Good English skills are like a one-way ticket to business success.
They can take you all over the world.
Or just to the job you want.
English is not my mother tongue.
But it is the language I think, speak and write in.
As a child, it was not a question of whether I liked English more than any other language.
At home, I spoke in three languages, after all.
But I learnt at a very young age that English was the language of success. It was the language of international business and communication. If I wanted a decent job anywhere in the world, I needed to be proficient in this language.
If you are a non-native speaker of the language or just someone who has difficulties with it, you may be wondering, “Why should I put time and energy into perfecting my English for business? Why must I give it greater importance than any other language I know? Why is it a standard of judging whether someone is fit for a job or not?”
Why Is English So Important in Business?
Deciding whether English is important for business not a question of giving the language greater importance in general. It is simply a question of survival and successful communication.
Face the facts.
English is the language of business and communication worldwide.
English is the most widespread spoken and written language in the world.
An estimated 1500 million people speak the language worldwide, out of which only 375 million are native speakers. Over 1 billion people speak it as a foreign language.
So, if you don’t know it well, you won’t be able to effectively communicate with many other people.
English is the language of the internet.
English tops the internet in number of users and is also a top language in tech. And you have to be tech-savvy to do well in the workplace—whether this means being able to put together Excel sheets, do a conference call, research and fact-check data or use social media successfully.
English is the language of pop culture.
While this might not seem as important as the facts above, you don’t want to be the one at work who always gets the punchline a little too late (doesn’t know when to laugh during a joke). You don’t want to feel out of place.
You need to be aware of common cultural nuances to better communicate at work and be understood.
English is the “lingua franca” (meaning “common language”) of not only international business, but also of all kinds of communication worldwide. This means it is useful for understanding and being able to share common experiences and references with your colleagues.
So naturally, the ever-increasing popularity of the English language means you must know the language well to succeed at your career and climb the corporate ladder. Now we are going to look more closely at why (and how) you should improve your English for business.
The Importance of Good English in Business: 7 Big Benefits
Here are seven ways having good English skills can help you succeed in business.
1. It shows your willingness to go beyond basic business standards.
Back in the early days of pre-globalization, knowing English was a plus. Like it or not, it was a mark of superior knowledge and sophistication. It made you look impressive to people.
Now, regardless of your background and upbringing, many bosses will automatically expect you to know the language. Even if you received education in a different language or come from a place where English is barely spoken. Today you are expected to know English.
This means that in order to impress your interviewer or boss now, you have to show that you are extremely fluent and competent in both speaking and writing the language.
How can you reach that level?
One way is by studying with videos on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
You can also either subscribe to a professional language learning course or check out online courses, like MOOCS, dedicated to improving your business English skills. One of the best places to find business English online courses 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 will help you to communicate better with your colleagues.
Working in an office means teamwork and collaboration. Even if you are an introvert (someone who prefers to spend more time alone), you will have to interact with your colleagues. And that will be difficult if you don’t know the language they speak very well. In a worst-case scenario, it may even lead to misunderstandings that might put your job at stake.
Similarly, you need to know the right people to get the best job or a promotion at work. For that you need superior networking skills. Learning business English helps you to develop both your language and interpersonal (communication) skills.
Ultimately, it will help you to adequately express and represent yourself in front of other people.
The best way to learn better English communication is to speak the language often, preferably with a study partner in person or online, via Skype. You can also check out this MOOC on communication skills on Coursera.
3. It is important for delivering presentations and speeches.
As mentioned before, business English is important for effective communication. You cannot deliver a presentation to your team or be in charge of a board meeting if you speak in your native tongue and if no one else in that room speaks that language. So you need to speak the “common tongue” well, so you can 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 successively express it to your audience.
Luckily, there are also plenty of online courses that focus on successful business meetings and presentations.
4. Good pronunciation always makes a good first impression.
Speaking and writing business English are two different skills—you may write well, but unless you can speak clearly and fluently, you are unlikely to make an impact in the workplace. People do judge you by the way you speak. Also, the type of English that is spoken differs from place to place. American English isn’t the same as British English. There are in fact notable differences in accents and pronunciation. Similarly, in India it is acceptable to mix words from Indian languages with English to communicate something, leading to the formation of a “hybrid” (combined) language.
So wherever you work, it is best to research the type of language that is spoken there, and try matching your accent more closely to the native one, to better blend in. If your interviewer gets the impression that you are at home with the language, you are already halfway to getting the job.
The best way to improve your pronunciation is, of course, to listen to good pronunciation. This podcast on Business English Pod is sure to be of great help.
5. It allows you to travel.
If you have always dreamed of working for an international company or traveling around the world for business, English is the most likely language to help you communicate with strangers.
After all, you don’t want to get into a situation where you are in a foreign country and no one can understand what you are saying, right?
If you are not confident about cross-cultural communication, this business English MOOC should answer all your questions.
6. It gives you an edge in other jobs as well.
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 applications. Whether it is waiting tables, babysitting, being a shop assistant, helping with events or even walking someone’s pet dog, your knowledge of the English language may come in handy.
If you need free resources to supplement your English learning while still working on your career, you can always find plenty of tips, resources and vocabulary on FluentU’s Business English Blog.
7. Finally, it allows you to express yourself in a language that everyone understands.
As I mentioned before, English is the “lingua franca” of the world due to Westernization and globalization. So being fluent in English is essentially 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 mastering the language will help you master all the “soft skills” and “life skills” you need to succeed in the workplace, too!
And there are plenty of courses that cover these skills along with English, like these ones on business and entrepreneurship and career development.
To improve your business English, your best option is to sign up for a proper business English course, online or offline, depending upon your needs and convenience.
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 are especially into self-study, make a plan and stick to it.
And finally, interact with your peers and friends in business English and ask for feedback. People are usually more than happy to help.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Learn from the past, believe in yourself, work hard and success will surely follow you.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to check out her website or contact her for freelancing inquiries.