Using E-mail to Simulate Authentic Business Communication

Presented at the Third Asia-Pacific International Conference of the Association for Business Communication.
Kyoto, August 8th, 2000.
John Bauman
Enterprise Training Group

This site provides a brief summary of the presentation and links to the web sites refered to in the presentation and hand-out. The following article covers these issues in more detail:

Bauman, John (1998). E-Mail in the Business World: Issues for Teachers of English for Specific Purposes, Proceedings, 1997: The Japan Conference on English for Specific Purposes, University of Aizu, Aizu, Japan


The idea of authenticity is receiving a lot of attention in the EFL field. Lessons must not only be communicative, but must reflect the real communication needs of the students. In teaching business people, we've got to keep up with current business practices. In their highly competitive situations, our corporate clients cannot postpone adaptation of the newest, most efficient communication technologies. To retain authenticity, ESP teachers must also adopt and teach these technologies.

In this context, e-mail can no longer be considered a new development. E-mail has been an integral component of business communication for several years now. For many students of business English, e-mail is the predominant form of writing, and often is the predominent use of English. To address the writing needs of these students, e-mail must be emphasised. This presentation looked at ways to increase the authenticity of pedagogical e-mail usage by examining discourse characteristics of e-mail, and exploring ways to simulate business situations.

Characteristics of E-mail

Linguistically, e-mail has been shown to involve a register somewhere between written and spoken English. An interesting academic analyses of e-mail discourse, available on-line, is Writing Conversation. This paper examines mailing list posts.

E-mail written by non-native speakers and students of English seems to approach an appropriate register without prompting. These three print articles look at the e-mail discourse of EFL students:

Conrad, B. & Rautenhaus, H (1994). Innovations in teachers' education: Using the concordancer as a means for students at university and school level. Paper presented at the meeting of EUROCALL, Karlsruhe, Germany, ERIC Document #ED382023

Liaw, M. (1996). Communicative devices used by EFL students in e-mail writing. ERIC Document #401752

Wang, Y. (1996). E-mail dialog journaling in an ESL reading and writing classroom. in Proceedings of the 18th National Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Indianapolis, IN, 766-781

Inc Magazine is an American business magazine. These articles give a business perspective on e-mail. When E-mail Bites list six of the author's "pet peeves" regarding e-mail. Two of them involve technical breakdowns, but the other four provide good food for thought for new users of e-mail in an English business context. The Perils of E-mail and E-mail Privacy -- Fact or Fallacy? discuss legal and privacy issues.

Pedagogical Use of E-mail

I gave a presentation titled Integrating E-mail into a Curriculum at JALT '97 in October, 1977. A summary of that presentation is here.

Mark Warschauer has written extensively on the pedagogical use of e-mail and the internet. These books will tell you everything you need to know.

Warschauer, M. (1995). E-mail for Language Teaching, Alexandria, VA, TESOL

Warschauer, M. ed (1996). Virtual Connections, Honolulu, HI, University of Hawaii

More Business English Teaching Links

These links will take you to sites that deal with Business English.

  • Biz/ed
    Biz/ed is an extensive site with lots of resources. It's aimed at native speaker students in the UK.

  • Business Meetings
    An interactive lesson students can do online.

  • Business Help Page by Ruth Vilmi
    Ruth Vilmi's business page. There are lots of resources and links here. Check the business writing page.

  • Entreprise English
    This is a company that offers business language training on-line.

  • Simulated On-Line Letters and Faxes
    A description of an internet-based business course.

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