English is a widely used language that has become the global lingua franca. It is estimated that about two-thirds of the world has English as their official language.  A subset of the English language is English for Specific Purposes (ESP). It involves teaching students with special reference to areas or vocational skills where the language is needed. Academic and business English are forms of ESP. English for Academic Purposes. This is also known as Academic English and is usually taught to students before or during their collegiate degrees or programs. In contrast, business English focuses on topics and registers used in business settings. This article looks briefly into business English and academic English and establishes the differences between the two.

Business English

As stated earlier, business English is a subset of English that trains entrepreneurs, students who are about to enter the job market, or people who work in industries like law, business administration, political science, or financial institutions.

It is usually studied by many non-native English speakers who plan to enter or are already in business with Anglophone countries or non-Anglophone countries that use English as their lingua franca. This kind of English is used in contexts like insurance, domestic trading, etc.

Business English is often specific to a particular sector or field as each industry has its particular sentence patterns, registers, and abbreviations. It is also used in business reports, sales presentations, meetings, and executive summaries. Students are trained to get acquainted with the vocabulary and sentence patterns in the business sector.

Generally, the study of business English can be grouped into two categories:

  • Vocabulary Study: This is usually used for native or non-native English speakers who are not well-versed in business English or its vocabulary. The study branches into specific industries like banking, oil and gas, import, and export.
  • Functional Study: This is the study of language skills needed to perform business activities such as negotiating and giving a presentation in English.

Academic English

This is one of the most common forms of ESP. Academic English deals with training students—usually in higher learning institutions—to use English correctly for their academic study. It focuses on the skills and knowledge required to perform well in academic settings in courses usually encountered in a university. It can also be used to fulfil English or other language requirements for your degree.

Examination systems like the International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS) are used to test the versatility of students based in the United Kingdom, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International Test of English Proficiency (ITEP) for students in the United States. The study of academic English helps to prepare students for these examinations.

Academic English can be categorized into three major components:

  • Linguistic: This includes the knowledge of phonological features, knowledge of the use of words across various academic specialities and everyday settings, knowledge of language functions, the use of grammatical features, etc.
  • Cognitive: This includes knowledge, critical thinking, and metalinguistic strategies. For example, knowledge of advanced strategies that improve effectual communication
  • Social/Psychological: This involves studying social and cultural norms, beliefs, and values in the academic context.

Summary of Differences Between Business English and Academic English

So we have had a brief exposition of the concepts of business English and academic English. You can see that the differences between the two lie basically in their purposes. Below is a quick highlight of the major differences between the two:

  • Business English focuses on using the English language in a practical and professional business setting for improved communication. On the other hand, academic English is studied majorly for academic purposes, usually in higher learning institutions, e.g., universities.
  • Academic English includes English taught in schools used in textbooks and literature, while business English is often used only in workplaces or business settings. Business English may not be used in casual English conversations.
  • The study of business English can be categorized basically into Vocabulary Study and Functional Study. In contrast, the study of Academic English can be categorized into Linguistic, Cognitive, and Social/Psychological Components, as explained above.
  • Academic English doesn’t allow for or involve the use of abbreviations while Business English accommodates the use of abbreviations, e.g., ASAP (As Soon As Possible).
  • Academic English pays more detailed attention to appropriate transitions and emphasizes grammar and vocabulary.

The Main Differences

The main differences between business English and academic English are their general purposes and their places of use. Academic English can be described as the language of school. Usually for students in higher learning institutions, while Business English is used in the context of business and places of work.

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Samantha is an HR practitioner who has worked with several companies to help them improve their HR practices. Samantha has gained decades of experience in handling all HR facets that include managerial relations, labour relations, training and development, recruitment, and compensation and benefits.

When Samantha is not busy at work, she writes articles about the importance of effective HR practices and why startups should always prioritize this area of the business.