Does perfect English matter in business? The answer is no and here’s why.
Global Business now speaks English. And it’s undeniable considering that many multinational companies are now mandating it as their common corporate language. The pressure to speak English in the workplace continues to grow as more and more companies invest in globalizing their teams.
However, mastering a new language requires time and resources that many people — especially adults who are no longer in school — struggle to find. But before going all out learning a language, it’s best to first define your goal. Are you striving for proficiency or perfection?
Adults and Language Learning
What does it really mean to speak a language? Is it saying at least 2,000 words and sentences or just being able to speak conversationally? This has long been the debate of which to aim for in English corporate learning dealing with adult learners.
According to Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself, an adult must work harder than a child to master a new language, because the brain protects the authority of its native language. Additionally, 90% of the information is erased from short-term memory in 30 days unless it is reinforced by the use of repetition.
That’s why learning formal grammar is too time-consuming for an employee that’s always on-the-go. Instead, they should be learning English relevant and directly applicable to their jobs. In that way, all language skills are practiced simultaneously, making adults learn a foreign language as effortlessly as children do it.
When it comes to the world of work, getting a message across matters more than being overly accurate with your words. There is (and always will be) variety and diversity in the way people speak English. It may not always be perfectly structured, but the important thing is to keep the flow of communication going no matter the mistakes.
Language for Business
If you’re looking to work more effectively and open up new career opportunities for you and your company, start by improving their business English vocabulary and knowledge. Why? Compared to other training programs, language learning doesn’t just impact professional growth but also personal growth. It increases confidence, maximizes professional skills, and strengthens core competencies in a global, multicultural world.
In English programs for professionals, the goal should always be on what one can do. It’s combining language into the context of real-life situations and tasks rather than learning for the sake of memorizing.
Ever since, academic English courses often stress receptive skills (reading and listening), while business English stresses productive skills (speaking and writing). The latter makes more sense for professionals who are always collaborating with their colleagues and teams around the globe, either in-person or through email. Moreover, academic English focuses on accuracy while business English focuses on fluency.
Just like your pronunciation goal shouldn’t be to speak without an accent but rather be understood without much effort from your listener, so should your grammar goal be communication over perfection.
Besides, in English, it’s rare for little mistakes to drastically change the meaning. That’s why professional English programs should focus less on grammatical structures and introduce vocabulary not as isolated words but in larger chunks of language that can be used to accomplish specific tasks.
Speaking Confidently and Effectively
In a global context with other business professionals from different cultures, employees should be able to conduct and carry out business confidently, effectively and comfortably. And this will surely impact the success of the company as a whole.
Professional doesn’t necessarily mean perfect. It just means that you’re able to negotiate a deal, speak with a colleague, make a presentation and write an email in English (or in any global language you may be interested to learn).
In the real world, mistakes don’t really matter. There’s sure to be many non-native speakers who can communicate in English but also have imperfect grammar and pronunciation. The important thing is to be able to express yourself despite mistakes. The measure language learning success isn’t by the low number of errors made, but rather by the achievement of goals and tasks.