LANGUAGE FOCUS: Getting Things Done in English - Part 1


By now most will agree that English is the global language of business. In other words, to do business with the world, you need to speak it. Naturally, we are living in a time when more and more people are doing business with the world. So it’s no surprise that more people than ever need to speak English for business. Maybe you’re one of them.


But here is the thing. Most books or courses for “Business English” are designed for managers of big multinational companies. Even today, the story many in the language industry continue to sell is that managers and big decision makers need English, but the rest of the world doesn't as much. It's a great story, with colorful pictures of fancy people in suits and ties. But it's just that. A story.

Reality is a little different. Most learners today do not fit into this profile. Nowadays, the biggest need to speak English is among doers, specialists and professionals of all sorts, not to mention people who run their own businesses, often from their own homes.

After all, business is not about your job title or what industry you work in. It's about getting things done. So if you’re not a manager in some multinational (and even if you are), in this blog series, we will discuss foundational concepts to help you plan your journey into English for business. Real business.

In the post, we go into the first one: defining our communication needs.

To get the maximum benefit from this post, answer the questions in the following section to the best of your ability. It will take you some time.


Defining Communication Needs

This seems obvious, but it is not. To say you need to learn English to communicate with people in business is too ambiguous. What does that even mean? No book could possibly cover all the communication situations required today. 

So the first thing we need to do is to ask yourselves what exactly (yes, exactly) do we need to do in English in terms of speaking, listening, reading and writing. We also need to define who we will interact with and in what context. This changes everything, especially how we prepare for that situation.

People interact in many different ways with many different people around the world. If not today, then tomorrow. Read all the questions, but only answer the ones that apply to your communication needs. 

Will you need to:
  • Provide for basic or complex information, if so to whom and in what context?
  • Ask basic or complex questions, if so to whom and in what context?
  • Present a new idea, project or product, if so to whom and in what context?
  • Persuade others or call them to action , if so whom and in what context?
  • Collaborate with others, if so whom and in what context?
  • Listen carefully to others, if so whom and in what context?
  • Read important information passively, if so what information and in what context?
  • Give instructions, to whom and in what context?
  • Offer help, to whom and in what context?


Once you are done, look at your answers. Review them and correct anything you feel is not right. Our goal is to be as objective as possible. Knowing what you expect of yourself is the first step to improving your ability to speak English for business.

If you take classes, this is information you should share with your teacher who can use it to better plan his or her classes. If you're working to improve English on your own, this should help you find material designed to help you improve those skills.


But this is just a first step. There are many more. In a future post, we will tell you the second step. Until next time!

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