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Language for a global village


Published: May 15, 2013

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Living in hugely popular holiday destination, Bahamians are well versed in dealing with people from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds.  In addition, given the significant overseas investment in the Bahamas, such as the Baha Mar project, you would hope that international communication is a discipline where the Bahamas has little to learn.

However, as we live in an increasingly globalized world which requires us to work with employees and customers with different expectations and language barriers, the risk of seemingly innocuous comments being misconstrued and vital information misunderstood has never been greater.  With the aim of minimizing such damaging and costly miscommunication, Bob Dignen, director of an international development consultancy and Ian McMaster, editor-in-chief of the Business English magazine Spotlight, have written ‘Communication for International Business’.

The authors claim that if we want to be widely understood, we need to modify how we communicate.  This includes speaking slowly, inviting questions and summarizing key points to enhance understanding.  It may all seem like common sense, but many of us often lapse into using jargon, unfamiliar clichés, and our accents can often add to the problem.  It’s also worth noting that we need to be wary when using humor, as it can be a minefield for causing offence.  So much so that the British bank HSBC invests heavily in training their international staff in such matters.

‘Communication for International Business’ presents a number of case studies to demonstrate practical ideas to help improve understanding with colleagues and business partners. This includes key interpersonal skills such as building relationships, networking, influencing, making decisions, managing conflict and building trust.  The authors also address the challenges of virtual communication, with advice on how to write better emails and manage conference calls.

It would impossible to give guidance for dealing with every culture or business in nearly two hundred recognized countries across the globe, so the advice given is quite general and focuses on generic communication skills, rather than international business strategy.  But the final conclusion is unavoidable; to communicate successfully in international business you need to use the right style of communication at the right time.

Or to put it another way, I believe there is an old saying that expresses it rather nicely; ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it.’


• ‘Communication for International Business’ by Bob Dignen and Ian McMaster’s Published by Collins and available from www.Amazon.com. Keith Appleton JP, BA (Hons), N.Dip.M, MInstLM has extensive experience within an academic, managerial and strategic leadership role.  He is a member of the UK Institute of Leadership & Management and can be contacted at KeithAppleton@Hotmail.co.uk or follow him at twitter.com/WritingRightNow.


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