The explosion of globalization over the past few decades has successfully expanded the economies of individual nations. The process has pushed industries together and led to the subtle blending of old borders, making it more accurate to identify sectors of the international economy rather than the independent markets of sovereign states.
Evolving into a more global economy has helped spread unique cultural attitudes and trends around the world, but as Paul Graham, co-found of tech investor Y Combinator, said earlier this year in an interview with Inc. Magazine, not speaking Business English is still a disadvantage, according to Knowledge@Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business’s online journal. Luckily, Business English training programs are available for companies hoping to keep pace with global trends.
The Proof is Apparent
Graham took a lot of flack following his brash statements this past summer, but the popular tone shifted when Laura Huang, a professor at Wharton, published a paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology defending Graham’s position.
Huang wrote that while globalization had introduced more nonnative English speakers into the international workforce, their upward mobility had a limit.
English Around the World
According to Knowledge@Wharton, a report from the United Nations recently noted that 232 million people around the world were international migrants. Of those, 214 million hold jobs outside of their own country. The global marketplace has obviously become a large mix of cultures and languages, but even still, the U.N. report confirmed that more than 1 billion nonnative English speakers were still using the language in the office. Why? Because English is the universal language of business.
The global business community has become so accustom to using English as a universal language that regardless of your ability to speak it, maintaining a strong accent is still seen, as Hunag puts it, as “an explicit stigmatizing mark of foreignness.” Initial interviews with foreign companies tend to take place over the phone, making foreign dialects a more prominent aspect of the conversation. This often gives the impression that the candidate may not have the political skills necessary to do the job.
Huang writes that a talent for politics isn’t something you can prove with paper, it’s one of those “you know it when you see it” things. Employees with a loose grasp of the language damage their image and hinder their ability to move their careers forward. If leaders doesn’t believe in your capacity to interact with other executives across a multitude of markets and industries, it’s unlikely they’ll invite an employee to join their ranks.
These lessons apply not only to workers who are planning a move onto the international stage, but to businesses as well. Securing investors and cross-market partnerships is paramount to cultivating a sustainable business environment. As we’ve seen, however, without clear, comprehendible Business English, the most valiant efforts may fall short. Comprehensive training programs exist to satisfy the needs of these burgeoning companies, helping to ensure their successful ascent to the world of international business.