Why Effective Business English Doesn’t Mean Perfect Grammar

Lightning bolt moment – stop studying and start speaking | © Roberto De Riccardis

Many business and finance professionals have been learning English for years, with hours spent pouring over textbooks to differentiate the past simple from the present perfect.

Yet even with all these ESL classes under their belt, they still find themselves apologizing for their English when participating in a conference call, writing an email or conducting a meeting.

This frustration — that their English is holding them back from peak performance — often leads people to think that the only solution is to secure a secondment to London or New York. But for the vast majority of professionals this just isn’t realistic. 10 years ago I founded a business English training company in Italy to end this frustration, but with a practical, realistic approach. And at the core of our successful methodology is this simple premise:

“You need to stop studying and start speaking.”

You need to end your grammar fixation to improve your English and speak effectively. Here are 3 reasons why.

1. Success comes from focusing on the right business outcome — not the right verb conjugation

There’s a big difference between perfection and effectiveness. And too often, people focus on perfection to the detriment of effectiveness.

I see many students who spend valuable time framing a sentence in their head before speaking. And while it’s always good to think before you speak, typically this perfectionist approach comes at a cost. Either it disrupts the discussion’s flow because everyone is waiting for you to get the words out, or you miss the opportunity to convey your point because the conversation has moved on by the time you’re ready to talk.

It’s important that you approach using English with the right mindset — if you’ve maximized the opportunity of the specific scenario, then you’ve succeeded. It doesn’t matter whether you used the wrong verb tense so long as everyone understands your point.

2. Cultural understanding has a profound impact

© Roberto De Riccardis

In business, the image you project is linked to your cultural understanding. For example, the Italian instinct is toward formality, but American and English businesspeople are likely to start a conversation with a handshake and, “Hi, I’m John.”

Being able to interact in a culturally astute way helps you build vital rapport, which can more than compensate for any grammatical errors you make.

This is why leading language schools place so much importance on learning with mother-tongue trainers raised in Anglophone countries — so you get English instruction that includes a variety of cultural nuances. It’s not just about exposure to native pronunciation.

For the same reason, practising informal English should also be a key component of your business English program — so you feel confident participating in business scenarios outside of the meeting room, like happy hour, team dinners or on the golf course. At The Language Grid we have an internal social network where students and trainers share experiences and ask questions that boost everyone’s cultural knowledge.

3. Confidence is crucial

When you show you know what you’re doing, people want to work with you. It’s all about perception. If you speak confidently, you give that vital perception of competence.

Many foreign speakers actually have a better knowledge of English grammar than native ones, but that knowledge often doesn’t translate to confident use of English in business scenarios. Once you have the confidence to take an incorrect conjugation or phrasing in your stride, you free up your mental energy to focus on the business outcome. Even if you make mistakes, you still show your capabilities in the best light.

Key to building confidence is being able to measure success. You need a program that provides ongoing assessment, marked in real time, so you can benchmark yourself for practical outcomes. Having tangible proof of your progress makes a big difference when it comes to confidently using English in real-life scenarios.

The Language Grid courses combine proprietary research with extensive expertise in the psychology of learning – and we have a 100% success rate helping business and finance professionals communicate effectively in English. Using our unique methodology, we guarantee you’ll meet your goals while ending the frustrations normally associated with ESL classes.

Connecting businesses and people across borders with practical, effective English. Digital learning as an environmentally sustainable training solution.

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