what-is-business-english

Business English vs. Regular English: What Is the Difference?

Mastering English saved my life.

Here’s how.

I’m a trilingual speaker.

Bengali is my mother tongue—the language I use at home.

Hindi is my country’s official language, so I had to learn it.

English was the medium of instruction in the school I went to, and it is the language I am most comfortable in.

It is the language most of my favorite books are written in. It is the language in which I write poetry and stories. It is the language in which I learned to turn strangers into best friends.

Most importantly, it is the language of the internet.

When I was bullied and had no one in my immediate circle to turn to for help, I found solace (comfort) by reaching out to random strangers on the internet in chat groups and forums.

We were separated by countries, cultures, religions, even languages and whatnot—but our shared command of the English language helped us communicate and build strong lifelong bonds of friendship.

Knowing English helped me realize I’m not alone in this world, and that there are people like me, who are oceans away, but who think and feel the same way.

Knowing English helped me build great connections with people I would ordinarily never meet—people I can trust and share my thoughts with, people who can help me if I’m in trouble, people who will always be there for me, as I will always be there for them.

Being able to use and understand English online opened up a brand new world for me.

Learning business English can do the same for you.

As English isn’t just the language of the internet but also of worldwide business and commerce, mastering the language for business purposes will help you to reach out to almost anyone.

While you may think of “business English” as something that has little to do with your everyday existence, it can actually be just as life-changing as any other form of the language. After all, our jobs form the greater part of our lives.

The people we meet via work need not be just acquaintances—they can become good friends.

Networking isn’t just about meeting the “right contacts” to advance your career—it is also about making valuable connections with people who are in the same field as you and share your interests.

Learning English for business will get you noticed and understood by others. Yes, it will help you climb the corporate ladder, but it will also help you express yourself in the best way possible.

It will help you become a leader in your own right, and attract the kind of people who will support you in all your endeavors.

In short, business English ain’t just a language, it’s a life skill for success!

In this post, we will look more closely at exactly what business English is, and how you can benefit from learning it.
 


 

What Is Business English? 9 Ways of Looking at the Language

How does business English differ from the normal English people use every day? Why is it so important to learn it? And if it is really that important, well, how exactly do you learn it then?

I will answer all of those questions, right now, by explaining the key features of business English.

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1. It is the business language that is used internationally.

Business English is a type of English that has a specific purpose. It is the brand of English that is used in an official or business setting. It has the aim of efficient and clear communication with your boss, co-workers or other professionals.

It is the language of the international workplace. This means that once you master it, you can use it to communicate with any other professional in any part of the world. It connects you to everyone else.

For example, you may be based in the U.S and your client may be from China, but the shared knowledge of business English allows you to communicate and negotiate a deal.

However, it is important to be aware that knowing business English is only one part of doing business internationally. Whenever you are dealing with foreign clients, it is always advisable to educate yourself on their culture, so that you do not (even unintentionally) say something that is offensive.

To start learning business English for international communication (or even just within one country), check out Coursera. They offer online courses for all different kinds of business English subjects, including business English for cross-cultural communication.

Another resource that makes it easy to perfect your English for business purposes is FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like news, educational videos and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. Currently, we have over 500 videos in the “Business” category of our English video library, and new videos are being added all the time!

2. It is a business language that includes different types.

Business English is actually a broad term used to cover a variety of language used in workplace communication.

For instance, the business English that you use during a presentation will be very different from the small talk you engage in at a networking event. “Presentation English” is pretty formal and controlled, whereas “networking English” involves an element of fun but still follows the rules of politeness.

This means you have to do your research to prepare for formal situations, like presentations, that require business English. You have to be ready to use the right words and get your point across, without stumbling or forgetting. In networking situations, however, your main aim is to create a pleasant and memorable impression. For this, you may want to think more about your body language and have an Elevator Pitch ready.

Both of these types of business English are “formal,” but the level of formality differs.

3. It is generally short and specific.

The language of business English is marked by the fact that everyone in business is busy. Therefore, if you choose to speak to someone, you should make their time worth it. As a result, there is no space for rants or long rambles. You have to be quick, specific and very concise (complete and clear, but brief).

If something can be expressed in 10 words, don’t express it in 20. See if you can express it in 7-8. To make your communication successful, you have to know exactly what you want to say, and say it in the best possible way.

4. There is a specific “jargon” you must know.

There are certain words and phrases specific to business English. If we used some of these words and phrases in a random everyday conversation, they might make us look weird, but they present us as articulate (able to express ourselves well) and efficient in a business English situation.

For example, in the field of project management, you may get better results using the word “authorization” in place of “permission,” “deliverable” instead of “completed product,” “consensus” in place of “majority opinion” and so on.

5. It differs from “regular” English in many ways.

Yes, there will be similarities, and you may find yourself slipping into colloquial (everyday) English occasionally, but you have to control it in a business setting. Slang, expletives (swear words) and colloquial lingo aren’t really permitted in an “official” setting.

For instance, we may greet a close friend with a “Hey! Wassup?” But with a co-worker, we are often better off saying, “Hello. How are you?”

Even different regions matter when it comes to business English, so you may have to adjust your accent and vocabulary according to your situation. American business English differs from British business English, for example. So if you have recently relocated to the U.S, you will need to be prepared. You will have to focus on both learning American idioms as well as mastering American pronunciation.

6. The goal is to communicate and express yourself in a professional and diplomatic manner.

With business English, your job is to get your point across.

If you happen to meet an industry professional, you need to come up with the best Elevator Pitch to convince them your ideas are worth their time. In a job interview, your goal is to give the impression that you deserve to get hired. During office arguments and disagreements, you can benefit from remaining diplomatic and mature.

Business English is about maintaining a professional front. It is about remaining polite and courteous always. You need to avoid coming across as blunt and tactless. If you are giving feedback to a colleague, for example, you can’t just blurt out whatever comes into your head.

One trick is to follow the “Sandwich Rule,” particularly if the feedback is negative. Start off by saying something positive, then point out the “negative” aspect and how it can be improved, and finish off with another positive point.

7. The spoken and written language aren’t the same.

Writing a winning cover letter is an art in itself. Writing emails, memorandums, papers or even finalizing a resume all require a different skill-set.

For business writing, you need to learn to critically read and analyze the writing of others, and also learn how to express yourself in writing. Try studying sample cover letters and articles: Memorize the format, pay attention to how paragraphs are structured and which words are used often in the text. When you are writing for practice, imitate that style.

Speaking confidently during a conference call or a group meeting requires different skills. To speak well, you need to develop confidence. Try practicing in front of a mirror, or get a study partner to practice your English speaking on.

As a student of business English, you must learn and master both written and spoken language. You must be able to speak fluently and write efficiently with equal ease.

8. It isn’t about how well you know the language, it is about how well you communicate.

Yes, you have to learn the language, but you also need to know when and how to apply it.

Using business English well doesn’t mean showing off your knowledge or your fancy vocabulary. People are going to be impressed by how smoothly you complete a task, not how much you know. You have to remain solution-focused and think on your feet (in the moment, as things are happening).

You may not always know all the right words, but if you can get your message across clearly and briefly, you are likely to be successful.

There are still different levels of communication required for different situations. For example, during a presentation, you still have to focus on your research and vocabulary to appear knowledgeable. But when you are answering questions from a co-worker or your boss, your main aim is communication. In fact, whenever you are directly asked for an opinion or a solution, it is a good idea to focus on communication the most.

9. You will perfect it with practice.

You won’t master business English in a day. You are bound to make mistakes and embarrass yourself. But it is important to keep trying, to learn from your mistakes and keep practicing. Never lose hope or even think about giving up. No one is born “fluent” in any language. If you are sincere and dedicated enough, you will succeed in learning whatever you set your mind to.

Business English is a life skill that will help you in countless ways, and the only way to master it is to keep at it until you do.

The only real secret to success with business English? Practice it every day. Set aside a chunk of time for learning, and make sure you show up and do your lessons.

 

So in order to ace business English, you need to first have decent speaking and writing skills.

You need to focus on your pronunciation, diction and accent.

You also need to regularly practice and develop your vocabulary.

At the same time, you have to focus on your personality. Be more confident, empathetic (considerate of others’ thoughts and feelings) and proactive.

Don’t forget to work on your body language, too! And finally, always remember that clarity and brevity are highly appreciated.

So even if you are learning business English on your own, make sure you go out and communicate, interact and learn as much as you can.

Believe in yourself, remain focused and you are sure to succeed by leaps and bounds.


Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator, journalist and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to check out her website or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.

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