Effective international communication for native English speakers

Effective international communication as an English speaker.

Andrea MacMillanBlog

This month’s blog post is written by Alex Morgan, one of our Managing Directors here at Abbey Communication. Alex has over 15 years’ experience in HR, Leadership and Management Development both in industry and in public sector organisations.  She brings this wealth of experience into the language immersion arena, and creates real value-added training, contributing to both the professional and language development of the individual. Alex has lived and worked in Germany and Belgium and has worked with many international colleagues in a wide variety of organisations

“Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Japanese HR managers at the Global HR Forum in Tokyo.  The subject of my talk was “Why native speakers of English need training in how to communicate in English”.   This isn’t as daft as it sounds, our clients at Abbey Communication often tell us that the most difficult people to understand in an international meeting are native English speakers (usually British or American). So, my premise (and subject of my current Doctorate) is that native speakers of English should be taught how to communicate more clearly in international settings.

Alex Morgan Japan HR Forum

Alex Morgan, Global HR Forum, Japan

When I started my presentation in Tokyo on this subject, there was an audible “yes” from many people in the room, it seems that international HR managers agree with me!  Why is that?  Well it is because native speakers of English do the following:

  • Speak too fast
  • Use too many culturally specific or obtuse idioms
  • Speak in difficult accents or dialects
  • Use too many cultural references (e.g. references to old television programmes or celebrities)
  • Use complicated words for effect
  • Use culturally specific humour

These issues lead to poor communication in international teams, misunderstandings, embarrassment, mistakes, poor relationships and negative feelings in a team. These problems create unnecessary cultural and language barriers, and none of these issues are the “fault” of the non-native speakers.

The traditional approach that companies and individuals use to overcome language barriers is to teach the non-native speakers of English more and more English (or let them flounder with their current level of English). However, through my Doctoral research, I am making the case for native speakers of English to also be taught linguistic skills and intercultural skills so that they can share the responsibility for clear communication in international business”.

You can read more about the importance of cross cultural communication and training on our blog. Should you be interested in further discussion about this topic, or be interested in participating in Alex’s research please contact her by email at alex@abbeycommunication.com or view the contact page on our website.

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