17 February 2011

Sorry, we don’t speak English here

English is the business language in the corporate environment, no question about it. I hope my German and French readers don’t feel offended, but this is reality in the global village that we call world.

If we were to look at the communications profession as a toolkit, language (so, in the corporate world, the English language) is our most important tool.

O.K, this is a given, but I’d like to point out two things that we sometimes tend to forget in our daily practice.

1 Native English speakers have a huge advantage over non-native speakers. I am Dutch, so I spend most of my days communicating in a foreign language. My English is in reasonable shape, but clearly, I miss many nuances as a result of the fact that I am not communication in my native tongue. If you are a native English speaker, please take into consideration how difficult it can be for a foreigner to communicate in a foreign language.

2 I think we, as communications professionals, should stress more and more that we need to train people to master the corporate language. It never fails to amaze me that we keep hiring people in a corporate environment that don’t master our preferred language at least at a basic level.

Well, I hope I did not make too many mistakes in this blog post. Native speakers, please forgive me, and if you want to see a real funny example of what I just wrote, just watch this hilarious video.


  1. Yep, agree Jan. And communication is all types of communication: reading, writing, speaking/presenting skills. Although I'm intrigued by the fact that I haven't seen huge bloopers in non-native communication leading to business issues. People seem to be pretty flexible. When they know they're talking with a (non) native that don't mind communication missers as much and just try to get the job done.

  2. I agree Samuel, but still native speakers have a huge advantage over non-native speakers. They take less time to read, write, understand, convince. The most important thing for me was to create awareness about this sometimes unvisible gap.