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Your second language

Posted by: Mark Griffiths on
Your second language

The language of the workplace is different from the one we were taught at school. It can be a shock to learn that Business English calls for a different approach.Yet people in communications teams are role models who have to show the way.

Let’s face it – the British are not very good at learning a new language.

Yet when we enter the corporate workplace, as young adults, we have to learn a new language called Business English. The global language of commerce.

Nobody tells us about this. It becomes apparent over time. And it triggers those old schoolday feelings of lack of control and being subject to authoritarian behaviour.

Facing up to Business English

From training and mentoring young graduates, I know that facing up to Business English can come as a shock. English wasn’t like that at school or university.

Should we be surprised? Those who teach English at school and university have rarely worked in the world of business. They teach correctness, not effectiveness.

Should new graduates be so confused? After all, they’ve been subject to the sophisticated and varied language of marketing and advertising since they were knee-high. Yet, confused they are.

The problem with adult-to-child communication

Our memories of becoming literate in English are associated with school and teacherly instruction, as children controlled by adults. There were rules. Writing was often painful, rarely enjoyable. Unknowingly, we bring these founding sentiments into the workplace. We spend a significant part of our early working lives unaware of our need to learn a second language.

Here’s the rub – in most companies, managers and leaders at all levels are also unaware of this requirement. Even when people are recruited into communications roles, it is assumed that they are good at expressing themselves in their native language. Yet most of the people I’ve come across in communications roles are fairly average at articulating anything, both verbally and in writing. The need is calling, yet something is amiss.

Author: Mark Griffiths
Mark Griffiths

I blog about better business writing.