Business English

Being able to speak a second language is a huge advantage in the international world we live in today, with multilingual speakers having more than one way of viewing the world, earning more and even having better mental health, making it less likely that multilingual speakers will get dementia.

Just how important is English to international companies?

English is the third most spoken language in the world (beaten only by Chinese and Spanish), with 335 million people who speak English as their first language globally and 1,750 million people who speak English at a useful level. It is also the language of the web, with html, CSS, PHP and other computer languages all written in English. If you look at the source code of a Chinese website, it’s still written in English! Similarly, all air traffic control is done in English.

English is also the global language of many businesses, even outside of the UK, Canada and the USA. If you have an international meeting in France, for example, odds are that you will be asked to speak English. Daimler-Chrysler, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, Technicolor, and Microsoft in Beijing have all said that English is their common corporate language, to name just a few of the largest international companies, but many smaller companies have the same policy.

Tips on learning English

It’s important to learn English idioms and greetings, which are becoming more and more informal. Perhaps you receive spam emails starting “Greetings of the day”? This is a word for word translation from a common Hindi greeting, whereas native speakers would just say “Hello” or “Dear Sir / Madam” for formal documents, with the equivalent “Have a good day / evening / weekend”, going near the end of a correspondence, not the beginning.

If in doubt, if someone writes to you, mirror their greeting. If they call you by your first name, call them by theirs, if they say ‘Best wishes’ rather than ‘Yours sincerely’ at the end of an email, use ‘Best wishes’ too.

If you already speak English reasonably well and need to give a presentation in English, then this guide on how to give a presentation covers the overall structure of a presentation well and provides a useful template that you can use for a presentation on any topic.

Whatever your business, odds are that there will be specific topics you need to discuss with a plethora of words and phrases that are specific to that topic. It’s therefore worth reading what other writers have said on the topic, to become familiar with the language. If you’re using a Kindle, then you can press and hold down a word to see a definition of it and this helps learn what unfamiliar words mean, while keeping with the immersion experience, rather than simply translating words into your native language.

Getting a language buddy is an alternative way to learn a language (for example if you’re French, find an English speaker who wants to learn French and arrange to speak French for half an hour, then speak English for half an hour). Alternatively you may have some other skill that you can teach in English (perhaps the business you’re an expert in, or teaching a musical instrument). This way you get to share your knowledge while practising English 100% of the time.

The best way to learn a second language is through total immersion, the way children learn it. Surrounding yourself by English speakers means you will quickly pick up the nuances of the language. If you are guided through tuition by a qualified teacher, you’ll develop even faster. Daily English offer English total immersion courses, as well as a daily English lesson that changes every day, this is a useful way to keep in practice.