Every month this year, we will be turning our focus towards one of the core languages we love to teach – looking at the language’s potential for business, considering a few facts and figures to put its global prospects in context, plus sharing some tips to help you get started. This month we look closer to home at English – the global language of business.
Around a quarter of the world’s population speaks English, and this number is certain to grow. English is also the official language of over a quarter of the world’s countries. Unsurprisingly, it is therefore the global lingua franca – with English, you have the best chance of being understood in the most places around the world. With this degree of connectivity, it makes sense for any business to invest in developing the English language skills of their employees in the UK and around the world.
Learning English: Business Prospects and Opportunities
English is widely regarded as the global language of business. It is an official language for many of the world’s largest economies, and it is the language that developing countries and emerging economies rely on to access these significant markets and achieve economic growth. The US and the UK have the first and fifth largest economies in the world, respectively, and English is the main spoken language in both countries.
Whatever happens in the world post-Brexit and post-COVID-19, English is likely to dominate the business world for years to come. And as more emerging economies find their opportunity to engage on the global business stage, the more valuable English is likely to be as a connecting language. In fact, English is such a significant language that it is used on over a quarter of the world’s web pages, further cementing its importance to the global business community.
This may seem obvious to all of us living in the UK – we see the business and cultural influence English has every day as we shop online, liaise with overseas clients, read internationally bestselling books, and watch local and international films and TV. With such exposure to our own language, as well as years of polishing our formal language skills in a professional environment, why is learning English for business worth a moment’s thought?
The truth is that we are so international these days that we may have contractors and clients all over the world, and new markets that we want to explore. While the language skills in our UK offices may be in great shape, what about our overseas offices? Might some additional language training help your overseas colleagues to be more effective in their roles? Equally, imagine that you have new employees joining you from overseas to help you grow your business. Might you be able to utilise their expertise more effectively – and give them greater job satisfaction – by investing in developing their language skills?
Every business is different, and every business has different strategic goals, but effective two-way communication is essential if you want to maximise your business’s global opportunities – and English is a gatekeeper that helps more of us to connect than any other language.
Did You Know? A Few Facts about English
Whoever you plan to do business with, the English language is bound to be a part of the conversation at some stage – though we also acknowledge the importance of understanding a local language, such as Portuguese in Brazil, when you want to do business overseas. We certainly believe that learning the local language can go a long way towards building rapport when you are building connections overseas. Inevitably, however, English is the language that offers the most traction in business and the greatest opportunity for successful communication in the largest number of circumstances.
Here are a few useful facts to know about English before you engage your team in business English training.
- If either German or Dutch are your first language, you may find that English is a little easier to make sense of than you might expect. This is because English has West Germanic origins and so it sits close to these languages on the Indo-European language family tree.
- You can thank the colonial British Empire for the global spread of English – this explains why English is the most commonly spoken language in countries such as the US, Australia and New Zealand.
- English has a tendency to trip up language learners with its many irregular verbs, its curious adjective word order and its often unintuitive pronunciation. These things do start to make sense over time, but until then try not to be too hard on yourself if you mix up your singular and plural nouns and refer to several sheep as ‘sheeps’ – another irregular example, and a common mistake!
- If English is the global language of business, it is also the global language of the world – within reason. There are plenty of places you can go where English may not get you very far, but for many countries around the world English is understood by a significant number of its people. Of course, remember to be careful with this rule: while English may often save the day, it is always a good idea to learn at least a little of the local language – out of respect for the local people, if nothing else.
Click here for more facts and figures about English language and culture.
Tips to Help You Get Started
Here are a few helpful tips to help you polish your English language skills or develop the English proficiency within your team.
- If you have team members who are just beginning to learn English, look for opportunities to practise with them – but also encourage them to speak with other learners. It may be intimidating to practise with native English speakers at first, so consider this when recommending practise sessions for your team members. Once they have developed their confidence with the basics, then it could be a good time to try out more in-depth conversations.
- English language learners are spoilt for choice when it comes to opportunities to listen to, read and follow English speakers. From big budget Hollywood movies to award-winning books, entertaining quiz shows to tantalising cooking shows, there are plenty of engaging ways to immerse yourself in the language. It could even be a great way to build relationships with an overseas team member – after all, no in-person office relationship is complete without a film or TV show recommendation popping up every now and again, so why should that be any different for your remote connections? If 2020 showed us anything, it is that we can still engage with others remotely in ways that can develop and strengthen cross-team connections.
- If your company is investing in additional business English training to help talented employees polish their language skills, then maybe it is a good time to complement their language training with some additional business skills training. Role-playing different professional scenarios (such as a contract negotiation or a business meeting) could work well as your colleagues develop their competence and grow in confidence.
- Another good tip for language learners looking to enhance their business English is to read, watch or listen to professional development resources, such as relevant business books, podcasts or TED Talks. It is a great way to develop linguistic prowess at the same time as deepening understanding of the context in which a business is operating.
If you would like to find out more about developing your team’s business English skills – or even engaging team members with beginning their English language learning journey – contact us today. We can work with you to develop a bespoke language-learning plan to fit your business’s needs, as well as provide cross-cultural training to help you connect with your global colleagues, whether virtually or in person. All our courses can be taught live online.