18/10/2011


We have found that UK-based businesses could be risking international growth by failing to invest in cross-cultural, language and communications training.

Business people may appear to be speaking the same language but do they really understand one another? How important is cultural understanding? And should native English speakers adapt their language when communicating with non-English speakers?

We celebrate our centenary in 2012 and this research forms part of a series of projects designed to highlight the importance of language and communications training in the UK.

The research questioned 100 HR directors on their attitudes towards language and communication skills and their approach to training. The questions were designed to cover the increasing number of professional non-native English speakers working in the UK as well as native English speakers.

“These centenary research results show a shocking lacking of regard for our international, non-native English speaking business partners,” says Timothy Blake, Chief Executive of the London School of English. “The Brits may be reluctant to learn other languages, but this research suggests that we are not prepared to invest in the training required to adapt our own language, accents and behaviour to help non-native English speakers understand us.”

Key findings:

  • 78% HR Directors questioned did not consider it necessary to train native English speakers to moderate their vocabulary when negotiating with non-native English speakers.
  • 98% believed their non-native English speakers could communicate effectively in English.
  • Although 67% of those questioned believed that it was “very important” for business people to have a good cultural understanding of their trading partners; only 23% would offer training.
  • Only 4% believed the “Basil Fawlty” approach of speaking “more loudly” would be effective in communicating with non-native English speakers.

“A failure to communicate effectively with overseas business partners is a classic British mistake and it’s disappointing to see that this is still not being addressed,” says Timothy Blake.

“In the current economic climate we need to ensure the UK remains a player in the world economy. If we aren’t prepared to reach out and communicate with business people from all cultures, countries and backgrounds, we are in danger of dropping further and further down the global business league.”

Please email us for more information about our findings.


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