Languages evolve, that’s nothing new. However, the English language has its own subset of terminology that native English speakers have adopted and put into use practically on every level – when speaking casually and in business settings. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for people abroad to understand the “real” English. A Spanish student in Denmark remarked to another researcher: “Now it’s more difficult for me to understand the real English.”
This “real English” – which dizzyingly encompasses the whole range of dialects from Liverpool in England, to Wellington in New Zealand, via Johannesburg in South Africa, and Memphis in the US – is only the start of the problem of understanding what is trying to be communicated.
For example: When an American manager in Japan cannot understand why his Japanese staff cannot provide a “ballpark figure” requested, this demonstrates the breakdown in communication can lead to a real disintegration in workplace relations. The inability of the travelling native English speaker to refrain from homeland idiosyncrasies and cultural in-jokes has been found to result in resentment and suspicion.
This points to a very real danger that native English speakers, especially those who never learned another language, risk missing out on business opportunities – whether in the form of contracts, idea development, job opportunities and much more. -It’s because of this reason that more companies across all markets are language testing employees to ensure proper English is spoken within a business setting. Language Testing International CEO, Helen Hamlyn commented, “So many opportunities risk being lost when a language is used improperly or not at the level in which non-native speakers are involved. This leads to confusion on many fronts, from both a consumer level and within a company itself employing a diverse, multi-national staff”.
It’s critical to a business’ success for it’s employees and management to understand the confusion speaking the English dialect and become more aware of their business partners and counterparts abroad. Reflecting on the difficulties others may have in understanding our English may well be a good start to becoming a better member of the international community and a more attractive business partner too.
Source: The Conversation: By Spencer Hazel
Lisa March is a bilingual Marketing and Sales Executive. She works closely with LTI on strategic partnerships, business development and marketing. Her efforts help LTI scale the use and implementation of language assessments in schools, institutions, corporations and government agencies.