More and more foreign workers are realizing the value that speaking English brings
Going global can be an ongoing challenge for any multinational, as overseas expansion increases the need for more able workers in developing regions. There’s more and more proof that offering new hires and existing employees the opportunity to improve their Business English could be an effective way to attract and retain them.
A recent article by ArabianBusiness.com reports on research out of Britain that focused on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, specifically looking at eight countries there: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
It found that English speakers can earn three times as much as non-English speakers in these countries. The gap is even more profound in some countries: In Tunisia, there’s just a 5% difference between English and non-English speakers; that jumps to 75% in Egypt. And most young people surveyed reported having a “clear understanding” of the importance of English when it comes to finding a job.
The research confirmed that global firms are indeed driving a large part of the demand for English speakers, particularly those in the IT, telecom and banking industries. And while the report projected that the number of English speakers would grow in most MENA countries as much as 7% year over year through 2016, it also noted that governments in the region still are unable to offer the best English-language instruction. For that, residents are forced to turn to private language schools in these countries. Firms with a presence in this region, or those looking to establish one, could do well to offer English-language instruction—particularly with a Business English focus.
In our experience, organizations that address Business English in a systemic way by providing on-demand English development and support programs have an easier time attracting the best talent from across the world. Potential workers will be attracted by the promise of improving their skills and, in turn, your company will be taking a significant step toward Enterprise Fluency™ and the improved productivity and profitability that accompanies it.
Plus, having a workforce highly proficient in Business English allows for better communication and collaboration, resulting in stronger organizational performance…and what leader wouldn’t want to improve their operations?
Originally published by Computerworld Philippines on Thursday, August 23, 2012.
With English as the universal language for enterprises today, Business English capabilities become an indicator of continued economic growth and business success, states the administrator of the annual Business English Index (BEI), GlobalEnglish Corporation…
Defining the 10 levels of Business English Index (BEI) proficiency
Over the past 15 years, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies and millions of global employees across all industries in more than 150 countries so we’re uniquely positioned to understand how companies, departments and individual employees best apply skills in Business English in the context of their work. In partnership with leading scholars, authors and innovators in the fields of applied linguistics and organizational performance, GlobalEnglish has established Business English proficiency levels to measure workplace competencies.
The BEI demonstrates the level of competency across multiple dimensions, including:
- Knowledge of the English language itself: grammar, etc.
- The application of the language (i.e., communication) across different forms and media, including email, telephone, in-person, etc.
- Using these communication skills in different contexts, including a presentation, business discussion, conference, sales meeting, etc.
- The understanding and use of nuance and complexity in business situations and the ability to materially contribute in discussions related to business problems, analyses and solutions.
Each level of the index indicates a mastery of certain skills relevant for, and in the context of, business. The following diagram is a summary of the competencies achieved at each level:
For example, an index level of 1.0 would indicate that the individual can read and communicate using only simple questions and statements, but that he/she would find it extremely difficult to communicate beyond that. As the index score increases, it represents both a greater breadth in the ability to communicate (i.e., through multiple channels, including phone, in-person, email, etc.) as well as the increased complexity of such communication (i.e., understanding and participating in more involved and nuanced business discussions). An index above 10.0 represents mastery, which is defined as the ability to communicate much like a native English speaker.
A study finds that listening and pronunciation are key components of successfully working in English
Does the struggle to communicate effectively in English affect all nationalities in the same way? A study reported by Canadian newspaper Metro recently explored the question, and the results have broad implications for global companies who employ non-native English speakers hailing from any location.
This particular study approached the question of immigration from a business perspective, acknowledging that English skills can “significantly affect the economic integration” of immigrants. It compared data from two distinct groups of immigrants: Mandarin and Cantonese speakers and Slavic-language speakers (Russian and Ukrainian). Though they had the same overall language proficiency, the two fared very differently.
Seven years after arriving in Canada, the Slavic-language speakers had made a good deal of progress in terms of their English accent, fluency and comprehensibility. Mandarin speakers, on the other hand, had made “no significant progress.” They continued to have issues being understood and spoke with regular pauses and hesitation.
The article presents two theories behind the discrepancy. One is cultural: “(Mainland) Chinese students are not active in class because, if they understand it, they don’t want to show off. And if they do not understand something, they don’t want to ask and show their ignorance,” the president of the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada tells Metro.
But the second potential cause is one of which all companies making an investment in their employees’ Business English should take note: As one Chinese engineer explains, mainland Chinese tend to study English from textbooks; the entirety of the instruction occurs in a classroom setting, through reading and writing. They don’t get the chance to practice listening and speaking skills beyond the classroom.
“If you cannot listen [to and comprehend] or speak proper English, you feel discouraged to participate in a conversation because you are afraid others don’t understand you,” he explains. Tracey Derwing, the study’s co-author, agrees. She says it’s crucial that English-language training emphasize listening, speaking and pronunciation skills—which means it’s crucial for multinationals to find a Business English solution that advances listening comprehension and provides immediate pronunciation feedback.
More parents choosing to raise children who speak only English
Big changes are happening in India, writes Saritha Rai for the New York Times—and nowhere more so than in her native Bangalore. India is a country literally teeming with languages: In addition to a staggering 20 official languages, there are dozens more that claim a million-plus speakers each and a few hundred other “live” languages.
How does the outsourcing hub of Bangalore deal with so many languages? Increasingly, by whittling them down to one, explains Rai. “In Bangalore and elsewhere in Big City India, factors like great mobility, a demanding school system and mixed marriages are churning up a startling consequence: A generation of urban children is growing up largely monolingual—speaking, thinking and dreaming only in English.”
Rai shares the experience of a number of couples following the trend. In one typical case, Sudhir Nagaraj and his wife, Bidisha, speak half a dozen Indian languages, but their six-year-old speaks just one: English. The two realize the professional doors English will open: Sudhir works for a global telecom firm; his wife oversees marketing for a social networking start-up.
Rai notes that English is rapidly becoming the first language that many children are taught in urban areas like Bangalore. “Neighborhood private schools have unstated admission requirements,” she writes. “At 3 and 4, the child is required to be toilet-trained and speak English.”
Unifying a country teeming with so many languages via just one language is a move that’s likely to make India an increasingly ripe source of talent for multinational companies. But Rai notes that it’s progress that isn’t being embraced in its entirety. “English is unifying us with the rest of the world but alienating us from our familial and cultural roots,” says Nagaraj.
What do you think of India’s shift toward “monolingualism,” and do you think it will happen in other countries?
And what you risk if you ignore the critical need for a single common language of business
In June, we participated in the 2012 Economist Talent Management Summit in London, England. At the event, we co-sponsored an executive poll with The Economist, and the results further validate our fundamental premise that Business English is a must-have competency for multinational companies across the globe.
According to a Reuters survey of 16,000 workers in 26 countries
It’s one thing when experts in the Business English field give you advice about how to strengthen your workforce in the face of globalization—and it’s another thing entirely when that workforce tells you itself.
A new poll conducted by Ipsos Global Public Affairs focuses on this blog’s common theme—the critical need for Business English in global business—by talking to the employees themselves. The poll surveyed 16,344 employed adults in 26 countries, and the results make some pretty bold statements about the state of our increasingly borderless business world.