Research shows that international professionals of different language backgrounds communicate very successfully with each other in English.
But, perhaps unexpectedly, native English can cause trouble.
If you want communication in your international organisation inclusive, empowering and efficient, we can help.
Communicating is vital in professional contexts: for sharing knowledge, building connections, giving and understanding instructions, and so much more. Many international organisations use English for all of these purposes - without thinking about what type of English is used.
But the choice matters, because using a type of English that is clear and inclusive for everyone can transform how employees use documents, understand emails and engage in talks and meetings.
We combine international expertise in human resources and business/technical English communications with insights from applied linguistics, management studies and corporate communications. Our services are informed by studies we have done ourselves and other, carefully selected scientific resources.
Listening in a foreign language is tiring and background noise affects comprehension more for non-native than for native speakers. Find out here why keeping the camera on can help (published on Medium).
Foreign accent bias can have large consequences for employees' professional development. All the more reason why language background should be considered in D&I policies. Published on Medium; view the article here.
In an international workforce, language background plays an important role: it affects individuals' identity and their ways of interacting. To understand how multilingualism connects to using English internationally, read here (published on LinkedIn).
Are you struggling with filling new roles? Several sectors in the UK rely on international professionals, for whom language can be a barrier. Why English lessons are not enough - and why a language policy might help. Published on LinkedIn; click here to read the article.
Working in a non-native language can bring about a form of anxiety which affects collaboration, the innovative power of the team, and employee satisfaction and engagement. This business summary is about research into foreign language anxiety, outlining steps to reduce it. Published on LinkedIn; access the article here.
When you write your next email at work to ask someone for something, should it be straight to the point or indirect to avoid any feeling of confrontation? Well, it depends. Find out more in the business summary of our IEEE ProComm study on email requests (published on LinkedIn).
How do professionals in international companies ask each other to do something in emails? Our study "Company-internal ELF communication: The case of email requests between professionals" was published in the Proceedings of the 2019 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (ProComm). To access the accepted version, click here.
Many professionals use English to communicate internationally, yet many - especially native English speakers - are not aware that they need to adjust their language to make international communication successful. This anecdote illustrates how failure to do so can lead to frustrations for everyone involved. Published on LinkedIn; click here.
Conference presentation based on our study on idioms, called "Modeling the conceptual meaning of idiomatic expressions: Results from a contrastive study with learners and native speakers of English in business contexts". Presented at the 8th International Conference of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association (GCLA) at the University of Koblenz-Landau. Find the book of abstracts here.
We have carried out a number of studies on what is called ‘Business English as a Lingua Franca’ (BELF). Summarised below, our studies are based on data from e.g. the leading software company SAP. We have investigated both the general experience of working in English in a multinational organisation, as well as specific areas or linguistic factors which we knew could pose a challenge.
In this large-scale survey among employees of international organisations, we wanted to find out to what extent working in English requires an extra effort of non-native speakers, as compared to working in their mother tongue. Relating to their participation in e.g. project work, conference calls and meetings, we asked participants about the preparation and effort that were necessary for them, the influence they felt they had, and how effective they thought they were.
As a follow-up to the opinion survey, we conducted interviews with a number of non-native English-speaking employees of multinational organisations. Through the interviews, we gained deep insights into individuals’ experiences and got rich, detailed information about successful instances of communication as well as challenging cases. We were also able to identify a large range of factors that can help or hinder professional communication in English in international contexts.
We sampled email correspondence from employees of the software company SAP, written by both native- and non-native speakers of English. We looked at single emails and entire threads to discover how idiomatic or figurative language was used, as these increase the risk of misunderstanding between people of different language backgrounds.
We also analysed the ways in which people asked each other to do something, such as requests for providing information or requests for action. Requesting is an important part of working together, but because languages differ in which ways of asking for something are appropriate, there is potential for miscommunication. Find our publication on the study in the Proceedings of the 2019 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference here (accepted version here).
In this survey, we presented native and non-native speakers of English with a selection of idioms and asked them to rate how easy or difficult they thought it was to understand them. We also asked them to identify the meaning of these idioms. The purpose of this study was to find out if native and non-native English speakers understand and use these idioms in similar ways.
Some results of this study were presented at the the 8th International Conference of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association (GCLA) at the University of Koblenz-Landau, in a presentation called "Modeling the conceptual meaning of idiomatic expressions: Results from a contrastive study with learners and native speakers of English in business contexts". The book of abstracts is available here.