Europeans and Business English — by Dellwyn Oseana

Business English has become a basic requirement in the current corporate landscape. Without a solid understanding of English grammar and usage, a non-native English speaker automatically loses any advantage ithe commerce global world. Whether within negotiations, presentations, or just social conversation, many citizens of European nations are realizing that the global economy is driven by the English-language. In the Netherlands, Language Institutes and communications coaches are becoming the norm. Germans, Belgians, and most Western Europeans frequently travel to language schools in the Netherlands to improve their business English vocabulary. In doing so, they also develop their multicultural competencies.

Internationalization is something that has become very apparent. We are all connected as the financial markets clearly show. As English continues to dominate international commerce, adapting your cultural style to the world market is becoming the norm. Many young Europeans focus on improving their English so they can leave their native country for more opportunities in major markets. I recently had a student from Rome, who visited the Netherlands without the knowledge of his employer, to spend a week in a language institute so as to prepare himself for a job interviews in London and Amsterdam. One of the first things he realized was that his Italian way of doing business was not globally understood. A shift in mind had begun.

Until another language (i.e. Chinese) becomes the central language in the race for globalization, non-native English speakers must continue efforts to understand their British, Australian, and U.S. counterparts. However, this current shift also creates a change in the balance of power that the Anglo speakers have maintained for many decades. If a country is considered a global force to be reckoned with (i.e. Russia and China), the native English speakers must learn how to change language to the styles of the local cultures.

Native English speakers have often had to make efforts to communicate culturally with their foreign constituents. Yet, this effort has not always been successful. For example, today everyone knows that doing business in many Asian countries (especially Japan) requires a high-level of indirectness and respect. Hierarchy and saving face are imperative business qualities. I worked for an international Japanese company a few years ago and even though they were based in Europe, most of the rules of the Japanese Theory Z still applied. It felt like an Asian territory within Europe. The non-native speakers have already made major moves.

In general, there is also a level of animosity towards native English speakers. Specifically, the common lack of multilingual skills among English speakers is one of the reasons that communication is often difficult throughout the corporate world. Most British and U.S. citizens do not speak more than one internationally spoken language and it appears that they are not particularly interested in learning another language for the sake of internationalization (at least for now). In the Netherlands, students have always been advised to learn more than one language. Spanish, French, or German is a mandatory language choice in the secondary education system. These days, English has become obligatory as well.

Nonetheless, most young adults fail to understand the benefits of languages until they start to fully realize the world they live in. And with the popularity of Language Institutes, everyone has an opportunity to learn English to capitalize on globalization. Knowing more than one language fluently gives career-minded individuals a superior edge. I had a Dutch student recently who came to me with the hope of being able to tackle both Asian and British business cultures. He was a fairly fluent and accurate English speaker, but when we did several rigorous role-plays, the shock on his face from his lack of language awareness was heart-breaking. Still, I can promise you that when he faces a Brit or a Singaporean. He will be ready.


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