Business English – Why You’re Not Speaking the Same Language

Published by English Evolution on


Miscommunication and misunderstandings can be fatal in business. They can lead to lost sales, bad client relations, and even the complete failure of projects. At best, miscommunication wastes time – and of course, time is money. This is why it is essential that all parties in business meetings, discussions and negotiations are on the same page. To ensure this, it is important that what everyone is saying is mutually understood.

There is a common expression in English – ‘The devil is in the detail’. This means that it is often the small things that make all the difference. This expression is especially relevant to good communication. When one person says something but their counterpart understands something different, it can have disastrous results. This is something that can easily happen when you are communicating in a second language that you don’t comprehend very well.

Bad Communication Vectors by Vecteezy

The STANAG 6001 is a NATO English language test for military personnel. As you would expect, military personnel have no room for errors in communication, so the STANAG 6001 requires a pass score of at least 70%. Much of the focus in the exam is on understanding hypothetical situations and abstract topics in English, and being able to express and support an opinion. Multinational businesses that rely on English for communicating between their global partners also need their employees to be able to use English in this way, which requires a good understanding of the language. But what is a good understanding of English?

As an English language trainer with 10-years of experience teaching professionals in companies and high performing university students, I have discovered that many English language students don’t fully comprehend meaning in English. Many seem to have a good level of English on the surface, but often don’t fully understand the real meaning of written texts, and struggle with English listening exercises. This is usually because they have a limited vocabulary and can’t effectively recognise the different inferences of similar words. They also lack an understanding of how much adjectives, adverbs and modal verbs can alter the meaning of what a person is saying.

It is said that there are no true synonyms in English, so while two words may seem the same, they can have significantly different meanings. One may be stronger or weaker, more positive or more negative, more polite or offensive. A lack of awareness of these differences can be a real problem for international teams working together. English Evolution First Class English training for business professionals specifically focuses on improving the knowledge of English vocabulary in a way that goes beyond general English language learning.

Many English language courses put a large focus on grammatical accuracy and waste a lot of their students’ time on written quizzes and a “communicative method” that has no real methodology. If you have a good intermediate level of English, you should know all the main verb tenses and grammar, so when you what you really need to know is how to recognise and use subtle grades of meaning to communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas better. This is why First Class English training puts more emphasis on developing vocabulary, and learning how modal verbs, adjectives and adverbs are used to modify meaning. Why is this important? Because your choice of adjective will make a huge difference in what you communicate.

Adverbs alter the emphasis of verbs and adjective, and modal verbs will modify the meaning of an entire part of a sentence. For example, when something is essential it is much more thanimportant’. If someone tells you they are hugely disappointed’ , this is a whole lot worse than quite disappointed’. And, ‘we can probably do that’, or ‘we should be able to do that’, is not a confident guarantee. However, ‘we will be able to do that’ is an assurance that you can expect to depend on. These subtle differences are important, and every senior employee using English as a second language in a multinational company should understand what they are, how to recognise them, and how to use them.

Listening is one of the most difficult skills to master in English, yet the most important core skill of any language. If you are using English in your job for meetings and conference calls with clients, colleagues and partners, it may be very difficult to catch every word. You don’t want to interrupt the speaker, or you may feel a little silly by asking them to repeat something. First Class English training gives students valuable practice and tips on how to effectively take notes, ask good questions, and summarise what has been said. This helps you to avoid misunderstandings that will cause you problems later. It also makes you better prepared for engaging in important business correspondences.

The learning materials used for the NATO English exam are described as ‘taken from authentic sources spoken by native speakers, intended for general and educated native listeners in the language training’. The material used in First Class English training is also specifically created from authentic materials. Students practice using language to explain, to discuss, and to express an opinion. Topics used are typically abstract, conceptual and hypothetical, giving students regular practice in high level communications. Lessons are communicative in a real, practical sense, with students practicing discussing a wide range of culturally and socially relevant topics, giving their opinion, supporting their point of view and explaining their reasons. This provides invaluable practice for business communication.

Fully understanding English is more than just knowing about grammar and remembering a few words and phrases. It is a process of learning how to express meaning in order to effectively exchange thoughts and ideas. It is about learning how to fully engage with the people you are speaking to through a shared language. When your thoughts and ideas are not clear, then communication is not clear. When your communication is not clear, it is also ineffective, and ineffective communication in a business context leads to ineffective business.



If you want to find out more about First Class English lessons in order to give you or your employees a greater communicative advantage, visit the First Class page on the website and book a free introductory lesson, or contact:


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