British Council Conference: E-merging Forum 3, 1.3.13

The Business in Literature


Modern business, ESL, and literature – where in the world do these three meet? And what happens?

Of late, it seems that the first two are developing an increasingly intimate relationship, while the latter still hasn’t made the grade, although of innumerable quality.

This could be for a variety of reasons. Mainly, business and ESL aren’t sure if literature has anything to offer them – “You’re too complicated and obtuse,” ESL says. “How do you advance my academic or occupational goals?” business inquires. And, of course, literature’s background and culture is foreign and possibly intimidating to them both.

Despite these typical complaints from business and ESL, literature (depending on your definition) is often closer than most business executives know, or expect. In a parallel universe the cooperation of these three results in leadership development, better decision-making skills and greater empathy. Furthermore, employees retain language better and have increased motivation for reading, and therefore increased reading proficiency.

This talk will explore the consequences of these three characters developing deeper cooperation and possible approaches to their successful union in a business context.


Choo, Lim Meng, “A case for using literature to teach business English”, Reflections on English Language Teaching, 4 (2005), 27–45.
Coutu, Diane, “Leadership in Literature”, Harvard Business Review, March 2006.
McKay, Sandra, “Literature in the ESL Classroom”, TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec., 1982), 529-536.
Paul, Annie Murphy, “Your Brain on Fiction”, New York Times, March 17, 2012.

The Business In Literature Handout

British Council page



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