Communicating Across Cultures 
Using Global English
By Joyce Millet  






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English is frequently the language used in global business even though it is not the language spoken by the majority of people in the world. 

Using Global English

It is therefore very important for native English speakers to be sensitive to the fact that English is a foreign language for many of their associates around the world, and the extent to which it is understood and spoken may vary widely. 

For example, in some countries such as Japan, English is generally studied in junior high and high school, but the method of instruction emphasizes reading and grammar. Therefore, many Japanese may have more familiarity with written English than spoken English. The Japanese are also very shy and hesitate to speak for fear of making a mistake. However, never make the assumption that a person does not understand English – it can cause embarrassing situations.

Another factor to consider is that non-native English speakers around the world may be more familiar with British English than American English, or vice versa. The degree to which your colleagues speak English may also vary by region, occupation, educational background, level of international experience, etc. 

Native/bilingual English speakers should to learn to adjust the way that they speak when interacting with those who are less fluent in order to facilitate successful communication and prevent or minimize communication breakdowns. 


Tips for Native English Speakers - Speaking

  • Slow down and be patient. Avoid the temptation to speak more loudly or show irritation
  • Remember that others are trying to speak your language 
    Enunciate clearly
    Summarize your point frequently and when necessary repeat key points
  • Watch gestures – do not over do and be sure that they mean the same thing in other cultures
  • Try to keep sentences short. Some things to try and avoid are:
  • Either/or questions

  • Idioms or colloquialisms, slang, jargon

  • Reduction of speech

  • Negative questions and contractions

  • Complicated sentences

  • Use visuals whenever possible, such as graphs, charts. 

Tips for Native English Speakers - Listening

  • Learn to use reflective listening
  • Repeat key words/phrases to confirm understanding
  • Watch for words that may have different meanings in other cultures
  • It is not impolite to ask for confirm that you understood the point

Tips for Native English Speakers - Writing

  • Avoid long or complex sentences
  • Do not present someone with too many points at once 
  • Avoid Idioms or colloquialisms, slang, jargon 
  • Review everything you write to try and determine if a non-native speaker may have difficulty understanding the meaning
  • When in doubt, lean toward the formal side
  • Begin communication with a preliminary statement, such as thanking someone for his or her last communication. This applies to both spoken and written communication

Tips for Native English Speakers - Using Technology

  • Cultural differences exist, so try to determine the standard practices and preferences
  • Always be aware that your email or fax message may be seen by others
  • Before planning videoconferences, etc. determine what technology is most readily available
  • It is often helpful to set up a schedule of regular calls or meetings. Prepare agendas in advance and get a list of all attendees

  • Designate a note taker and send a copy of the minutes to participants. 

Remember, it is to everyone’s advantage to achieve mutual understanding and communicate effectively.  Cultural Savvy works with clients to assist them become effective global communicators and learn to communicate across cultures.




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