"English is the international language of this corporation."
"English proficiency is a strategic priority."
Such statements regarding corporate strategy and English language proficiency are common -- and can strike both managers and employees with consternation.
The mission sounds a lot easier than it is -- and global corporations have been struggling with it for decades.
- Why are most global corporations still having problems making their employees into productive English communicators?
- Why do many employees spend years in various English classes and seminars and are still unable to apply English with confidence and competence in their international communication?
This is the first part of an attempt to address issues affecting Corporate English training and productivity.
THE ISSUE (much of this will appear obvious to you)
International companies desire to use English as the standard corporate language:
– in order to communicate effectively between the various country locations
– because English is the most widely used language in international business
– because – in contrast with Middle and Far Eastern languages – English uses the internationally standard character set (Roman letters).
Difficulties and Obstacles
Rendering English – or any foreign language – into a truly effective language is not easy.
– People will struggle to use English on the job, but
– They will always prefer their native language when English is not necessary.
– Constant and frequent practice is, however, vital for communicating in a language - at a productive level and - within a foreseeable time frame.
– People using English often need it to communicate with other non-native English speakers.
– Other non-native English speakers also often have difficulty expressing themselves clearly.
– English communication...
- especially live (face-to-face, telephone) or
- near live (email)
...can therefore lead to misunderstanding and frustration.
– Clear communication can be vital to company initiatives – its absence can be potentially very damaging.
Due to lacking English skills,
– documentation must often exist in both native language and English versions.
– Translations are, however, often not completely precise, and
– there is a lot of time-consuming duplication of effort.
– Costs are also associated (professional translation).
In Part II, we will look at the typical measures that corporations take in order to address these issues.