I am fascinated with the English language. Especially remarkable is its use at the international meetings. English is the most common language used in multicultural environments. It is universal and unites people all over the world. Using English is crucial for mutual understanding in business, science, and commerce. This article highlights the critical aspects of using English at the international meetings.
To begin with, people at the international meetings may have different levels of the language knowledge. It is important to explain the key terms initially so that there are no misunderstandings further. Speakers may have different accents which sometimes distort the sense. I have mostly been working at international companies. Many of our stakeholders and business partners come from the U.S., Europe and India. While all of them have profound English knowledge, it happens to have difficulties with communication initially. Some of the foreign accents are very heavy and it takes a while to get used to them. Most foreigners learn the classic variants of the English language. However, each region has the peculiar pronunciation. The listeners may get confused. Therefore, it is very important for those who make presentations at international meetings to use visuals. Pictures, graphs and written data will facilitate comprehension. Many people, who use English daily in business communication, use e-mails or memos. At the same time, their listening skills may lack practice. As a native speaker, one should remember that and carefully watch the audience. If native speakers spot bewilderment, they should clarify if everything is understood, paraphrase or explain the idea in simpler terms.
At the same time, not all the participants of international meetings are native speakers or even have the advanced language skills. Those who learn English as a second language often have problems in expressing their ideas by the universal language. Many people try to translate their native tongue phrases word-for-word. As a result, their communicative partners get broken sentence structures and unusual word combinations. It is important for both sides not to be ashamed of asking for clarifications. In my personal experience, pretending that you understood something when you did not, may lead to serious consequences. It is especially true for business negotiations. They need clarity. A person who speaks ambiguously also benefits from clarifications. They learn to express their ideas clearly and get to know more common phrases. Explaining complex notions in simple terms is also a good stimulus for ingenuity.
The trickiest aspect of the English language is the set expressions and idioms. Many speakers like to use abstract phrases with figurative meaning or the proverbs. However, the people at international meetings may have difficulties in understanding them. Perhaps, there are not even any analogs in their native language. That is why the idioms fans should avoid using their favorite phrases too often. Otherwise, their words will remain a mystery for the target audience. If one uses the idiom, after all, be sure to explain it properly. Usually, the technical terms and the lexicon peculiar to the given business sphere do not cause misunderstandings. However, sometimes the stakeholders who are not the sphere professionals are involved. In this case, too much specific jargon will confuse them.
Finally, let us not forget that language is not the only thing which differs in people of international origin. The international organizations are characterized by their multicultural environment. It is good to be aware of some cultural peculiarities of one’s colleagues and partners. Otherwise, your words or behavior may appear strange or offensive to the people from the different cultural background. For instance, it is well known that the German businesspeople are quite straightforward and try to separate business from personal life. People from Italy or Spain, on the other hand, are friendlier. Once the work relationships are well-established, they may add a kiss on the cheek to their greetings along with the usual handshake. Japanese partners will prefer a bow rather than a handshake, and the people from UAE will use only their right hands for a handshake.
Knowing such little details will facilitate intercultural communication. One also should not forget about the gender and age subordination crucial for many traditional Eastern countries. Thankfully, there are many useful resources for business etiquette available in the Internet and business periodicals. Those useful hints raise one’s multicultural awareness and help make the meeting successful.