One of the surprises we all encounter as we travel is the realization of how widespread English has become. Sometimes I have entertained myself walking through the markets and browsing the stalls that attempt to lure me in to shop. They are using what they consider to be convincing English:
- the “Pet Chop” that was just down the street from my hotel in the Dominican Republic
- the children’s t-shirt that said “Crap Your Hands” in a southeast Asian market
- the newsletter from my local Spanish wine shop that offers “special prices to natural persons.”
It may make me laugh, but it also causes me to recognize something very important about doing business in English. English is evolving and spreading around the globe. The English I know and consider to be commonplace is no longer the only kind of English out there.
As a native English speaker, I know the subtleties of idioms, proverbs and slang. References to cultural English icons and events make sense in my world. Everything from my sense of humor to my values is somehow connected to my English language roots.
But that is only because English is my first language
As a business owner and communicator, I recognize that when I am seeking to connect with someone in English, there are many other aspects to take into consideration.
Times are changing and without recognizing it, we will be unable to keep up with what is going on within the world of “English”.
Putting a stake in the ground and resolutely declaring, “English is as English does” will not help the situation. Nor will assuming that the other person should simply be able to infer your meaning because they speak English.
Wisdom would tell us that there are some key elements to take into consideration in the new English world.
If you truly seek to connect in English with what has now become the English-speaking world, here are three points to consider:
1. There are now more non-native English speakers in the world than native speakers
As a native English speaker, I am the minority in my perspective on speaking and transacting in English.
My grammar may have become lazy and my ability to recognize it may have slipped. Professional non-native speakers and writers are trained with the expectation that the rules they learned are the ones that will be followed.
2. Yes, it’s true: you may need help with translating your written English to English
Hire writing professionals for help in communicating in clear, universal English. There is no shame in this. In fact, it may prove to be a wise move that will help win trust and build affinity.
3. Reach out and connect with non-native English speakers
Seek to understand how they perceive English, its usage and its increasing influence around the world. Yes, we may both speak English.
However, it doesn’t mean we still don’t to make sure we are both on the same page.