Business English training for non-native speakers and native speakers of English
- September 15, 2016
- Posted by: Paul Simmonds
- Category: Teaching Business English
Business English is not the same as the language of everyday use and non-native speakers wanting to work in English will generally need special training. Training in Business English for non-native speakers of English is very important for a wide range of reasons, including how English is used –
- for social occasions linked to work
- for meetings
- when negotiating
- for writing reports
- for reading reports
- when listening to reports
- for telephone communication
- for email communication
- when making a presentation
…. and so on.
Teachers of English who want to become trainers in Business English also require training because working as a Business English trainer is very different from working as a regular teacher of English. A teacher with only a TESOL or TEFL certificate will not have the right qualifications to teach Business English and they will need to take a specialist Certificate in Teaching Business English (TBE) to be appropriately qualified.
However, there is also another group that also requires training and this is native speakers of English who are involved in international business. Why is it important for native speakers of English to have training? They can speak English perfectly well (we hope!) so this might seem unnecessary. The reason is that native speakers of English are often unaware of the difficulties they create for their non-native colleagues or counterparts in other companies.
Native speakers of English, in particular, are often unaware of the challenges that non-native speakers face. Perhaps one reason for this is that the great majority of native English speakers involved in business do not speak another language and they often have only limited understanding of how difficult it is to work in an English-speaking environment. The result is that they are often inconsiderate in their use of English, making life very difficult for non-native colleagues or counterparts.
How do native speakers of English regularly make life difficult for non-native colleagues or counterparts in other companies?
- They do not moderate their speed of speech.
Many business people need to moderate the speed at which they speak when interacting with non-native speakers of English. This is does mean speaking in a slow and unnatural way but in many cases it would be helpful to slow down just a little to facilitate communication.
- They use a lot of idioms.
An idiom is an expression that also cannot be guessed from the meaning of its individual words. Examples are: white elephant; between a rock and a hard place; at the drop of a hat; in a pickle; go bananas; dead as a doornail; bamboozle; there’s more than one way to skin a cat; we paid an arm and a leg; by the skin of my teeth. Native speakers use these all the time without even recognising that they are doing so and these can cause tremendous difficulties for non-native speakers.
- They use a lot of metaphors.
Metaphors make language interesting because they help to create images in one’s mind. They make connections between different things to bring up a picture in the listener’s mind. The meaning can sometimes be deduced from the context even if the listener has never heard the metaphor before because s/he already knows the meaning of the words being used, despite the fact that they are being used in a novel way for the listener. Examples include: turbulent times; plough back (our profits); weed out; drowning in paperwork; green shoots (of recovery); bumper crop; climb the greasy pole; climb the corporate ladder; keep our heads above water; wage freeze. Again, these are very, very common in English but too many metaphors in a conversation can overwhelm a non-native speaker.
- They are often unfamiliar with conventions associated with business in other cultures.
In order to be effective in business, it is important for all sides to have a clear understanding about how other cultures operate socially and in meetings, and what sorts of relationships foreign companies are looking for. Having a poor understanding of how people from other countries / cultures speak and behave is vital in business and Business English training can help with this.
- They may use humour in an inappropriate way.
Humour is always a dangerous area when people from different countries / cultures are seeking to do business. A light-hearted, throw-away comment understood by all from one culture might be seriously misunderstood by people from another. Unless the participants know their colleagues from other countries / cultures very well, it would be a very dangerous to introduce humour at any point as this could completely backfire and destroy weeks, or even months, of hard-won progress.
So, while completing a Certificate in Teaching Business English (TBE) is important for English language teachers, it is also important for both native speakers and non-native speaker of English to have training in Business English as well.