“You only have to do a few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” - Warren Buffett
The more people that speak English, the more knowing business English will set you apart.
When it comes to large multinational companies, a can-do attitude is essential. When it comes to international business dealings, English is the de facto language. From the workers to HR, a lot of companies will operate in English.
Generally, English is seen as an essential skill for most international companies and a candidate with a mastery of business English will have a huge advantage over other candidates, which means that business English can help your career to take off.
Whether you’re fresh out of university with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, looking for a promotion, or looking to change careers, a lot of employers will need professional English. This level of English is different from the English most are taught in school and traditional English lessons.
In this article, Superprof is going to look at business English and the skills required.
What Is Business English?
Professional English, or business English, is the English language as it’s used in professional settings rather than the standard variety of English taught in primary and secondary schools.
Of course, grammar and rules don’t change. However, business English is far more technical. The technical aspect is usually found in the terminology and lexicon used.
There are phrases, expressions, and formalities that aren’t often used in everyday English and anyone who’s worked in a professional environment will have come across some of these.
There are also a lot of situations where business English is required:
- On phonecalls with foreign or English-speaking clients
- Meetings with English-speaking or foreign customers
- Letters and correspondence with other customers and partners
- The minutes from a meeting
- Emailers and marketing materials, etc.
Nowadays, being able to communicate in English at work is becoming increasingly common and linguistic skills are always in demand.
Nevertheless, you need to have the right language skills and improving your English to a professional level will only broaden your career opportunities, which is especially true in international business settings.
Unlike everyday English, as it’s taught in schools and academies, business English is more pragmatic and focused on getting the job done.
There are two sides to business English:
- Vocabulary and language related to specific businesses
- General communication skills that are required in workplaces
The Benefits of Speaking Business English
To learn business English, you need a high level of English, but it’s not necessarily literary English.
Knowing how to speak English in different situations will be useful when working in English-speaking business environments.
Someone fluent in English can speak with foreign clients and partners from all over the world using English as the common language. Speaking business English will also save you time.
Freelancers can default to English with customers all over the world as speaking English also will open the doors to English-speaking customers and clients.
Similarly, having your website or online presence in English means that it’ll be more easily found by everyone searching in English.
At work, your employer may provide you with more tasks if you’re the English-language specialist.
Because it’s often cheaper than hiring a second person. They’ll save money and that’s usually the most important thing for businesses.
If you’re good, it’ll reflect well on the company and result in more business. This can lead to opportunities to be promoted, climb the ladder, and command a higher salary.
Sometimes, the world of business can be ruthless and there are often tonnes of candidates for the same job and anyone who has business English can put themselves further up the pile.
In addition to degrees from prestigious universities and experience, English language skills are essential for most multinational businesses and a lot of employers will actively seek them out on CVs and resumes.
Businesses Where You Have to Speak English
Nowadays, a good grasp of the English language is the bare minimum. However, there are plenty of sectors where a mastery of the language and the terminology will be required.
This includes accounting, commerce, e-commerce, finance, HR, insurance, IT, law, manufacturing, marketing, construction, real estate, stocks, transport.
Types of English
In terms of skilled jobs, being bilingual is often a requirement. It’s estimated that most skilled employees will encounter a foreign language during their career and English is the most common foreign language you'll usually encounter.
However, many employees say that their foreign language skills aren't up to scratch for work situations, especially in the countries are famous for having a low level of English.
While that doesn’t mean everyone in the country has a low level of English, it might mean that you could do come from one of these places, there’s a chance that your level of English mightn’t be enough for certain jobs. This may become abundantly clear when faced with English speakers from other countries.
Some jobs are unattainable without English language skills. If you’re working at the heart of an international company and tasked with looking after customers, creating press releases, looking for partners or affiliates, dealing with lawyers, banks, or government ages, English may be essential. The same is true for conference calls and meetings.
Whether you’re already employed or looking for a job, it’s never too late to improve your English skills and there are few better ways to get ahead than being the go-to when it comes to tasks requiring English-language skills.
If there’s one sector where the English language is obligatory, it’s travel and tourism. Anyone working for restaurants, hotels, airlines, or travel agencies will almost always need a good level of English.
Even tour guides will need a good level of English as when with an international group of tourists, you’re going to probably have to address them in English, probably for several hours.
Travel agencies and tour operators will also look to work with English speakers.
English is the language of the internet.
There are plenty of jobs that require English: UX designer, web developer, web editor, SEO manager, community manager, and many other services including jobs in tech startups.
You need a good understanding of English and technical vocabulary. Even in programming, the terms are in English and most of the marketing terms in other languages are borrowed from English. Words like “network” and “internet” are both from the English language.
Even if you’re not working in English, you’ll come across plenty of English words. You’ll also find lots of abbreviations and acronyms.
The corporate world is all about having a positive attitude and getting things done quickly so there are acronyms like DND (do not disturb) and ASAP (as soon as possible).
You need a confident level of English, that's for sure!
Improving your Business English
It’s difficult to estimate your level in English, especially when you have to put it on your CV or resume.
However, the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is probably your best option if you’re based in Europe. This scale goes from A1 (beginner) to C2 (mastery) with 2 levels per letter “1” and “2”. However, evaluating your level is almost impossible. It’s recommended you do a level test to gauge skills.
Most employers want at least a B1 or B2 but this will vary depending on the job, company, etc., but there are also specialisms required for certain jobs, too.
Some of you may be familiar with TOEIC (Test Of English for International Communication) which is evaluated from 200 multiple-choice questions to gauge your level. You can also do a TOEIC test to evaluate your level.
Unlike the TOEFL, which is more academic, the TOEIC is for testing your level of English for professional contexts. The score goes from 10 to 990 and the exam takes two hours.
Sometimes, English language schools will work towards this exam and have you take it as their end-of-year exam. If you want to become an engineer, for example, you’ll want a score in the high 700s.
A score of 800 upwards is recommended for most jobs.
The BULATS (Business Language Testing Services) from the University of Cambridge is designed for evaluating your level of business English.
This test is designed to gauge a candidates understanding of written and spoken English. It’s one of the best ways to gauge your business English. Unlike the TOEIC, there’s a digital version.
The length of the exam varies. You’ll be given a score from 1 to 100. The British Council has resources for BULATS and everyone working in a job that requires English should look to validate their business English.
The British Council has resources for a variety of professional situations:
- Writing reports
- Making phone calls
- Participating in meetings
- Negotiating contracts
- Conflict management
Generally, British Council lessons are for B1 to C1 levels.
Much like BULATS, the BEC comes from the University of Cambridge, too.
This is a series of independent exams that validate your level in English. It’s graded according to the CEFR.
It’ll allow you to work abroad or with international organisations. This focuses on admin and commercial positions.
The test is valid for two years.
How Can You Improve Your Business English?
Whether you’re an expert or just getting started, business English can help your career.
There are a few ways to improve your English for free:
- Watch films in English
- Take online English classes
- Check out the BBC’s Talking Business
Practising Before an Exam
If you find yourself looking for work, you’ll probably have an interview. This is a good opportunity to go other the basics with some grammar exercises. There are plenty of resources and quizzes online you can do.
Practising English regularly is a great way to express yourself so don’t hesitate to:
- Get business English lessons from a tutor (from Superprof, for example).
- Get help from an English-speaker.
- Download an app for learning English.
- Watch films and TV series in English.
To increase your chances of getting an interview, make sure that there aren’t any mistakes on your CV if it’s in English. You might also want to add any other experience you have with English like time spent studying or working abroad.
Why not make the most of this opportunity to do practise tests?
It’ll give you a better idea as to what jobs to apply for, too.
Get Trained at Work
In some cases, you can get English language training from your company. Whether you’re in finance, a multinational, or telecommunications, a lot of businesses regularly use English. Bigger companies may have English training programmes that focus on the type of English that their employees will need and use.
In many cases, these courses are designed to help those who’ve been in the company for a long time and mightn’t have had the opportunity to leave to study and improve their English during their years of service in the company. Languages are highly sought-after skills and improving your English-language skills can boost your career.
Whatever your reasons for learning English, you can easily find English tutors either in-person or online.
Whether you’re advancing your career or just starting it, English can help.
Why not work in London, New York, Toronto, or Auckland, for example?