The Business English Index Breakdown: 4 Takeaways That Can Advance Your Career

Information is power.

That’s why you research a company before you arrive for your job interview.

And you collect information about your company’s competitors so you know what you’re up against.

Looking for some information to power up your business English studies, too?

We’ve got just the thing: the Business English Index.

The Business English Index is a trustworthy resource with valuable insights about the English-speaking professional world that you can use to advance your career.

In this article, we’ll show you exactly what the Business English Index covers and how you can use this information to your advantage.

What Is the Business English Index?

The Business English Index (BEI) is a report that measures and analyzes the proficiency levels of business English speakers all across the globe. It compares business English proficiency levels across workers in different industries and countries. This information is prepared by GlobalEnglish, which is owned by Pearson, an education-focused company.

The BEI measures Business English proficiency on a score from one to 10. A score of one indicates the ability to read and communicate with simple sentences, while a score of 10 suggests a high level of mastery, on par with a native English speaker. The Business English Index shows you which countries and industries have the most fluent business English speaking populations, and which are lagging behind.

Finally, the Business English Index showcases the ever-rising importance of business English in the workplace. 94% of respondents (people who answered the BEI survey) view business English as a necessary component for career advancement, while 93% confirmed that their managers would like to see their English communication skills greatly improved.

The Business English Index Breakdown: 4 Takeaways That Can Advance Your Career

The Business English Index will tell you important facts about the usage of business English in different workplaces and the current requirements on the average worker.

Using this information, you can know which skills to develop and which aspects of business communication you must focus on depending on the industry that you’re a part of.

1. There’s a Gap Between Workers’ Language Goals and Achievements

The Business English Index makes it clear that workers believe in the importance of learning business English. 94% of BEI respondents stated that business English fluency is vital for career advancement, and 93% said that their managers would like them to improve their language abilities.

And yet, Business English Index scores indicate that most workers haven’t been able to advance beyond the “beginner” stage. The average 2013 BEI test score across all companies is merely 4.75. This means that the average worker can understand basic instructions and can carry out basic tasks, but cannot effortlessly take part in conference calls, deliver fluent presentations or assume a leadership role in international workplaces.

For many global companies, limited communication means limited productivity—whether it’s access to fewer clients or delays to get documents and conversations translated.

Use these facts as motivation to advance beyond the beginner stage of business English learning. Remember that business English mastery will make you a highly competitive candidate compared to your peers, because it can make you indispensable for your company’s bottom line (earnings).

2. Your Industry May Need More English Speakers

As we noted earlier, the Business English Index categorizes language skills by industry.

The industries with the highest BEI scores include:

  • Aerospace and defense (6.63)
  • Technology (5.72)
  • Financial services (4.93)
  • Retail (4.92)

Nevertheless, the fact that those scores are just slightly above or close to the midpoint (5) suggests there’s much room for improvement.

Meanwhile, industries including real estate (2.82), government (3.18), media (3.20) and transportation (3.99) showcase an alarming need for more competent business English speakers.

If you’re working in the lower-scoring industries mentioned above, employers might be desperate for business English speakers. This can be a serious boon to your career. Focus on your spoken English skills first and foremost, since these can make a great first impression and are especially helpful in fields with lots of personal interaction like government and media.

If you’re working in one of the “top” business English industries, you may need to step up your language game to compete with others. Use your spare time to focus on learning the vocabulary and jargon specific to your industry, be it aviation or engineering, and consider investing in intensive business English courses.

3. Your Location Can Determine Your English Study Goals

The Business English Index also notes which countries have the most and least proficient business English speakers. The highest scoring countries in the report were:

  • The Philippines (7.95)
  • Norway (7.06)
  • The Netherlands (7.03)
  • The U.K. (6.81)
  • Australia (6.78)

Naturally, the countries with a greater exposure to native English speakers tend to rank higher. Meanwhile, countries including Saudi Arabia (3.14), Honduras (2.92) and Mexico (3.14) had some of the lowest scores.

How can this information impact you? If you’re relocating or considering moving elsewhere for work, do some research into the region you’re traveling to. An area with lots of English immersion can help your English improve. Your study goals might include pronunciation, word stress and diction to help you be understood more easily in these areas. An area without lots of business English fluency may require more focused studying, perhaps with a business English tutor.

Regardless of where you are or where you travel to, look into the local languages and cultures and be informed about them. If you’re bilingual or multilingual, make sure you make it known as it may come in handy during translation or cross-cultural encounters at the workplace.

4. There Are Always More Opportunities to Speak English at Work

No matter what industry you’re in, remember that versatile (able to change/adapt) English skills can get you far. The Business English Index shows that there are always new opportunities to practice your language skills at work.

According to the report, about 58% of workers communicate with their managers and executives in English, but only 21% do so with their direct report. If possible, requesting regular meetings in English with your direct report can give both of you valuable, real-life English practice. Plus, you’ll be boosting the overall English proficiency of your office, which your higher-ups are bound to appreciate.

If you have a customer-facing job, try to incorporate as much English as possible there, too. According to the Business English Index, only 39% of workers communicate with customers in English.


Now that you have a proper understanding of the Business English Index, you know what you can do to improve. So evaluate your current skills and proficiency levels and go through the BEI in detail to figure out the right plan of action. Remember, knowing business English gives you an edge over others, yes, but it’s the way you use your skills and your mastery of the language that’ll help you advance your career.

Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries. 

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe