I have just returned from a series of travels where I encountered a lot of second language English speakers: South Africa, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
These speakers come from a wide range of nationalities and cultures and speak many different languages: the only thing they have in common really is that they also speak English.
From a business point of view, the interesting aspect of this was hearing the differences in HOW they all speak the language and the way they approach communicating in it.
Purely from a grammar point of view, many of the errors are similar to the ones I hear everyday teaching Business English in the Netherlands: word order of sentences, incorrect prepositions, lack of verb agreement and inaccurate verb conjugations.
These things are in fact the typical errors and ones that can be easily remedied with attentive practice and refreshing the basic grammar rules.
But what frustrates most second language speakers more is vocabulary. Not necessarily not having exactly the right words, but also the ability to express nuance, humour and emotion in their communication. I am a second language speaker of Dutch and this is certainly one of the issues that spurs me on to improve.
In a business situation, vocabulary is crucial in English. You need to be able to pick your words carefully, be diplomatic when needed, direct and clear when it is not, and come across in a calm, professional manner.
In short, there is a big difference in how important it is that you come across well when having a beer in a café in English and when conducting a business meeting.
An effective business English course, therefore, is one where clients can talk and write about everyday work situations and learn how to inject nuance and tone into HOW they say what they say. It is also therefore important for clients to pay special attention to areas that seem to always generate misunderstandings before the course so that it can be focused on finding solutions.
There’s no quick fix to these challenges. Learning a list of business sounding words won’t work if you’re not sure about how and when to use them.
Taleninstituut Language Learning Tip:
Don’t confuse how a language is used with who you are as a person. In business, language is just another tool, like a laptop or a calculator. Make sure you can use it in ways that are appropriate to the situations you find yourself in.
© Taleninstituut Nederland
By: David Chislett
Senior trainer business English