: Can suggest a resolution to a conflict in a simple negotiation using fixed expressions. (B1+/GSE 53)
  • Reading: Can understand clearly written, straightforward instructions on how to use a piece of equipment. (B1/GSE 46)

Concentrating on specific skills

The Professional section of the GSE Teacher Toolkit also has the option to select learning objectives according to a specific business skill. Consider this scenario: Ms. Lahm is an HR manager at the imaginary LydoApps company, which designs and sells computer programs and apps in Germany. She already knows her team has the following English language profile:

Team 1

English language profile: GSE 10-42 / <A1-A2+

Number of employees: 15

Nationality: German

Department: Print programs

Team 2

English language profile: GSE 10-42 / <A1-A2+

Number of employees: 12

Nationality: German

Department: Packages

Team 3

English language profile: GSE 10-50 / B1

Number of employees: 9

Nationality: German

Department: Customer care

Team 4

English language profile: GSE 10-50 / B1

Number of employees: 5

Nationality: German

Department: Design engineering  

Team 5

English language profile: GSE 10-58 / B1+

Number of employees: 3

Nationality: German

Department: Overseas  

Ms. Lahm wishes to critically check what skills her Customer Care employees need to answer telephone calls in English. She selects ‘Business Skills’ and then ‘Telephoning’, with a GSE/CEFR range of 10-50.

Ms Lahm now has 28 GSE Learning Objectives related to English telephoning, for example:

  • Can introduce themselves on the phone and close a simple call. (A2/GSE 33)
  • Can ask for repetition or clarification on the phone in a simple way. (A2/GSE 35)
  • Can answer simple work-related questions on the phone using fixed expressions. (A2+/GSE 40)
  • Can use simple appropriate language to check that information has been understood on the phone. (B1/GSE 45)

Ms. Lahm can now use these GSE Learning Objectives to help organize her current team and recruit new colleagues with the appropriate skills for the job.

Try out the GSE Teacher Toolkit today

The GSE Teacher Toolkit is a fantastic resource when it comes to teaching English. General English is often not enough – and it can be daunting for teachers when they are faced with the whole of the language to teach.

Both teachers and HR managers can use the Job Profiles feature of the GSE Teacher Toolkit to examine more than 200 jobs for their English language profile and, by targeting these specific language functions, can prepare students for their chosen careers and recruit candidates with the level of English required to successfully perform a given job.

More blogs from Pearson

  • A business woman and man sat at a long table discussing with eachother

    Improving employee engagement: The crucial role of language learning in business

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 8 minutes

    The ways we approach employee engagement are rapidly evolving and changing. For HR professionals and global business leaders, understanding these trends is essential to encourage a motivated, productive, and loyal workforce. A key yet often overlooked aspect of this engagement is the role of language learning and cultural understanding. Failure to adapt to the international market doesn’t just hinder growth—it can lead to significant financial losses.

    This blog post will delve into current employee engagement trends, provide suggestions for improvement, and talk about the importance of language learning and company culture in fostering a thriving global workforce through an effective employee engagement strategy.

  • Children working together outdoors picking up litter

    How to teach students to be global citizens

    By Jeanne Perrett
    Reading time: 4.5 minutes

    As teachers, we all want our students to work toward making the world a better place. Through focusing on global citizenship, this drive to change the world is something we can help foster every day in the classroom. In this post, we’ll explore how.

    What are global citizens?

     A global citizen is someone who knows that they are part of a worldwide community. They understand that there are people who have completely different lifestyles, appearances, cultures and routines but with whom we share common values and responsibilities. Global citizenship encourages tolerance and understanding, and learning about it helps children become open-minded adults.  

    In a primary English classroom, helping students become aware of themselves as citizens of the world will introduce them to a global way of thinking. We can do this while also helping them become familiar with, and proficient in, English.  

    How can we introduce the concept?

    Before students put themselves in a global context, they should get to know themselves as individuals. But they should also get to know themselves as people who are part of their immediate communities.  

    In the classroom, this can be done by encouraging students to think about something personal, such as their likes and dislikes. We can then encourage students to look a little further: What kinds of homes do they see in their communities? What makes a house a home to them? What about people working in their communities — what important jobs do they do, and how do they make an impact? 

    For language teachers, the idea is to combine vocabulary and grammar structures with a slowly widening view of our world. Simply by introducing the concept that we are part of a worldwide community can take the children out of their own experiences and help them start to consider others.

    Tips and activities

    Social media makes it possible for teachers to contact each other across borders and to collaborate between their schools. Something simple, like organizing a class video call for students after lunchtime and encouraging students in different countries to discuss what they ate in English, can help learners become more globally aware. 

  • A woman with headphones dancing in her living room

    Dance your way to fluent language learning and enhanced wellbeing

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Language learning can often feel daunting, with its endless vocabulary lists, grammatical structures and pronunciation rules. However, incorporating dance and movement into your study routine can transform this challenge into an engaging, enjoyable experience while significantly benefiting your overall wellbeing. This unusual approach is not only effective for language learners of all ages but also enriches the learning process with fun and physical activity.

    Engaging in movement and dance can substantially impact mental health, as evidenced by various studies and academic research. For instance, a notable study published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy highlighted that dance, particularly in structured environments, can reduce anxiety and improve mood among participants. This connection between dance and mental health improvement can be attributed to the release of endorphins, often referred to as happiness hormones, which occur during physical activity.