The English language isn’t as homogeneous as one might expect it to be. There are a number of dialects and renditions, and the language itself differs in accent, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary from region to region.
One of the best known examples of this is US English and UK English: while Americans go on vacations, Brits go on holidays; Americans live in apartments, Brits live in flats; Americans take elevators, Brits take lifts. While they mean the same thing, the difference lies in the culture in which the words are being spoken.
The reason why the differences need to be addressed in the world of business is because while we may toggle back and forth between different versions of the language, our customers don’t. They speak the global business language, i.e., US English.
Technology has given us access to a customer base that didn’t seem serviceable just a few decades back. So, it is important to speak your customers’ language, not just to increase sales, but also to build loyalty and trust among your customer base, avoid miscommunication, and gain a competitive advantage.
This skill is especially important for customer facing roles, such as customer service, stakeholder management, sales representatives, etc. Because these are the people that represent your organization, so they need to speak the language of the global customer.
If we don’t do so, it can result in a number of things: your team members don’t understand the exact instructions, they can’t converse confidently with stakeholders, they can’t communicate via emails efficiently, and they cannot interpret business documents and directives and gain value for them.
So how does one ensure that your employees and candidates speak to your customers the way you want them to? Benchmark the parameters!
The three factors that take precedence when you’re assessing someone’s Business English proficiency are: vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. Understanding where and how the dialect differs will help them understand where the gap of knowledge exists and where more understanding is required. Here are some simple ways using which you can assess your employees and candidates:
- Vocabulary: This is the most noticeable difference in the US and UK written English. There are thousands of words that are used differently. Some of the examples of vocabulary we saw earlier in this article.
But here, we also need to understand how the same word can mean different things for different readers or listeners. For instance, in the UK English, if someone says “peel the onion”, they mean the onion is the problem, which they need to dig into deeper, but would a global customer be able to understand that? Most likely no.
Another differentiating example here would be the word ‘jumper’. While for a British customer this would mean a sweater, a customer who speaks the US English might confuse it for jumper cables.
Understanding these minor nuances would help you in comprehending properly what your customer is speaking about accurately.
- Spelling: There are several minor and major differences in the two versions of the language, but the thing to remember here is that the US English’s spellings are closer to the pronunciation.
One of the most common examples of this is the usage of the letter ‘u’ in the American English. The word colour (UK English) became color, honour became honor, labour became labor, and many others.
Another way to spot the difference is the syllable ‘oe/ae’. To make it closer to the pronunciation, the US English simplifies it to simply ‘e’. For instance, anaemia becomes anemia, encyclopaedia becomes encyclopedia, and many others.
The reason we have to dive deep into these nuances is because it is important to nail the language of your consumer. It isn’t a sparsely-known fact that trust goes a long way in businesses, and language is the most important intangible asset you have in this regard.
- Grammar changes: When we’re catering to the global audience that primarily speaks the US English, it is necessary to imbibe all the rules associated with this variety. Switching back and forth from the UK to US English might create inconsistencies, and the consequences could be miscommunication and loss of information.
So, to avoid these, one must also understand the grammatical differences. For instance, when it comes to collective nouns, the US English necessitates the singular usage, meaning the collective nouns are viewed as one unit. For example, in the US English, we’d say ‘the government is making the decisions’, wherein ‘government’ is taken as a collective unit and the singular verb ‘is’ is used. Whereas, in the UK English, both ‘is’ and ‘are’ can be used. Another area where we can see this difference in play is in the past tense verbs. While ‘-ed’ is used in the US English, ‘-t’ is used in the UK English.
How Can imocha Help?
Imocha’s AI English Pro, AI-powered Business English Proficiency Assessment, helps one assess candidates’ business language proficiency using a single test. Using evaluation parameters like sentiment analysis, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, email writing, and oral fluency, one would be able to determine how adept your candidate or employee is in skills you benchmark. Moreover, the AI-based analysis of the writing and video interview questions help in blocking the unconscious bias a human might have while going through the assessment. The assessment structure consists of four parameters: speaking, listening, writing, and reading, ensuring well-rounded, holistic assessment.