- They do not moderate their speed of speech.
Many business people need to moderate the speed at which they speak when interacting with non-native speakers of English. This is does mean speaking in a slow and unnatural way but in many cases it would be helpful to slow down just a little to facilitate communication.
- They use a lot of idioms.
An idiom is an expression that also cannot be guessed from the meaning of its individual words. Examples are: white elephant; between a rock and a hard place; at the drop of a hat; in a pickle; go bananas; dead as a doornail; bamboozle; there’s more than one way to skin a cat; we paid an arm and a leg; by the skin of my teeth. Native speakers use these all the time without even recognising that they are doing so and these can cause tremendous difficulties for non-native speakers.
- They use a lot of metaphors.
Metaphors make language interesting because they help to create images in one’s mind. They make connections between different things to bring up a picture in the listener’s mind. The meaning can sometimes be deduced from the context even if the listener has never heard the metaphor before because s/he already knows the meaning of the words being used, despite the fact that they are being used in a novel way for the listener. Examples include: turbulent times; plough back (our profits); weed out; drowning in paperwork; green shoots (of recovery); bumper crop; climb the greasy pole; climb the corporate ladder; keep our heads above water; wage freeze. Again, these are very, very common in English but too many metaphors in a conversation can overwhelm a non-native speaker.
- They are often unfamiliar with conventions associated with business in other cultures.
In order to be effective in business, it is important for all sides to have a clear understanding about how other cultures operate socially and in meetings, and what sorts of relationships foreign companies are looking for. Having a poor understanding of how people from other countries / cultures speak and behave is vital in business and Business English training can help with this.
- They may use humour in an inappropriate way.
Humour is always a dangerous area when people from different countries / cultures are seeking to do business. A light-hearted, throw-away comment understood by all from one culture might be seriously misunderstood by people from another. Unless the participants know their colleagues from other countries / cultures very well, it would be a very dangerous to introduce humour at any point as this could completely backfire and destroy weeks, or even months, of hard-won progress.