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August 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Macbeth for Bankers

Thomas Martini worked as a chartered accountant in positions across Europe for 25 years before in Germany he moved into teaching at universities (International Trade Law & Accounting) and at adult college Abitur level (Politics & Economics, English, German). He is also in the British Chartered Institute of Linguists and the German translators association BDÜ. Email:


There's daggers in men's smiles

Some years ago many of my clients were professionals: bankers, IT specialists, engineers. Irrespective of their individual levels of English, what was frequently their main worry? I reckoned it was that they could not present themselves with that precision and indeed that ambiguity in English that they had at their fingertips when they spoke German. This very real worry went  beyond the question of small talk, which is a run-of-the-mill module at language schools, but does not really address the issue. Whether you can teach “negotiation” or “presentation” if you as a teacher have never been part of a corporate team yourself, you have to decide. But you can certainly teach language, psychology, you can teach on pride and prejudice. These guys wanted to know how to swear and to flirt, to cajole and to bamboozle, and, with Milton, to say and straight unsay.

Therefore, once every several weeks I exposed these students to ninety minutes of  Lady Macbeth, Tess d'Urberville, Hester Prynne or James Gatz – usually a combination of CD and easy reader, many of which have excellent exercise sections to boot. Ambition, sexual discrimination, violence, corruption through wealth – the themes of the theatre are the themes of the boardroom, and have always been. Language expands and personality grows through literature and theatre, probably more than by watching CNN or skipping through another dozen books on business grammar.


Nothing is but what is not

And use poetry … poetry … did you start teaching in order to convey how to use the comma in non-defining relative clauses, or did you not always want to teach the sheer passion, the ambiguity and the clarity of, for instance, Michael Drayton's “Since there's no help come let us kiss and part”,  of Elizabeth Jennings' “Delay”, and indeed of WH Auden's “Stop all the clocks”?

Try it with your business students, level B1 is good enough. But tell them what you are doing and why. And do not feel ashamed that you are doing it for yourself as well. No more sterile “How to give successful presentations” - rather, “Those leaves they gathered, broad as Amazonian targe, and with what skill they had, together sewed, to gird their waist, vain covering if to hide their guilt and dreaded shame. O how unlike that first naked glory!”

No dismissal from the boardroom that does not feel like Paradise Lost...


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Tagged  Lesson Ideas 
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  • Breaking Through: 6 Ways to Make Breakout Rooms Work for You
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  • Odd vs Even
    Khanh-Duc Kuttig, Germany

  • Macbeth for Bankers
    Thomas Martini, Germany

  • Quotes about Teaching
    Hanna Kryszewska, Poland

  • Communicating through Constructive Alliterations in Second Language Teaching
    George Bradford Patterson, US