Picture the scene – your successful business is flourishing in the UK, and it is gaining market share in a range of different countries overseas. To manage this growth, you have set up some small international offices using your current team, and you are recruiting English-speaking staff in each location so that everyone in your organisation can communicate effectively. All in all, things are looking good for your business.
Choosing English as a central language to all locations makes sense in this case, because the head office is in the UK and most of your employees are based in the UK. It may therefore be surprising to learn that a number of high-profile, large-scale internationally based businesses have also chosen to make the move towards English as their language of business, including the Japanese car manufacturers Nissan and Honda, as well as Germany’s Siemens.
In this blog, we consider the pros and cons of choosing to use English as the language of global business.
The rise of English as a foreign language
English may fall behind Mandarin and Spanish when it comes to native speakers, but the growing number of people learning English as a foreign language means that it is actually the most widely spoken language in the world. Well over a billion people are either native speakers of English or in the process of learning the language, and English is spoken in over 100 countries worldwide.
For businesses looking to trade across different countries and cultures, English is an ideal common language. With an increasing number of organisations across the world introducing policies that require staff to operate exclusively in English, we anticipate that English will remain the flagship language of global business communication for the foreseeable future.
The pitfalls of native English
It is easy to assume that native English speakers have the advantage over their English language learning colleagues – after all, they have lived and breathed the English language from their first word. However, while language learners may be missing out on some of the social and cultural nuances of a language, they are also careful to be clear and precise when they speak so that they communicate as accurately as possible. Native speakers, on the other hand, often make the crucial mistake of forgetting that their audience may not have the same degree of language dexterity (including an understanding of common slang terms or colloquialisms). As a result they may be difficult to understand, which could create a comedy of communication errors (and potentially lead to serious misunderstandings)!
For your organisation to utilise business English effectively and efficiently, a timely reminder of the potential challenges of communicating in a shared language may be a useful training investment for your colleagues, regardless of the language proficiency levels within your team.
English is an incredibly valuable global language, but it may not be the answer to every global business scenario. In addition, there are many benefits to learning a second language, and there will also be times when English is not enough for a given opportunity. Remember to evaluate your organisation’s business strategy carefully to identify any language limitations that may impede your global success.
Introducing your organisation to English language training enables your business to become globally competitive, and polishing your team’s business English skills may make all the difference as your business goes global. Talk to Simon & Simon today to find out more about our language learning courses (for English as well as a large range of other languages) in Central London and beyond.