English is the main language of communication in airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences, science, technology, diplomacy, sport, international competitions, and advertising.In Europe and other parts of the world, Business English is, well, big business. English has become the international language of business in many places across the globe, so a working knowledge of the language is absolutely essential for success.
With several businesses crossing shores, any company with an international presence is likely to use English as the common language for communication. Whether it’s a German company with clients in other European nations, a South American company that does business in Africa, or an American company that hires employees from East Asian backgrounds, communication in English is vital.
Understanding the Need for Business English
Most of us are sure to be familiar with 'Vorsprung durch Technik', the advertising slogan for Audi, the German automobile giant. This company steadfastly stuck to its German slogan, and used it for promotions across the English-speaking world, with great success. Even in neighboring France, the Académie Française closely monitors the filtration of English words in formal communication.
But once their citizens step out of the country, things take a drastic turn. International communication relies heavily on English, and this as a fact has not gone unnoticed. Irrespective of the field one may belong to, a steady grasp of English comes in handy at all times when we consider the sheer volume of English speakers around the world. Businesses, in particular, are not immune to the influence of this language, when it comes to international communication.
Problems with the Field
The importance of English has permeated the educational cultures of many countries whose native language is not English, and, in the last few decades of the 20th century, many nations updated their education systems to include top-notch English language instruction. However, instruction for people who are already in the workforce is still needed. There are several types of businesspeople who need English instruction. Members of older generations who did not benefit from the new English curricula need to keep up with their younger colleagues.
Alas, good English instruction is not yet available in schools in many rural areas, so people who grew up outside the city could still need help with their English. Also, many people have a working grasp of English but find that they need a more nuanced understanding of the language in order to further their careers.
Given the huge market for English instruction in business, the state of the business English industry is truly shocking. Unlike academic English, there are almost no professional standards for business English instruction. Unfortunately, the profession is not quite seen as a lucrative one by many, who may decide to join it as an afterthought, or as a go-between until something worthwhile comes by.
Worldwide, many business English instructors are young people who enter the field because they want to make a living while they travel. Although many of these young people do a decent job as teachers, they lack commitment to the field, which prevents the field from growing and evolving. Additionally, there is no universally or even locally recognized certification for business English instruction. General English instruction certifications are aplenty, but almost none that are business-oriented.
Business English in the United States
In the United States, the situation is even worse than it is abroad. Business English is practically unknown as a field in the U.S., and business English instructors tend to be looked down upon by those who teach English in academic settings. The few companies that offer business English instruction do so haphazardly and employ under-qualified instructors, who are subsequently underpaid. This state of affairs is appalling, and there seems to be little reason for it. In all likelihood, businesses themselves do not recognize how much their international operations could be helped by a well-organized business English industry, and this low demand acts as a barrier to entry for instructors and entrepreneurs alike.
The Business Model
Another possible reason for the sorry state of business English today is that teaching English to business people is difficult, and so far there is no profit model that makes the undertaking worthwhile for stakeholders. This is particularly clear from the point of view of instructors. In the United States, anyone with an advanced degree in English instruction avoids business English like the plague, because academic English is so much higher paid. Therefore, business English tends to attract teachers who only have a certificate, and the lower educational standard justifies, in the minds of employers, a lower compensation standard.
Clearly, there is room for improvement in the world of business English, and the first step may be to offer better employment conditions to instructors.