Posted in ESL

Business ESL – negotiations

“But I don’t want to pay a sea lion for a grizzly bear!”

And so began two days of learning and practicing negotiation vocabulary and functional language.

I was working from Market Leader Intermediate (Pearson ELT), with three students – two advanced and one intermediate.  We had spent the earlier part of the week on Unit 9 – International Markets, and had learned about the first and second conditional structures.

To teach this I had used an excellent (and free!) resource I found here at  It was so simple and I taught it just like the website suggested – and it worked like a charm.  All three students got it spot-on in concept checking and testing.

First (i.e real):  If + [present], will + [base verb]

If you buy 10 units, I’ll give you a discount.

Second (i.e hypothetical):  If + [past], would + [base verb]

If you bought 10 units, I would give you a discount.

To begin the negotiation section I did a warm-up using this role play from (Edit 2018 – site no longer active).


This was a great activity to get started – very light and non-confrontational – and had the effect of producing many of the exponents naturally:

  • What are you looking for?
  • How about …?
  • I need to think about it.
  • Can we talk about a grizzly bear?

(Ok so maybe not the last one!)

In Market Leader Intermediate Unit 9 they do a section on ‘how’ to negotiate, which uses Harry Mills’ 7-step R-E-S-P-E-C-T mantra, and then uses a listening to suggest various functions students can use in negotiations.  I got the students to decide the order of steps in negotiation and elicited some alternative exponents not listed in the textbook:

Negotiation board!
Negotiation board!

Then I gathered a selection of role-play cards from various levels of Market Leader and we practiced them.  Because I had three students, one played the role of intermediary – suggesting points of compromise if the discussion got stuck.

Role plays from different Market Leaders.
Role plays from different Market Leaders.

The discussion flowed freely and we actually ran out of time to finish the second role play.  The next day we did the Case Study from Market Leader and in the error correction I focused on both intonation, e.g.

“Why don’t you TELL me about your product?”  [instead of “WHY don’t you tell me about your product?”]

…and courtesy:

“Can we discuss the discount?”  [instead of “Now I’d like to know about your discount”]

Overall I think this unit worked well.  I’m learning to like Market Leader as a book.  Next week we’re doing Unit 3 – Change.  If you gave me some hints, it would really help me! 🙂


Travel, photography, blogging, being an expat. And that's just in my spare time.

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