This week I was talking to Ellen about English. She was telling me about her passion for coaching and said “I guess English is like that for you”. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, even though I can enjoy words like a good meal. What I really care about is what you can do with English.
Ellen got me thinking about language and its role in what I do. Does that sound weird for an English business coach? Well, I think it’s important to ask myself fundamental questions. What exactly do I do for my clients? Why don’t I just call myself an English teacher?
This article talks about what I love about English. And that boils down to what you can do with it.
Communicating with the world
English is spoken by millions of people, so you can use English to do business with people around the world.
There are about 360 million native English speakers: about 250 million in the Americas, 58 million in Europe, 6.5 million in Africa, 17 million in Australia and 3.6 million in New Zealand.
English is spoken by 1.5 billion people in the world, in total. So, the majority are non-native speakers. For example, 38% of Europeans speak English.
There is only one other language in the world which can give you this kind of reach: Mandarin, with about 1.1 million speakers, mainly native speakers.
So, if you’re looking to grow your business outside your country, then English is an obvious choice.
English has lots of choices
One of the great things about English is the number of words. English is spoken across the world, so its speakers experience many things, which then become words. Some examples:
- In the UK, you can call a bread roll, lots of different names. It all depends where you are: bap, batch, cob, teacake and lots of others. This is an example of dialect in the UK.
- Some words are informal, others formal. Can you get that? Where can we obtain that?
- English uses several words for what you could see as the same thing (meat, flesh). These words come from different languages. Meat is what you eat, flesh refers to human bodies.
- We use words in phrases like ‘wend your merry way’, when the individual words aren’t used any more. We don’t wend any more.
This all means that no-one knows exactly how many words there are in English. I’ve heard estimates of 400,000 words.
You don’t need 400,000 words for your business
The 400,000 number makes a lot of my clients feel intimidated. It feels like an impossible task, until I tell them that I don’t know all those words and no one single person ever could.
So, you definitely don’t need to know 400,000 words to use English effectively for your business.
Easier English helps entrepreneurs learning English in English. That’s the level that you really start to be able to use English for your business. It’s also the level that working with a native speaker is really useful.
English houses culture
English is way more than a collection of words, rules and sounds. It also houses cultures. If you learn to speak a language well, you should also learn about the culture. When you learn about a culture, it changes you. It makes you think about your reactions and thoughts. It makes you think about who you really are.
- Are you the person you are because you grew up somewhere?
- Or did you learn to do things in one way because that is the way you grew up and another way of doing things would suit you better?
Culture lives in layers
I think we have layers in who we are. The deepest layer is who we really are and it doesn’t change wherever we are, unless we face a crisis and maybe not even then. Then there is a layer which changes if we are exposed to other ideas for a long time. We change the way we look at things. And then there is the layer which changes with no problem at all. Maybe we were actually waiting for the chance to do things differently.
So, if you learn to speak English well, it is going to challenge you. It is going to make you wonder why you do some things the way you do. You may find that you change the way you look at something. And you might have real problems with some aspects of English culture, which make no sense to you at all. It all depends on how important something is to you (which layer), if you want to change it.
I love it when my clients run into these cultural aspects. Sometimes, I see them take on new ideas, sometimes there’s no way they are going to change something. That’s fine too, as long as you know that someone else might care about something that you don’t.
Language is more than words
Yesterday I was driving over the Afsluitdijk (that’s the dike that was built in Holland to turn the Zuiderzee into the Ijssel reservoir). There’s only sea and big skies to look at and I often find myself thinking, when I drive over it. Yesterday was no different.
This time I was listening to Einaudi. I love his music, I feel its effect immediately. It’s like Einaudi is trying to speak to me, he’s telling me about how something made him feel. It’s language without words.
Here’s Einaudi talking about his music:
So, language is a way of communicating, sometimes the language is words, sometimes the language is music or art. Try looking at a Karel Appel painting and not feeling anything. Or listening to Una Mattina.
This is what you can do with English
This is what I’m trying to explain. What you do with English is communicate to lots of people around the world. English is one way you can communicate and you also need others as well. If you are a horrible person, learning English won’t help you be liked. First, you need to empathise and relate to others. If your products and services are no good, English will help you deal with complaints, but it won’t help your business grow. First, make sure you have something great to sell. If you don’t understand who you are talking to, your audience won’t react in the way you want. So, first find out what they want. If you avoid being visible, clients can’t find you however good your English is. So, you need to be out there too.
So, if you have the right ingredients, English is a way to communicate with a lot of people around the world. This means that you can grow your business. And, hopefully, enjoy the flavours of the language while you do. Just like a good meal.
So, what does Easier English do with English?
For Easier English, English is part of the communication mix. When I teach entrepreneurs, I don’t just talk about words, phrases, spelling and pronunciation. I become your business cheerleader. I make sure you know enough about the culture to work with it. I help you find your own style. And we practise until you can express yourself comfortably in the media and situations you need. I make sure you are being visible and that you are talking to your audience. And if I see you doing something which doesn’t fit what you want to do or where you want to go, I’m going to tell you.
So, if you’re looking for someone to just teach you some more words, I’m not your woman. If you’re looking for someone who will challenge you to achieve more with English for your business, then I just might be.
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