Book Review: “Improve Your Global Business English”

Improve Your Global Business EnglishThe Title of Fiona Talbot & Sudakshina Bhattacharjee’s book Improve Your Global Business English immediately caught my attention as I wandered through the digital halls of Amazon’s bookstore.  Global Business English? One of my favorite topics. What really sparked my interest however was the fact that the book was also written for a Native Speaker audience. I decided to make an order and see what the book was all about.

It arrived quickly and I read it within the week – here are some of my personal impressions of what I found:

  • A focus on written skills dominates the book and is where its strengths are found – a lot of useful information is given in terms of creating clear international messages that are both powerful and effective while being culturally aware. Many tips are given.
  • The following topics are discussed in detail: the writing of emails, reports, agendas, notes, minutes, internal messages, marketing materials, and online communication. The authors do a good job explaining many of the key points in how to write these documents in a globally clear manner.
  • The book would be particular interesting for a small business owner or for a company wishing to implement an in-house style guide for global written communication. As I read each section I often felt as though this book should be handed over to decision makers in the Human Resource or Company Training Departments… many examples spoke to the reader as if they were responsible for company wide marketing campaigns or in a managerial position. This advice definitely hit the target.

Anything missing? I was hoping for more information on helping raise Native Speaker awareness – especially in terms of spoken communication. Honestly, the book wouldn’t be my first suggestion for an American or British salesperson looking to improve his spoken Language Awareness as there was such a heavy focus on the writing skills. (I don’t intend this as criticism to the book – when the authors touched on these speaking skills the advice was sound and very good – however one had to get through all the writing advice in order to find it… )

Here are a few quotes that I highlighted while reading the book and some of my own comments:

On defining Global English: “We suggest it is the English that displays the least regional variation. As a result, this is the English most widely understood globally.”

“Simple words are most often understood. It’s a compelling reason to use them in business…”

“It can be good to have a global business English style champion” in the department/company.

This got me thinking about departmental Global English champions: An expert in the department that could be the go to person with questions regarding Global English. Would such an expert be valuable for a company? Could one train up an employee to become a Global English champion? 

“If your readers (I would add listeners) can comprehend your meaning, it’s much easier for them to do any further analysis and any other follow-on activities in order to make good business decisions. Negotiations, to take just one example, can be seriously hampered by misunderstandings. Or business deals may even be lost – all because someone, somewhere, failed to understand all, or even just one part, of a message.”

“There’s a price tag for every piece of ineffective business writing we send out. If we get it wrong we can be ignored, or we can impede performance (our own or other’s or both). Or there can be other costly outcomes such as loss to other rival companies, simply because they have delivered better….. We ignore our business writing skills at our peril.”

“Communication is often classified as a ‘soft skill’….. It’s probably for this reason that few companies offer anything like adequate training in this crucial management tool”

I couldn’t agree more with these comments! The amount of money that is lost on a daily basis from miscommunication is astounding… but just how much of that is due to being unaware of language and unable/unwilling to adapt to a more global style? I believe quite a lot.

“Periodically check understanding, whoever you deal with. This is especially important where people come from cultures where they might feel they lose face by having to ask what you mean.”

The first image that came into my mind was an American businessman giving a presentation full of phrasal verbs, idioms, and colorful cultural references to a Chinese audience. Might that businessman lose out on a contract simply because he could not communicate clearly, which led to silent stares, fake smiles, and a clear avoidance of asking clarifying questions in order to keep face? I imagine it’s happening somewhere in the world as I write this…I couldn’t agree more with these comments! 

On presenting in front of an international audience  “You will be noticed one hundred times more for using a wrong or obscure word than for avoiding it and choosing the correct or simpler word that everyone understands”

Especially true for the millions of language learners out there! Simple is not stupid…

“It’s really about checking that what is clear to you can actually be understood by them. An all too common mistake is to make what might otherwise have been clear writing incomprehensible – for example, by the use of obscure jargon”

Avoiding jargon is another key aspect of communicating clearly internationally. The authors of this book wisely mention this quite a few times.

“… go for a middle path. Develop a style that edits down to the main points (cutting out waffle) but also includes enough information, so every message is entire and meaningful. It’s crucial you do this”.

The bottom line: The book “Improve Your Global Business English” by Fiona Talbot & Sudakshina Bhattacharjee is a welcome addition to the raising language awareness library. It works especially well for language learners or Native Speakers looking to improve their international writing skills. It’s also very handy for anyone thinking of creating an in-house style guide. If you are solely trying to improve your speaking skills, you may wish to look for another title – unless you are very interested in this topic 🙂

Fiona Talbot on twitter: @wordpowerskills

Sudakshina Bhattacharjee on twitter: @SudakshinaKina

Here is a link to Sudakshina Bhattacharjee’s blog

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