The Importance of English in Business: 7 Reasons You Should Improve Your Professional English Skills
English is not my mother tongue. But it is the language I think, speak and write in.
As a child, it wasn’t a question of whether I liked English more than other languages. At home, I spoke three.
But I learned at a very young age that English was the language of success.
English is the most spoken language in the world and is the official language of numerous countries. Over one billion people speak it as a foreign language.
Plus, English tops the internet in the number of users and is also a top language in tech.
In this post, we’ll look at the importance of English in business—including the seven benefits of speaking it in the workplace.
- 1. It shows you’re competent in business settings where English is spoken.
- 2. It enables you to communicate with your colleagues and grow your network.
- 3. It gives you confidence in presentations, meetings and speeches.
- 4. It makes outstanding first impressions that bring more opportunities.
- 5. It allows you to travel.
- 6. It puts you ahead of the competition.
- 7. It lets you communicate easily with important people in your industry.
1. It shows you’re competent in business settings where English is spoken.
Back in the days of pre-globalization, knowing English was a bonus.
Like it or not, it was a mark of superior knowledge and sophistication. It made you look impressive to people.
But today, many bosses automatically expect you to know the language regardless of your background and upbringing. Even if you received an education in a different language or come from a place where English is barely spoken.
This means that to impress your interviewer or boss, you must show that you’re fluent and competent in speaking and writing the language.
How can you reach that level?
Thanks to technology, there’s an abundance of ways.
You can register for a professional English class or check out online courses—like MOOCs—dedicated to improving your business English skills.
One of the best places to find them is Coursera. The great thing about Coursera is that you can earn certification for courses from top universities, which gives you another way to impress your future boss!
2. It enables you to communicate with your colleagues and grow your network.
Working in an office means teamwork and collaboration.
You’ll have to interact with your colleagues even if you’re an introvert (someone who prefers to spend more time alone). And that won’t be easy if you don’t know the language they speak.
In the worst-case scenario, it might even lead to misunderstandings that put your job at stake.
Similarly, you need to know the right people to get the best job or promotion. For that, you need superior networking skills—which learning business English helps with.
The best way to learn better English communication is to speak the language often, preferably with a language partner in person or online via Skype. You can also check out this MOOC on communication skills on Coursera.
3. It gives you confidence in presentations, meetings and speeches.
You can’t deliver a presentation to your team or be in charge of a board meeting if you speak your native language, which no one else in the room understands.
So you must speak the “common tongue” well to translate your thoughts and ideas into coherent (clear and logical) sentences that everyone can understand and respond to.
Just having a great idea isn’t enough. You have to express it to your audience successively.
Luckily, there are also plenty of online courses that focus on successful business meetings and presentations.
4. It makes outstanding first impressions that bring more opportunities.
Speaking and writing business English are two different skills.
You might write well, but unless you can speak clearly and fluently, you likely won’t make an impact in the workplace.
People judge us by how we speak, whether we like it or not.
Not to mention, the type of English that’s spoken differs from place to place.
American English isn’t the same as British English. There are notable differences in accents and pronunciation.
Similarly, it’s acceptable in India to mix words from Indian languages with English to communicate something, forming a “hybrid” (combined) language.
So wherever you work, research the type of language spoken there and try matching your accent to the native one. This will help you blend in better. If your interviewer thinks you’re comfortable with the language, you’re already halfway to getting the job.
The best way to improve your pronunciation is to listen to and repeat after native speakers. BusinessEnglishPod is a great resource to start with.
You can also find tons of authentic videos on FluentU to immerse yourself in English from home. Each video comes with interactive subtitles that let you hover over unknown words to see their definition, pronunciations and example sentences.
5. It allows you to travel.
If you’ve always dreamed of working for an international company or traveling, English is the most likely language to help you achieve it.
Not to mention, you don’t want to get into a situation where you’re in a foreign country and no one can understand what you are saying.
If you aren’t confident in cross-cultural communication, this business English MOOC should answer all your questions.
6. It puts you ahead of the competition.
If you have a full-time job or run your own business—but also do night shifts or part-time jobs to supplement your income—you probably already know that your English proficiency will give you an edge over other candidates.
Whether it’s waiting tables, babysitting, being a shop assistant, helping with events or even walking someone’s dog, your English skills will come in handy.
7. It lets you communicate easily with important people in your industry.
English is the “lingua franca” of the world due to Westernization and globalization. So being fluent is a survival strategy in today’s competitive world.
It automatically improves your chances of climbing the corporate ladder.
The way you speak and communicate is also linked to your interpersonal skills, leadership qualities and level of empathy (ability to relate to other people).
So learning the language will help you master all the “soft skills” and “life skills” you need to succeed in the workplace, too!
Plenty of courses cover these skills along with English, like the ones on business and entrepreneurship and career development.
To improve your business English, the best option is to sign up for a course that teaches you the right skills and vocabulary.
You can supplement this learning by looking up vocabulary lists, playing word games, listening to podcasts or audiobooks, watching educational and authentic YouTube videos and practicing with online exercises.
If you mainly self-study, make a plan and stick to it.
And finally, interact with your peers and friends in business English and ask for feedback. They’d be happy to help!