The Language Learner
by Edgard Frederix
Senior Language Training Consultant & Director of the English Academy Brussels for over 25 years
7 reasons why business people have to speak English fluently
English is the global language, so you better speak it fluently.
There are 527 million native speakers of English. It is spoken in 101 different countries, more than any other language. Because of this, it is often used as the language of business. There are many reasons to learn English; it can help to connect you with people all over the world, meet new friends, and create business contacts.
More and more companies across the world are using English as their main or second language. Many industries also use it as their main language. Because of this, it’s important for people interested in working in a corporate setting to learn English. In this article we look at some of the main reasons to learn the language, and how it relates to the world of commerce and business.
Why is business English so important?
You may be wondering why having another language is so important. If you work for a company in your native country, you would expect to only need the native language. However, there are many reasons that you may need to communicate with someone in another language. And usually, the common second language is English. This means that if you’re communicating with someone from a business in another country, even if their first language isn’t English, it’s often the other language they know. Below are some of the other reasons why it’s so important in the corporate world:
1. It is spoken by 1 in 4 People.
Although there are only 527 million native speakers, English is studied by around 1.5 billion people worldwide. This is nearly twice as many as the next most popular language, French. There are plenty of reasons for this and studying for use in businesses is a common one.
Imagine if you work for a company where English isn’t the first language. Perhaps there is a meeting with a company in another country. Maybe you need to set up a conference call. What if they don’t speak your language? Some companies will pay translators; others won’t take the business opportunity. However some, such as Japan’s Rakuten, will encourage their employees to speak fluently in English.
Rakuten’s boss, Hiroshi Mikitani, announced in 2010 that all of the staff in the company had two years in which to learn English. He realized the potential for having a workforce that could communicate globally. Companies looking to expand globally are focusing on having staff members that can speak multiple languages.
3. Speaking English fluently allows you to travel.
Often, the term ‘Business English’ refers to a teaching or learning style focused around a corporate setting. However, it will still teach you many cultural and general terms and themes. This is ideal if you like to travel, whether it’s as part of a business trip, or simply for fun. If you work for a business that is attempting to expand overseas, they may be looking for English speakers to visit those countries. Having a good grasp of the language and culture puts you in a good position to be considered for such a visit.
Speaking another language may also benefit you if you travel to conferences. Global meetings of professionals are often conducted in English. Furthermore, it will allow you to network with people in a language that everyone understands. Important international contacts are often made at such events, even when speaking in a second language.
4. It is the language of science and computing.
When the internet was first created, around 80% of the content was in English. This has shrunk in recent years, however it still accounts for around 30%. Furthermore, over 1 billion individuals access the internet in English. This creates a huge opportunity for you to communicate with people worldwide. Not only is a lot of content on the internet in English. Many coding languages are based in the language. Being able to understand programming gives you access to an international network of job opportunities.
5. Borders are becoming less important.
The world is a more connected place than ever before. Billions of people have access to the internet. This means that there is an increasing global network of freelancers. If you don’t like to travel, but want to work with people from other countries, freelancing is an excellent choice. It gives you the ability to work from home and use your skills and expertise. However, over half of the freelancing population is based in North America, meaning the dominant language is English.
If you want to own your own business or become a freelance worker, English gives you access to a wider market. You can work with clients across the globe and compete with native speakers for jobs in your field of work.
6. There is lots of competition.
As you’ve seen in this article already, there are millions of individuals who are learning English as their second language. In a business setting, this means that there are many people who are competing for the same jobs. The opportunities are there, but you have to have a high level of English in order to compete. Learning business English could provide new and exciting challenges, particularly if you can get to a good level of fluency.
7. Business education is increasingly in English.
Many MBA courses are taught entirely in English, even in countries where it’s not the first language. After all, English is still considered the language of business. Speaking multiple languages is a true benefit in the business world, as we’ve established already. But with educational institutions across the globe offering MBAs in English, having a good level of ability is certainly important. Many such MBA courses, particularly at the best schools, have high entry requirements in terms of language ability.
The importance of English in business: review
We’ve looked at just some of the reasons why English in business is important. The science and technology industries (as well as nautical and aeronautical) use English as their main language. Many global businesses communicate in this language in addition to their native language. This means there are many opportunities for individuals with a high level of English. If you want to travel, freelance, or connect with new people, knowing English as a second language is a valuable skill.