If you are a non-native speaker and you want to do business in the English world, your business idea or technical skills are only half of the battle. You’ll also need to get to grips with the language of the business world in English.
To learn English is one thing – with its pronunciation, English grammar, and its reading skill, listening skills, speaking skills and writing skills. Yet, learning business English is something else. It’s full of idioms and strange new words that you probably won’t hear anywhere else. Honestly, many native speakers that are fluent in English won’t be fluent in business English, which seems to some like a foreign language.
We’re guessing that this is something similar to the business speak in your native language – people speaking of actioning something rather than just doing it. Every niche field has its own specific slang or lexicon – but there are few that people find quite as annoying as that used in business.
Regardless, you’re heading off into that world – and there is absolutely no doubt that it will improve your ability as an English speaker. However, it is worth reading up on this new language before you enter it. And here we’re going to show you some of the key bits of new vocabulary you might need as well as some of the places that you can find it yourself.
Let’s take a look. By the end, you can be speaking business English like a native!
Some Ways to Build Your Business English Vocabulary
As you’ll know from your past experience of the English language, there are many ways to improve your English vocabulary. Aside from just talking to people in the street, you can learn new words through reading widely or just trawling through the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in a dictionary.
However, if you want to build a specific part of your vocabulary – in your case, business English – you need to find the best places to look. And these are not just in any old place: conventional native English speakers don’t exactly speak business English.
Here are some ways to learn new English words for business. You can find other helpful business English resources in our article!
Read Business News in English
One of the best places to find business English vocabulary is in the business news. Luckily, this won’t be too dry for you: as a businessperson, you should find content of interest.
Being interested in the stuff you’re reading is one of the most important ways to motivate yourself to speak English fluently. If it is not interesting for you, it is unlikely that you will continue.
Watching business news on the BBC or on Sky TV will help you to develop your business vocabulary, whilst encouraging you to take note of proper English pronunciation. Meanwhile, whilst it might not help improve your pronunciation, reading the Financial Times, the Guardian’s business pages, and magazines such as Forbes, GQ, and Business Insider will help you to become comfortable with the language in which you will be operating.
Attend Business English Courses
One of the most effective ways to learn business English is through online English courses. Of course, you can attend conversational English classes to nail the basics of communication skills, but there are also specialist business English classes too.
In these, you will learn all you need to thrive in your business context. You’ll practise presentation skills, hone your negotiation skills, and do public speaking practice too.
It’s a given that you will pick up lots of vocabulary alongside these business English skills. But whilst you’re there, you can ask your English teacher specifically for more.
Find out more about business English courses in the UK in our article…
Study Your New Vocab – and Use Them
When, after your English lessons, you have a big list of new vocabulary, you’ll have to get on and practise them. Yes, that does involve having to memorize them, say them aloud, and keep on repeating them. Unfortunately, this method is one of the most effective ways to get them in your head.
The next part of your task will be to use them in their correct contexts – until you are comfortable. You only truly know a word when you can use it in all of its different contexts – and learning these correctly is an important part of language learning in general.
Find out about business English exams you can sit!
Some Key Terms in Business English
Whilst you are busy finding yourself a business English class to attend, we’ll run through some of the most common business vocabulary that you will need to learn.
This list is by no means exhaustive at all. It’s more to give you a flavour of the different terms you will be working with.
Basic Business Vocabulary
When entering a business, there’ll be some terms that you just have to know. These might even be the same in your own language – but let’s deal with them just in case.
A business plan is the core of most businesses. It sets out your company’s objectives and the strategy it’s going to follow to complete it.
This one is fairly self-explanatory.
Your company’s brand is the way it appears to the public: the way that it is recognised, the values for which it is known, and the products that are associated with it.
When you are dealing with suppliers, stockists, contractors, or freelancers, you are going to be dealing with invoices. These are the bits of paper that ask you for payment – or vice versa.
Payroll is a strange term that refers to the list of people who are being paid by the company – along with everything associated to those payments.
Start-ups, these days, are the coolest things in the business world. They are the small businesses that are seeking investment to change the world.
A turnover refers to a couple of different things. Besides a traditional British dessert, it also means the speed with which employees are replaced in a company – and the amount of money that a company brings in in a given period.
Some Acronyms and Abbreviations
Finally, there are some shorthand terms that pop up in all sorts of different business contexts.
Again, these are things that a lot of native speakers of English won’t necessarily know. But if you manage to crack them all by yourself, you’ll be onto a winner.
‘AOB’ or ‘any other business’ is usually the last agenda point in any meeting. Once all of the important material has been covered, this is the moment in which other people can raise their hands and bring up different issues.
If you are in a business meeting, usually ‘other business’ has to wait until the end. Don’t go and interrupt whilst you are a still on the first point of the agenda.
Not strictly a business term, but one that has taken on a new dimension in business. ‘ETA’ or ‘estimated time of arrival’ is used for transport as much as anything else, but I has been sort of appropriated by the business world to mean, when will that piece of work be in my inbox?
‘HR’ stands for ‘human resources’, a rather impersonal term referring to the department in a business managing the employees themselves.
The HR department works to try to make employees happy, to reduce staff turnover, to manage staff training and payroll.
You’ll see ‘Ltd.’ written at the end of company names. It is short for ‘limited’, meaning a limited company. These are type of company in which the director is not responsible for the business’s debts.
Not to be confused with ‘HR’, ‘PR’ means ‘public relations’, the department within the business that deals with the external image of the company. They build or maintain positive reputations through media, social media, and communications.
An ‘ROI’ is a ‘return on investment’. If you are calculating how much money you could get out of something relative to how much you put in, that’s ROI.
Finally, USP: ‘unique selling point’. When you are designing a new product or service, or if you are building a new brand, you will have to determine its USP.
This means, essentially, what does this product have that no one else’s has? That’ll be your USP.