Globalisation of English: Communicating intelligibly

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The advent of modern technology, especially the internet, has made access to people worldwide easier and cheaper. But, says Ange Teo, the assignee still needs to tread carefully within their host culture, even when they are communicating in their mother tongue.

The advent of modern technology, especially the internet, has made access to people worldwide easier and cheaper, something which has helped speed up globalisation.

Along with it, the transfer of international assignees across geographical borders perpetuates the use of the English language.

That has never been as pervasive or as widely, although variations of the language and degree of fluency differ from country to country, individual to individual.

It is therefore imperative that the assignee be sensitive of both connotations and implications that may arise as a result of local usage; further influenced by the local languages where English is a second or third, or foreign language.

Even if English is the locals’ first language, they may not comprehend the assignee’s ‘particular’ brand of humour.

As it is, usage of slang or lingo – including sport and technical – should be avoided unless the assignee is very sure the local audience understands them well.

Also, the presence of globally known brands, products and services does not mean that the locals possess the same level of mindset.

Similarly, the pervasive use of technological tools like Short Message Service [SMS] and email among locals does not mean that cultural miscommunications will not occur. Nor should the excuse that these tools prevent the assignee from displaying appropriate body language be used as a “reason” why communication breaks down.

The consequences to the organisation if and when such mishaps occur regularly are certainly not wanted: in terms of financial costs, intradepartmental morale, and reputation; and most pertinently, competitive advantage and market leadership.

13 September 2007

Ange Teo, a Singaporean of multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual background, is the founder and managing director of e2m Expat  Etiquette Mentoring , a Singapore-based cross cultural communications solutions provider.

You can visit to find out more about e2m Programmes and workshops for the international assignee.

[Copyright e2m expatetiquettementoring 2005 – 2007]

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