The Japan Association for Language Teaching Business Communication Special Interest Group aims to develop the discipline of teaching English conducive to participation in the world business community. We wish to provide instructors in this field with a means of collaboration and sharing best teaching practices.

JALT Business Communication SIGは、世界のビジネス界に通用する英語教育の発展を目的に持ち、結成されました。連携体制を組み、最善の教育方法を共有することにより、インストラク ターの皆さんと日本のビジネス英語教育に貢献していきたいと思います。

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JALT Business Communication SIG is the Business Communication Special Interest Group of the Japan Association for Language Teaching

We are building something new: bridges between corporate, academic and private Business English teachers. Sharing research, developing teaching methods, and building a community of teachers and trainers who want to study, learn and teach about Business Communication. If we didn't think there was potential to grow this group, we wouldn't be involved. We feel that Business English teaching in Japan, has a strong and developing future. As the importance of Asian markets grow, so will the need for Business English as a lingua franca. Furthermore, we hope that this business driven need for interactive English will also have a knock-on effect on university and school education practices over the coming years.

This is our January 2016 newsletter.

This is our July 2016 newsletter.

This is our January 2017 newsletter.

This is our September 2017 newsletter.

This is our January 2018 newsletter.

JALT Conference 2018


Event: 44th Annual International Conference on Language Teaching and Learning & Educational Materials Exhibition

Where: Shizuoka Convention & Arts Center (Granship) Shizuoka City, Japan

When: 23 - 26 November 2018

Theme: JALT2018: Diversity & Inclusion

Call for presentation proposals deadline: February 12th


You can easily join JALT or renew your JALT membership online. Click for full details

SIG Officers

Coordinator: Alan Simpson

Publications Chair: Jo Williamson

Treasurer: Craig Nevitt

Membership Chair: Tomoko Sugihashi

Program Chair: John Kania

Corporate Liaisons Officer: Saeko Ozawa Ujiie

Webmaster and Social Media: Rab Paterson

Communications and Publicity Officer: Aaron Dods

International Relations: Daniel Ussher

Member at large: Ellen Rettig-Miki

Member at large: Richard Miller

Member at large: Alex Sheffrin

Upcoming Schedule

Here you can find details of our schedule for the year.

Title Speakers Date
Next PanSIG 2018 May 19th-20th 2018, Toyo Gakuen University, (Hongo) Tokyo
Leadership & Hospitality Conference June, Kobe

Completed Events

JALT Business Communication SIG Annual General Meeting

November 17th 2017, JALT Tsukuba

Cross-cultural & HR Management Challenges in Japan

Remy Magnier-Watanabe, November 17th 2017, JALT - Tsukuba International Congress Center

CUE ESP Symposium

Sue Starfield, Bertha Du Babcock & Masako Terui, September 16th 2017, Keio University

Business & Intercultural Negotiation Conference

Chris Bates, Tim Craig & Kumiko Murata, July 1st & 2nd 2017, Kansai University

JALT PanSIG Business Communication Featured Speaker SIG Forum

Simon Humphries. May 20th 2017, Akita International University

JALT PechaKucha Business Communication SIG Forum

Alan Simpson, Aaron Dods, Ryan Hagglund, Alexander Sheffrin, Richard Miller, Bill Burns, Curtis Kelly, Saeko Ujiie, Ellen Rettig-Miki, Jo Williamson & James Yellowlees. November 26th 2016, JALT Nagoya

JALT Business Communication SIG Annual General Meeting

November 26th 2016, JALT Nagoya

Discourse strategies in ELF: Project-based learning in Transylvania

Hiromasa Tanaka. October 14th 2016, NYU, Tokyo

The Evolution of Business Language Training in Japan

Michael Handford, Andrew Vaughan, Hiromasa Tanaka. June 25th & 26th 2016, ACROS building, Fukuoka

PanSIG Business Communication presentations

Saeko Ozawa Ujiie, Rebekka Eckhaus, Richard Miller, Masashi Kurosawa, Yin Ling {Carly} Lui. May 21st 2016, Meio University, Okinawa

Business Communication SIG AGM

A new treasurer, membership chair, webmaster, and international relations officer joined the team, and we thanked the previous treasurer and membership chair for their hard work. Current Balance: 164,093yen, Revenue: 575,000yen, Expenditures: 490,000yen. In Nov. 2015 the membership was 17, in Nov. 2016 40, and in Nov. 2017 it is 60. There has been some turnover of members. I would guess at about 10%, so maybe 10-15 new members this year. We ratified the BizCom Constitution and will submit it to the JALT Executive Board Meeting in February. We will try to raise a motion at the JALT Executive Board Meeting in Feb to raise our status from a non-voting to a voting SIG. (There is new SIG assessment criteria which should reward activity.)

Cross-cultural & HR Management Challenges in Japan

People are critical in the implementation of corporate strategy. Indeed, while a sound strategy is important, the firm needs to specify the organizational capabilities needed to support the business, evaluate internal gaps if any, and then design and deploy HR practices that enable differentiating capabilities. For Japanese companies which internationalize, one of the main decisions is whether to push for consistency or differentiation in their human resource (HR) policies between their home office and their country subsidiaries. While management practices – including HR – may have been a source of competitive advantage at home, they may not translate into the desired organizational capabilities in different cultural and administrative contexts. By definition, corporate culture deals with internal integration and external adaptation. Japanese corporate culture is relatively stronger than in firms from other countries. That is to say that the firm’s values, norms, beliefs, practices, and expectations are widely shared and aligned. One reason can be found in the recruitment and socialization processes of Japanese companies which mostly hire fresh university graduates based on fit with the firm’s culture, and then extensively train them over several months. This emphasis on selection and internal labor markets coupled with unquestioned loyalty also has a downside for internationalization since it is not always compatible with localization, preferring Japanese “company men” and centralization. This leads to social capital with strong internal bonding but little bridging ability with outside firms or the competitive environment. Some Japanese firms have recently resorted to hiring outside CEOs, non-Japanese or from other industries (Takeda, Suntory, Shiseido) to help them gain the international experience they need and break away from their corporate insularity.

CUE ESP Symposium

Teaming up with the College and University Educators' English for Specific Purposes group was a great collaboration with a professionally organized group. This was a great conference with Sue Starfield the editor of the ESP Handbook talking about ethnographic methods, Bertha Du-Babcock demonstarting Business English needs in Asia and the middle east, and how materials can be adapted. Masako Terui also talked about English for Business Purpose needs within Japan, explaining and extensive study of Japanese business needs.

Here is the ESP Symposium website

Business and Intercultural Negotiation Conference

Chris Bates, Tim Craig & Kumiko Murata brought together the worlds of business, culture and linguistics, to 114 members of the audience from undergraduate students to experienced level practitioners. The student poster displays demonstrated business and marketing reflection and transferability. Presentations varied from negotiating how to build a tower, or what the rules are in a card game, to Business English as a lingua franca research. The intercultural Contrast Cultural Method role plays were a dynamic representation of people negotiating meaning across an intercultural gap. Originally the conference was aimed at a higher level Business Communication trainer with presentations about ANA internships and student tours to IKEA. However, it also developed into a more integrated collaborative process, with presentations about diversity and harassment awareness, teachers helping teachers, and the undergraduate students taking a leading role in the panel discussion sharing their study abroad perspectives of what is important in language learning: gaining experience to build adaptability.

PanSIG Business Communication Featured Speaker

Simon Humphries explained how all students in the Faculty of Foreign Language Studies at Kansai University are required to study abroad for approximately 10 months during their second year, but one daunting aspect of this experience is how to deal with financial problems. After returning from their study abroad, 18 students responded to an online anonymous questionnaire that asked them to describe their: (a) financial disagreement; (b) attempts to negotiate; (c) level of satisfaction from the outcome; and (d) advice to future students. Based on their responses, the presenter will suggest intercultural negotiation strategies.

Business Communication SIG Pecha Kucha Forum

The pechakucha BizCom Forum was very successful, with eleven speakers in 90minutes. The theme was the transformation in Business English practices, and topics included: Backchanneling, flexible language and integrated projects; idioms in business; public speaking skills and using authentic advertisements and resumes; the business of running and expanding a private English schools; promoting the use of dopamine by stimulating the brain with active and fun business activities; implementing a business training program within a university faculty; transforming an EFL class into a business English class; English as a corporate language; tailoring occupational training courses; transforming from a native speaker teacher into an ELF teacher; the benefits of MBA programs.

Business Communication SIG AGM 2016

Thanks to everyone who came along to the AGM. We decided (by a majority vote) to keep the Business Communication SIG name, (instead of changing it to the ESP SIG), and we'll work with the CUE ESP Symposium, to organise a co-sponsored ESP event at Keio university in Sept. 2017. We are also going to run a BizCom intercultural communication/negotiation mini-conference in July in the Kansai area, (depending on whether we can secure funding, as there are a few speakers from overseas we'd like to bring in). The number of members is now over 35, and the number of officers has increased to 10. We currently have about 80,000yen. We spent 334,000yen in 2016, and got 212,000yen, with the biggest expenses coming from running the Fukuoka conference. The income came from membership and a JALT grant, the JALT development fund, sponsorship, and chapter donations.

Discourse strategies in ELF: Project-based learning in Transylvania

Hiro Audience Tokyo Oct 2016

On the evening of 14th October, in conjunction with the Tokyo Chapter and the Pragmatics SIG, the Business Communication SIG hosted a talk by Dr. Hiromasa Tanaka on the development of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) strategies in Intercultural Communication (IC). Dr. Tanaka believes that competence in IC develops best organically, through observing and emulating various discourse strategies in authentic collaborative environments. He demonstrated this process by introducing the audience to a student project he devised and conducted in Romania during the summer of 2016.

Izakaya Tokyo Oct 2016

Students from Japan and Europe were given the authentic task of producing a promotional package (videos and other materials) to sell a particular Romanian liquor to the Japanese market. The multicultural team held strategy meetings, performed fieldwork and worked together to produce a final product. Dr. Tanaka reported how experienced and more capable IC communicators used strategies focused on both messages and relationships and how they made efforts to include less capable and experienced colleagues. Through this kind of discourse leadership and by acting as role models, IC competence spread through the group. Based on this and similar studies, Dr. Tanaka concluded that when it comes to IC, the acquisition of strategies and learning-while-doing seems to be most effective. While accepting that not every Business English teacher can afford to send her/his students to Romania for the summer, he believes that explicit teaching of strategies and task-based learning (TBL) in the classroom can provide a similar learning experience. The BCSIG would like to express its enormous gratitude to Dr. Tanaka for delivering the lecture, to Matthew Kocourek at JALT Tokyo Chapter for his organizational expertise and to Kimi Koseki and Nobuko Trent for their support. Look out for our next newsletter, January 2017, for a more detailed article on Dr. Tanaka’s ideas and the Romanian project.

The Evolution of Business Language Training in Japan

Professor Mike Handford started by asking the question “How is professional discourse different from ‘everyday language’?” And his answer was that: 1. It is goal-oriented and has power differences 2. The use and frequency of lexis, collocation and phraseology is distinctive 3. It is structured and carried out through genre-based activities 4. Though largely transactional, relational concerns (e.g. solidarity, power, identity) are also expressed/negotiated through relational talk and politeness features 5. Problem-solving is a key activity in the workplace. He then explained the three keys areas which show how problem solving is represented in discourse. He broke it down into the Stage, Function & Language. The first stage was to identify the problem, then clarify, define and evaluate, and using his corpus, he showed the typical language used to do so. Similarly for the second stage, generating ideas, are realized by hypothesizing, and supporting, or evaluating, and the third stage was deciding the best option, by evaluating, agreeing and rejecting. The nature of the problem and interpersonal negotiation are the most important factors for determining the kind of language used, even though people may have different national, organizational and professional backgrounds & cultures. So be careful of stereotypes!

Mike Handford
Andrew Vaughan

Andrew Vaughan looked at how corporate language training programs in Japan provide professionals with the language and communication skills necessary to be successful in the workplace. He said that the American perspective of Japanese business people is that they are untrustworthy because they are generally uncommunicative, and it’s difficult to build a relationship. So it’s important that Japanese students are more assertive in the global workforce, they can express their ideas logically, and concisely in presentations, meetings and while drinking beer. Furthermore, it’s not good enough just to measure students’ reactions, and customer feedback, but their learning, new behaviors, and the results must also be evaluated.

Professor Hiromasa Tanaka discussed a management approach to language also starting with the return on investment: student satisfaction; learning outcomes; behavioral changes; business results; social impact. He then discussed managers’ behavior involves many communicative factors including politeness, strategies for making an impression, metaphors, and storytelling. There are three styles of management, directive, cooperative and collaborative, depending on knowledge, authority and language. These leadership styles are revealed through the act of social construction, similar to how identities are revealed in communicative events. The main theme was that English (and management) is an active practice, negotiated between people, rather than a static language or set of principles.

Hiro Tanaka
Meisei Students

Six MA candidates from Meisei university presented poster talks on range of themes surrounding intercultural workplace and business interaction. Nanami Ito’s research was about how women managers talk and act in business settings in America. Li Meng studied how topic selection and development in initial encounters is different between Japanese Native Speakers and Chinese Learners of Japanese. Japanese speakers tend to prefer to use fixed patterns, whereas Chinese adopt a freer format. Zhong Xiaohui discussed problems caused by cultural differences between China and Japan, for example, how disparity in language, actions, modes, values and beliefs result in communication failures. Li Zhen Ya presented about politeness theory and service encounters in Japanese restaurants. This showed that word choice, timing and intonation are carefully determined by restaurant management and employees to generate specific types of hospitality. Long Wan Ying discussed how automotive companies build consumer trust by the kind of language and strategies that they use in their English and Chinese websites. May Ouma discussed the importance of relational communication within business environments.

Saeko Ujiie discussed how Japanese and foreign owned companies based in Japan, use English as their corporate/common language. Her conclusions were that it is more practical to have two or more working languages, to serve companies domestic and international needs, and be able to switch language use between genres or contexts.

Saeko Ujiie
Simon Humphries

Simon Humphries used an example of a student trying to solve a banking problem using emails to highlight the often messy process of communication that is far from what is prescribed in textbooks. His data revealed misunderstandings, no or delayed responses, and generally bad customer care from a UK bank. This highlighted the need for leaners to be able to negotiate a successful conclusion to a problem, involving various stages of the interaction and individual moves.

Luc Gougeon, gave lots of tips about how to use Information Communication Technology in Business English classrooms, such as Google for Education, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Google Space, Vlogging, Google Classroom, doing online testing using Google form and Flubaroo, Start-up - the business podcast, Elsa - the pronunciation app, and Duolingo. He emphasized that enabling students to use interactive technologies helps them to engage and interact using the language, and produces successful learning outcomes.

Luc Gougeon

Makiko Asaba

Makiko Asaba & Yoshiko Aiba, discussed English speaking proficiency tests, and specifically Pearson’s Versant English test in corporate training contexts. Fluency and pronunciation are the most common weak skill areas among employees, who have a good TOEIC ability. Speaking with uneven pacing and frequent obvious pauses, incorrect accents or stress has a negative impact on fast-paced real business communication. So the Versant test gives quick test results, and assesses decontextualized speaking ability. However it doesn’t use Business content, nor tests opinions. So for more content based Business English tests, then maybe BULATS, or TOEIC Speaking and writing tests would be more appropriate.

Yoshiko Aiba

JALT PanSIG 2016, Okinawa

Saeko Ujiie, from SBF Consulting, described the problems and implications for Japanese companies who adopt English as their corporate language policy.

Rebekka Eckhaus from New York University School of Professional Studies, described how to scaffold a 3-lesson unit for an intermediate to advanced EFL class using a business case study, moving from comprehension of the case study, to simulating a business meeting, and finally offering solutions and recommendations. The aim was to foster learner autonomy and problem solving skills while providing an business case study teaching framework.

Richard Miller & Masashi Kurosawa from Kobe University discussed how to get Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI), and how to make your CV look professional.

Yin Ling {Carly} Lui、from the University of Hong Kong examined student job interview questions, from student, lecturer and employer perspectives.

Pan Sig Okinawa

Contact Us

The Business Communication SIG

The easiest way to contact us is by emailing or via the contact form on the JALT website. Otherwise, please come and talk to us at the Business Communication SIG table at the JALT events.

To contact JALT, see the contact information page on the JALT website.