Do You Make These Mistakes When Speaking English for Business Situations?
Learning English for Business is a never-ending process. Even native English speakers must continue to expand upon their vocabulary in the workplace. However, for ESL learners certain rules that are obvious to native English speakers can be hard to notice and/or grasp when beginning training for business English. Previously we outlined 5 common business English errors for beginners, and we’ve gathered together five more to help improve your professional speech.
5 More Common Mistakes When Learning English for Business
- Not Understanding Business Phrases: In the Pipeline
As we’ve stated in the past, Business English use is a language of its own. There are certain phrases used that may make no sense to an ESL speaker, or even a native speaker, if they aren’t familiar with the context. One example is a common phrase “in the pipeline”. To someone unfamiliar with the meaning, the phrase could be taken literally to mean that something is within a physical pipeline. However, in the context of business English “in the pipeline” refers to projects or tasks an employee is working on now, or will be in the near future.
- The Use of Prepositions: See you [at, on] the meeting.
Prepositions can be difficult to choose between – especially if the prepositions used in a speaker’s native language are different than the ones used in the same context in English. One such place where an ESL speaker might run into this issue with English for business is when discussing participation in meetings. If you were speaking with a colleague who will be attending a meeting with you later, and you want to acknowledge that you will be seeing them there, would you say:
- “See you at the meeting.” or
- “See you on the meeting.”
You can eliminate the last sentence, as you would never see someone on a meeting. The only way you would use the preposition “on” in this context would be to say something along the lines of “See you on the day of the meeting.” The correct preposition to use in this case would be “at”.
- The difference between Nouns and Verbs: Advice vs. Advise
It is common in English for there to be a noun version and a verb version of a concept (for example, the mistake we highlighted in the last blog about the difference between affect and effect). Sometimes that difference is made with the change of a single letter in a word’s spelling – such as with “advice” and “advise”. It’s good to remember when writing an email to a colleague or partner to know the difference.
Advice is the noun – as in the situation where you offer your opinion on the state of a project’s launch to your boss – you offer your advice.
Advise is the verb – it’s what a consultant does for a company that hires him or her to solve a problem – he/she advises them on what to do.
- Confusing Common Abbreviations: RSVP vs. SRC (Spanish – se ruega contestación)
Another area where ESL learners can run into some confusion when first learning English for business, is with common abbreviations. Even if the same concept is understood in a speaker’s native language, it may be referred to differently in English. A common abbreviation you can find in English for business is “RSVP”.
Traditionally this English abbreviation is taken from the French phrase “Répondez s’il vous plait”, or “please respond”. This is why in English it is abbreviated as RSVP. This same concept is not unique to English - in Spanish it is used based on the phrase “Se ruega contestación”. However, because the wording is different in Spanish, the abbreviation will also be different: SRC. Being familiar with English abbreviations will be very useful with Business English – after all, as the saying goes “time is money”, so at times the quicker you can get a point across, the better.
- Scheduling Time for Meetings: 14:00 vs. 2pm
It is important to use the standard time format when scheduling anything with a U.S. English speaker. In the United States, 24 hour time is only used in the military and is rarely used by civilians. Therefore, if you are speaking to a colleague about a meeting you’re setting up for 14:00 it may take him or her a moment to understand that the meeting will be taking place at 2:00 pm. Knowing to use the 12 hour format can save you some headaches that would come with colleagues getting confused and accidently missing the meeting.
How Can You Perfect Your Usage of English for Business
The best way to perfect your English for Business situations is simply by practicing and familiarizing yourself with the common differences between your native language, English and Business English. With Language Connections’ Business English training courses, you will go over these common business English mistakes and more with trained professionals. Role plays and small class sizes ensure you get the practice and attention you need to elevate your business English levels to a professional level.
Register for our next Business English Course to improve your professional communication and expand your business English vocabulary.
For more information contact our Language Training Department:
Phone: (617) 277-1990