Five English Communication Tips For ESL Business Professionals

Lately, it seems I’ve been contacted, more than usual, by a greater number of ESL professionals, who are anxious to improve their ESL business English skills. Because Canada is so famously multicultural, I’m not surprised. Even though we embrace diversity, it’s not necessarily that easy for these non-native English speakers to achieve the success they anticipate they will, in the business world. I find that the people, who contact me, typically share one or more of the following concerns:

  1. My boss tells me that my fellow employees or company stakeholders have trouble understanding me.
  2. I don’t feel as professional as I would like to feel in my workplace, because of my struggles with English.
  3. When I make presentations or send written reports, I am anxious about whether or not I am making myself understood.
  4. I’m new to the Canadian workforce. I want to start out with a good job, and not be held back by my lack of English-language skills.

When someone comes to me with any of the above concerns, I’m always grateful to be consulted and I’m happy to help her/him. But sometimes I’m also a little alarmed. It seems that some of my prospective clients are looking for something that is impossible to deliver: the magic bullet that will make them a perfect English language communicator. And they expect it to happen, in the shortest period of time.

The fact is, there is no magic bullet! And I’m not a magician! But I can certainly help ESL professionals take a close look at what it is they need to do to improve their business English communication skills. I usually find it helpful to start by asking the following questions:

  1. How much English do you speak each day? Do you speak it at home?
  2. Do you watch TV in English, and read in English?

If the answer to the above questions is “not much,” I immediately suggest that they actively incorporate English into their daily life by making sure they speak and they read (and they watch TV), in English. Of course, watching TV is not necessarily going to solve ESL professionals’ difficulties with English grammar, though. Grasping the elements of grammar, i.e., verb tenses; prepositions, and articles, the most common stumbling blocks for ESL learners, is only possible through diligent study. That’s why part of the coaching I do at The Language Lab is focused on the key grammatical building blocks. However, there truly is a great deal that people can do on their own to improve business English communication skills. A good starting point is to try to incorporate the following tips into daily life:

  1. Become a reader: Read everything and anything in English. Don’t restrict yourself to business materials. Read whatever most interests you.
  2. Become a writer: Make it a daily practice to write in English. Start by writing short emails or notes, or even journal entries. Gradually, increase the amount you write each day.
  3. Become a conversationalist: Speak in English, as much as possible. The small daily conversations, on the street or in the office, will help you become more comfortable speaking English. It will also help you better understand the culture.
  4. Become a seeker: Seek out feedback about your English language skills. For example, use your phone to video yourself talking. Then, play the video to get feedback from people, whose judgment you trust. As well, listen closely to yourself speaking on the video – become your own critic.
  5. And practice, practice, practice; and practice some more!

So much of what holds people back from becoming better English-language communicators is a fear of failure, and/or a desire to stay inside their comfort zone. However, learning and improving are all about constantly taking on challenges, and accepting that part of how we learn is by failing and learning from the mistakes we make. Becoming a successful businessperson, in a new language and in a new culture, is a long-term process. It’s also challenging, and rewarding. In fact, it’s much like my own experience learning, along the way, how best to help people.

Are you an ESL business professional, who would like to improve your communication skills? I can help you achieve your business English communication goals. Be sure to contact me at The Language Lab.

3 thoughts on “Five English Communication Tips For ESL Business Professionals

  1. Anna Cramer

    Ms. Folk– I would like to use this Blog entry in my advanced ESL class. Full credit will be given to you as author, the site will be referenced, and a link to Effective Business Communication will be provided.

    May I proceed with the lesson?

    Thanks–Ann Telfair Cramer
    ESL Professor
    Florida State College (Jacksonville)

    • Sorry I missed your comment.Yes, you could use it as long as I receive full credit. Thanks for considering using it.

    • Ann,
      Sorry I missed reading your response. Yes, you could use this blog post, as long as I receive credit for it. Thanks for considering it.

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