What is Global English and how can it transform communication in multicultural teams?

What is Global English

What is Global English and how can it transform communication in multicultural teams?

Global English is a modified version of the English language which helps native and non-native speakers of English to clearly communicate. By modifying the language, it is understood by everyone and avoids misunderstandings. It has no colloquialisms and avoids idioms and nuances of the language therefore making it easier for non-native English speakers to understand.

English proficiency is often a requirement for many job positions that involve international interactions. With English being the lingua franca (common language) of the business world, it’s more important than ever to understand the impact of this. It affects both native and non-native speakers.

1) English as a lingua franca in the workplace

Lingua franca is a term used for a common language used as a bridge to communicate when the participants involved have different native languages. Adopting Global English in the workplace significantly supports non-native English-speaking team members. Meeting them in the middle by using clear and concise language, avoiding jargon, and complex terminology, creates a supportive environment. Why not make your workplace somewhere your team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns and asking for clarification?

2) Closing the communication gap

Global English allows team members from different linguistic backgrounds to communicate more efficiently. Using clear and modified language, avoiding jargon, and being mindful of different levels of language proficiency can enhance their communication. There are many ways to communicate. Speaking more loudly does not help. Speaking more slowly does help but is not enough on its own. When we can’t find the words, gestures and images (e.g. on our phones) can tell a thousand words.

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3) What else can we do to bridge the communication gap?

By shifting our mindset, our behaviour will change. We could modify our language removing idioms and slang (unless explained at the time of use) and reducing phrasal verbs.

Native English speakers could communicate in a more direct manner than they are culturally accustomed to and ask concept checking questions to ensure understanding. They should also allow non-native speakers time to formulate their opinions. But it’s not just native English speakers that should be more aware of communication difficulties, non-native English speakers should assume equal responsibility for clearer communication.

Closing the communication gap requires a collective effort to promote understanding, empathy and meaningful communication across languages and cultures. By embracing diversity and implementing strategies to bridge gaps, we can create more inclusive work environments.

4) Communicating in English can be confusing: idioms and phrasal verbs

Global English avoids confusion in multicultural teams. It is difficult to guess the meaning of both phrasal verbs and idioms from looking at their individual words. This is why a lot of non-native English speakers find them difficult to understand. Phrasal verbs are phrases that indicate an action in a sentence. They are common in spoken language and informal writing.  For example:

 ‘call off’ means to cancel but it could be difficult for a non-native English speaker to decipher the meaning. Just use ‘cancel’.

➡ ‘hand in’ means to submit but how would a non-native English speaker deduct the correct meaning from this? It is clearer to use ‘submit’.

Idioms – in plain English

Idioms on the other hand are expressions whose meanings cannot be literally determined by the words used in them. For example:

➡ ‘Shall we get up to speed on the project so far’ means to become familiar with the most current information. Looking at the words in the expression, it would be difficult for a non-native English speaker to determine the meaning. ‘Let’s update everyone on the progress of the project’ is much clearer.

➡ ‘Let’s put it on the back burner’ means it is not a priority at the moment. It is much more likely that a non-native English speaker would understand the following expression instead: ‘There are more important things to do right now. We can do this another time.’

The message here is to modify our language to make it as clear as possible for those who are not native speakers of English. Be aware of the language you use, and you will naturally become a more considerate, better communicator in Global English.

5) Achieving cultural understanding using Global English

In multicultural teams, Global English becomes a platform for cultural exchange. Achieving cultural understanding in the workplace requires native English speakers to actively engage in efforts to learn about and appreciate the cultural backgrounds of their non-native colleagues. The same can be expected of non-native English speakers.

cultural understanding

Both native and non-native English speakers can educate themselves about the cultures represented in their workplace through reading books and articles, or watching documentaries that provide insights into different cultural practices, norms, and values. This foundational knowledge can help your team members build a framework for understanding and appreciating diverse perspectives.

It is important for all to be open-minded and curious to learn about each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. We should be aware of our own biases and avoid making assumptions or generalisations based on cultural backgrounds, or in some cases, the language proficiency of individuals. When we spend time together outside of work we can facilitate cultural exchange and improve understanding. Each individual should be treated with respect and courtesy. By actively engaging in these strategies, native English speakers can contribute to a workplace culture that values and respects diverse cultures, enhances communication, and advances cultural understanding among colleagues of all backgrounds.

Global English transforms communication

Global English can have a transformative impact on communication in multicultural teams by providing a common language for effective collaboration. It is important to note that while Global English can improve communication in multicultural teams, it is also crucial to respect and appreciate the diversity of the languages and cultures represented. So, consider implementing some of the strategies we’ve seen in this blog, and you’ll soon be on your way to a more inclusive work environment.

Learn more about the training we offer on this topic:

Global English Skills

A Global Mindset – What is it and how do I develop it?

For further information, contact us.


Authored by Fiona McLoughlin, AllTalk Training.

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