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Communication Strategies for Native English Speakers

“While hundreds of millions of people around the world may be learning textbook English, we Americans have evolved a unique, ever-changing dialect, a lingo that is confounding to non-native readers and listeners.”
-Do's & Taboos of Using English Around the World, Roger E. Axtell


English is viewed by many as the language of global business even though it is not the language spoken by the majority of people in the world. 

It is 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.

Tips for Effective Global Communications

  • Adapt Your Language: Avoid using idioms, slang, jargon and speak slowly and annunciate your words.
  • Use Active Listening and Observation: Listen to what is being said, summarize back what you heard, and then ask for confirmation of understanding. Remember in many cultures non-verbal communication is important.
  • Ask Open-ended Questions: In many cultures "yes doesn't mean yes" and "no doesn't mean no".
  • Build Relationships: In many cultures, relationships are how business gets done.
    Consider Technology: For non-native English speakers, communication is often the number one challenge. Often people are more comfortable with written, rather than spoken English.
  • Be cautious when using humor, it doesn't travel well.

Examples of "Crazy English"


  • Strategies for effective listening
  • Strategies for language modification
  • Strategies for communicating through technology, e.g. email, conference calls
  • Strategies for using and interpreting non-verbal communication
  • Making effective presentations
  • Asking questions and confirming understanding
  • Avoiding idioms, colloquialisms, slang, jargon
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