English is today’s lingua franca. Just as Latin was in the Middle Ages. A large number of countries speak English. But the majority of the English speakers today come from non-native English speaking countries.
Just as there are many different English dialects within the native English speaking countries, there are also a variety of different English “dialects”, or speaking patterns or flavors, amongst non-native English speakers.
And… There is also an unofficial International English that develops naturally when native English speakers mix with non-native English speakers.
Beyond Spanglish, Frenglish and Chinglish
In non-native English countries with a variety of ethnic groups, such as India or Malaysia, the English language takes on a specific local dialect.
But in Europe, businesses have evolved into what seems to be an International English. This International English cannot easily be associated with one specific country or culture.
This International English has evolved through the long history of international business in the region…
…with other European countries, and also with North Americans.
Picking Up An International English
Today, after a few years professional experience, European businessmen with international exposure usually pick up this International English without realizing it.
How does this happen?
Everyone has different language skill levels. These differences are greater in non-native English speakers.
Quite simply, if you want to communicate in an international environment, you need to speak to be understood. And over time, you also want to speak in a way that is easily understood by everyone.
So guess what happens…
The vocabulary you use seems to get smaller and smaller.
In some ways this might seem like you are talking to a child. Your sentences get shorter.
But, it is not quite like talking to a child. There are some subtle differences. You actually learn to culture customize your English to your surroundings.
Easy Words For Everyone To Understand
As you become more familiar with cross-cultural communication, you learn which words to avoid because some non-native English speakers may not understand them immediate.
Some words slow down communication more than others.
So, you learn to use the words everyone usually understands. With experience you know the frustrations other cultures have with the English language.
As a copywriter I write with simple high-school level English.
For example, the verb “get” is simple enough.
But as a cross-cultural marketer I know how little verbs like “get” and “take” can slow down comprehension for many non-native English speakers. Only a very skilled English speaker understands these immediately: “get to”, “get from”, “get over”, “get under”, “get through”, “get by”, “get going”.
You also learn to explain things more.
Simply making small changes in the structure of your sentences can make them easier to understand. Your communication becomes clear.
You learn to know when different cultures will have difficulties grasping certain concepts.
Again, simple explanations bring clarity to your communication.
So does the order in which you “explain” or “present” an idea, a proposal or a concept.
Clarity Throughout Your Communication
All of these small changes in your communication bring clarity for everyone around you.
The process of learning to speak with clarity happens naturally if you live in an environment of different English language skills.
And this happens naturally because if you do not adapt your communication this can lead to unnecessary time spent on correcting miscommunication.
Sensitivity To Different Cultures
And finally, with experience, you also learn how to speak in a polite way to different cultures.
This is the hardest part to learn.
Different cultures have different ways of being polite and expressing politeness. There are some differences in politeness within the native-English speaking countries. There are more differences in other cultures.
Look at the characteristics of International English above.
- Do you have a website targeting a global market?
- Is it in English?
- How does your English match with International English?
Would you like an analysis of your website?
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: international english
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