What is Business English and Why is It Important?

Akshat Biyani
Akshat Biyani

Your business is doing well. You are climbing up the corporate ladder. Your new client wants to “circle back” on “resource management” while they “put a pin in” the issue of “workflow optimization.” 

It sounds like English but not quite. These expressions are part of Business English conversations, now commonly used across Anglophone (English-speaking) offices. 

Such new phrases and idioms can confuse those who have learned English as a second or third language. Imagine the embarrassment if you were to start using them without knowing what they mean. Courses in business English can help non-native speakers of English become more comfortable with the professional vocabulary in their work environment.  

After all, proficiency in English is the single most important requirement to be able to network effectively in the world of business. If you are looking to expand the scope of your career, this would mean using English to speak with clients across the world. In corporate environments, you will need to write emails, pitch ideas, design presentations, negotiate deals, and consider finances. These are all aspects of business English requiring a very specific use of the language. 

As a global language, English has been an important medium of communication for decades. And regardless of where you and your business operate from - Asia, North America, Europe, Africa, or South America, you can’t do without English if you are to interact successfully with your clients. A firm grasp of business English reflects competence and self-assuredness in negotiating skills and communication, two principal factors of doing business at the international level. 

This is why a thorough knowledge of business English is of paramount importance.

What are the Differences Between Business English and General English

Business English is a specific skill to acquire, irrespective of whether you are a semi-proficient non-native English speaker or have a degree in English literature. You may converse fluently in English in your everyday life, exchanging pleasantries with the neighborhood shopkeeper or asking for directions from a stranger on the road. Still,  your general know-how of English may not be enough to persuade clients from other regions of the world over a Zoom meeting. 

Office vocabulary is something that you would otherwise not use in everyday life. For many, the differences between the two can be confusing. However, knowing the difference between general English and business English can help bring some much-needed clarity to the subject. 

Everyday English, or what is technically known as English for General Purposes (EGP), does not acquaint us with the particular English vocabulary used for business communications purposes. Business English, a component of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), however, helps you learn the vocabulary, grammar, and stylistics of professional exchanges. It will give you an edge over others when it comes to making interventions during meetings, presentations, public speaking, or while making a sales pitch. 

Why is Business English important?

If you plan to work in an English speaking country or even in a multinational company with offices and clients around the world, odds are you will need to be comfortable with using English in the workplace. That said, business English has specific use cases apart from basic communication as well:

  • Better communication for networking: Business English has several nuances. You may know the Dos and Don'ts of writing a business email in English, but it still may not be of much help while speaking with a client.  Besides its value in professional conversations, or when you are writing an email to a superior or preparing a report, business English teaches you how to conduct yourself during networking events, which can be more of a casual affair. Many people know how to express themselves well in written English, but may not be as accomplished in their verbal communication. Business English can teach you the skills necessary to combine conciseness with diplomacy while speaking.

  • Industry-specific language skills: A business English course will also give you the option of specializing in English related to specific professions such as advertising, air travel, property, medicine, and law. This means that each area of specialization has its own technical vocabulary and grammar that you can learn through training and practice. 

  • Sound confident and well-spoken: Business English teaches you different styles of pronunciation and diction. This can be a serious advantage if you work with clients and colleagues from different parts of the world. Your body language can appear more confident with the right accent and diction. To a business colleague, you can appear driven and capable, qualities that inspire confidence and trust. 

  • Familiarity with news and trends: It is not just about communicating in business English but also about staying up to date with developing trends and news in business. Jargon in magazines and news articles will no longer seem alien to you. Your business and projects can only benefit from this newfound exposure to how the world of business is transforming. Given its growing impact, it is not surprising that companies are now expecting applicants and employees to have a certification in business English.  

Why is Business English important?

Let’s now take a quick look at some of the idioms and phrases that you are likely to hear in today's workplaces.

Common Business Expressions

Today, anyone who is trying to make advancements in their career knows that proficiency in business English is a game-changer. You will need to understand and use at least two kinds of specialized vocabulary in a work environment. Many of you will already be familiar with the jargon related to your vocations. But what can be more challenging and confusing for non-Anglophones is the complexity of business English vocabulary and grammar that goes around in the office. 

Here is a list of 10 common business idioms with examples of their correct usage. This will give you a sense of what you can expect in a course on Business English.  

  1. Business Plan

    A business plan is essential for anyone who is starting a business. You cannot approach banks and investors for loans and funds without a business plan. It is a document where you systematically lay out the nature and objectives of your business. You chart out its potential growth curve over the next few years. Your plan will also pin down factors that will help your business achieve its goals. These include the target consumers, unique selling points of your product, market research, and marketing strategy. You may also want to touch upon the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business (SWOT analysis).

    Example: “His comprehensive business plan helped him impress the investors.”

  2. Team player

    A business's success depends on a team's ability to come through efficiently. A team player is someone who uses their own aspirations and skills to help the team they are part of accomplish its goals. Reliability and strong communication skills are key features of a good team player.

    Example: “Most companies appreciate a team player whose focus is on achieving the goals of the company.”

  3. USP

    A USP, or unique selling point, is the one thing that makes your product or service different from any other in the market right now. Many other products and services are likely to be already available to consumers in your chosen space or industry. Your USP is what sets your offering apart from others.

    Example: “Innovation has always been Apple’s USP.”

  4. Onboarding

    A USP, or unique selling point, is the one thing that makes your product or service different from any other in the market right now. Many other products and services are likely to be already available to consumers in your chosen space or industry. Your USP is what sets your offering apart from others.

    Example: “We understand that effective onboarding is a priority for our clients.”

  5. Moving forward

    One can think of “moving forward” as an office colloquialism, which is another way of saying “henceforth.” People use it to signal a change in strategy or approach.

    Example: “Moving forward, the oncoming recession is an issue that the company will have to deal with.”

  6. Cut corners

    “Cut corners” usually has a negative connotation. It could mean skimping on money or adequate efforts to complete a task due to a shortage of time or care.

    Example: “Our new marketing strategy will not work if we cut corners.”

  7. Drill down

    To “drill down” into something means to explore something with greater detail. Analysis and research are some of the fields that offer ideal contexts to use this idiom.

    Example: “We can drill down into the details of the client database in the next meeting.”

  8. Core Competency

    This is one of the few phrases in the repertoire of office jargon that is quite literal in its meaning. It points to the defining strengths of a company. These core capabilities set a company apart from its competitors.

    Example: “Competent leadership is a core competency of our team.”

  9. Get the ball rolling

    “To get the ball rolling” on something means to start a process towards a meaningful end.

    Example: “Let’s get the ball rolling on this project so we can meet our target before the New Year.”

  10. End of Play

    Work is certainly not play, but there’s no harm in referring to it as such. This quirky expression indicates the end of work for the day. Some people use “close of play” as a variant of the phrase. It’s relevant in the context of getting something done before the office closes on a given day.

    Example: “I hope you can close this deal before the end of play.”

These are just ten idioms in the vast array of corporate English phraseology that you will encounter at work every day. This should give you a general sense of the various turns of phrases you will come across while interacting with clients and colleagues. 


How can you learn Business English?

Business English is a vast area of learning, and it is natural to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of acquiring a new skill alongside your professional commitments. It’s common for non-native speakers of English to feel shy and hesitant to open up in an office where everyone else seems well-versed in the corporate parlance. 

But if you want to use the English language to your advantage in business, you will have to start somewhere. At Immigo, we teach you phrases and idioms used not only native English speakers use, but also used frequently in business settings.

Communicating in business English without knowing how it is relevant to the context might make it seem as if you aren’t quite comfortable with the language. Immigo’s solution is to help you speak English naturally. Students from more than 120 countries have improved their English with us.

According to our student testimonials, our classes have no only helped them land their dream jobs, but also communicate better with their native English speaking friends or colleagues.

Sign up now to start taking our classes for free today!