In today’s global business environment, one of the most valuable developmental activities for any professional is learning English or improving their English for business communication. Companies from English-speaking countries are constantly expanding to new international markets. This creates opportunities for business professionals skilled in English. Additionally, English often serves as the “lingua franca” of business. For example, executives from two non-English-speaking countries might conduct a meeting in English because it’s the language they share.
Even if you’re fluent, speaking clearly is key to being understood and giving a clear message. Giving presentations, talking on the phone, entertaining clients and talking to colleagues, these all need a clear pronunciation, no matter what country of origin. We can work on specific vowels and consonants so that you or your employees can speak English with confidence.
For your employees to become expert business communicators in English, they need both language and cultural proficiency.
Let’s consider the range of expertise required:
Both one-one-one and group meetings can put a professional’s English skills to the test. Native speakers may use different idioms and pronunciations than your employees have been exposed to before, and they may speak more rapidly than they can understand. Native English speakers might also have a different overall communication style. For example, they may be less deferential to senior employees than your workers are used to or give feedback much more readily. Phone meetings are especially challenging because non-native speakers can’t use facial expressions to help them understand what’s going on.
Professionals need the ability to create a variety of written materials — from formal reports to less-formal (but equally important) emails and PowerPoint presentations. They should be able to write clearly in English so that others can understand and act on the important information they are sharing.
Presenting can still be a challenge even if someone is proficient in English. Research has shown that listeners have a hard time understanding and processing what a speaker is saying if he or she has an unfamiliar accent. Practicing with an English coach who can give tips and corrections is invaluable.
Every field has its own terminology. Anyone who last studied English during their school days likely did not learn many of the words and phrases that are part of everyday business communication in their industry.
Common English phrases like “let’s wrap it up” or “make the most of this” can baffle someone who has had formal language training, but little conversational practice. But they are important for understanding overall meaning.
Studying business English benefits professionals of all sorts. But it’s particularly useful for these groups:
Prioritize language training for anyone relocating to an English-speaking country or who is likely to relocate in the future. Relocations are a big investment for your company. But estimates are that 40 to 54 percent of relocations fail. Bolstering your employees’ English skills can help them adjust to their new home and ensure that the relocation succeeds. Don’t forget about employees’ family members. Enrolling them in English classes as well is good insurance against homesickness and “expat depression.”
Anyone on a team with English-speaking members can become a better collaborator and make the team more productive by studying business English. That includes engineers, accountants, IT professionals and project managers. Most employees using their second language for work feel much less confident speaking up in meetings and sharing ideas. How much ROI are you losing due to this?
Global leaders need English skills to connect with their international workforce and to position their companies well in international markets. Never underestimate the price you pay for a lack of communication/cultural connection with potential clients either. Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, a seasoned global executive, says that “being monolingual is no longer an option.”
HR professionals want their employees to be as successful as possible. Help them gain clarity in their communication. Even if they are fluent in their second language, accents can still make it difficult for them to be understand. It’s a challenge to approach management in your second language. What effect do you think this has on engagement?
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