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Do you dream of being a superhero at work? Would you like to advance in your career, build a stronger professional network, and open the door to new opportunities?
We might not live in a world where you can swallow a magic potion and suddenly become a superstar…but there is a simple way you can dramatically improve your potential for success in the working world. What’s the answer? Business English!
What is Business English?
If you speak fluent English, you can use it in a number of different situations. From chatting to the cashier at the supermarket to making new international friends, strong English skills will serve you well across many areas of life. Of course, reaching fluency is a major challenge that will take you several years of study.
Business English is a specialised area of language study that will allow you to communicate with native speakers in the workplace. If you haven’t yet reached fluency, studying business English is a great way to make sure your professional skills are up to par.
From negotiating contracts to socializing with work colleagues, a solid foundation in business English makes it possible to seamlessly collaborate with coworkers and other business people. Concepts often explored within business English studies include common greetings used in office environments, vocabulary for business interactions, and frequently used expressions for professional correspondence.
Ready to get started? If you want to become proficient in business English, use the following five keys to maximise your language prowess.
1. Immerse Yourself in Professional Materials
It should come as little surprise that one of the easiest ways to learn the ins and outs of business English is to spend time familiarising yourself with the English used in everyday business situations. While watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother or The Big Bang Theory might be an entertaining way to boost your overall comprehension of the English language, you need to diligently seek out audio and video content that offers an insight into the business world. These resources will better prepare you for the working world.
There are plenty of powerful resources available for the business English learner. If you don’t already have the Woodpecker app, why not download it and start watching content from some of the world’s foremost business publishers? Regular exposure to audio and video content has consistently been shown to increase comprehension skills.
2. Study the Basic Principles of Business in the English World
Would it surprise you to learn that business customs vary widely across the planet? For example, in the United Kingdom, professionals may tap their nose when discussing private or confidential information. This small signal tells the other person to keep the conversation private.
In Canada and New Zealand, punctuality is highly valued. It’s considered quite offensive to show up to a meeting a few minutes late. If you’re not aware of little differences like this, you could quickly find yourself in an unpleasant situation.
There are countless other examples that might be relevant for your career. Before you find yourself in a business meeting completely unprepared, take some time to learn more about how business is conducted across the world. There are plenty of interesting books that have been written on the subject. You might also consider taking a business course at a local university to further solidify your understanding of how business works internationally.
Don’t have the time or resources to follow a business course at a local university? Don’t despair! Many world-renowned institutions offer educational business materials online, all of which you can access with a few simple clicks. Why not learn the right and wrong way to shake hands or discover how social entrepreneurship makes an impact around the world?
3. Read the International Financial News
Certain news organisations cater primarily to business professionals. Articles that appear in prominent newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, or the Financial Times, contain a huge number of specific references, vocabulary words, and speech patterns you can mirror when speaking English. And there is no need to rush out and buy a copy of every newspaper on the planet—fortunately, many international publishers provide at least a sampling of free articles via the internet.
Of course, there is no easy to way to immediately memorise all of the new words and phrases you will learn by reading these publications. Instead, it’s a good idea to build a strategy for increasing your vocabulary, word by word. Many learners find it useful to look up words they don’t know and keep track of them in a small notebook. Be sure to note the IPA spelling of these words so you learn the right way to say them aloud.
There are also plenty of smartphone apps that make it easy to create flashcards for vocabulary review. Repetition is one of the best ways to learn new words, and fortunately, you don’t need to devote hours and hours to revision. Why not spend 10 minutes before bed flipping through your vocab cards, or spend your commute on the train perfecting your memorisation skills?
Regardless of which methods you find most useful, it’s vitally important to develop a solid gameplan for learning new words and stick with it.
If you’re feeling particularly eager to learn more business English, don’t neglect the web content your favourite publications create to complement their written articles. For example, the New York Times regularly hosts roundtables and interviews with influential business thinkers. Take a look at recent videos on the paper’s Times Talk channel.
4. Join a Local Networking Group
If you live in a country where English is not the official language, it is simply impossible to connect with business English speakers, right? Wrong.
Most large cities across the planet provide plenty of opportunities for businessmen and women to meet one another. These organisations vary widely in their purpose and focus. Some networking groups are specifically for entrepreneurs, foreign professionals, or new arrivals from other countries. There are also numerous industry-specific networking groups with chapters in cities all over the earth.
Joining a networking group can open the door to numerous career opportunities, but it can also allow you to forge relationships with native English speakers. By building friendships with people who understand all of the complexities of business English, you’ll give yourself a leg up over other people who rely exclusively on textbooks to master the language.
Networking groups are also a great place to find language exchange partners. If someone arrives in your country and doesn’t speak much of the local language, they may desperately need help learning the customs and traditions of business professionals in your nation. Why not help each other out, showing your new connections the ropes and asking them to provide pointers for how you can improve your grasp of the English language?
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
Of course, practice makes perfect, as the old proverb goes. It’s only by practicing the language that you’ll be able to obtain the business English skills you desperately seek.
Make an effort to use the phrases you’ve picked up by reading the newspaper in an everyday conversation with your work colleagues. Don’t be shy in asking native speakers to correct you. People will admire your initiative, and every time someone points out a mistake, you’ll be one step closer to speaking business English perfectly.
Don’t have anybody around you who speaks English? Why not have a conversation with yourself? It might feel silly at first, but speaking the language out loud can help you perfect your pronunciation and accent and make your speech more fluid.
You also need to carve out the time to continually listen to business English. Find business podcasts you enjoy and make them part of your daily routine, or make a habit of watching business videos over lunch each day. You can even incorporate more entertaining options into your business English studies.
For example, why not watch funny clips from Broad City, a funny show about two young women trying to navigate the working world in New York City?
Learning English doesn’t have to be a chore. If you find amusing ways to work on mastering the language, you are much more likely to stick with your studies and ultimately, meet your goals.
Studying English for business purposes is a worthwhile pursuit. Whether you dream of a career working in a foreign country one day or you simply want to improve your chances of success with a local business, focusing on perfecting your business English will pay off in the long run. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew; instead, determine to set obtainable goals. Use the five keys we’ve explored in this article to continually work at it and you’re bound to succeed.
Want to become a better worker? Learn the happy secret to better work!