A Japanese businessman (or a Korean, a Chinese, or any other non-English speaker for that matter) working for a global organisation that make cars or parts for cars needs to acquire four key skills if he want s to master English as a Foreign Language. Here we consider what these skills are, and how they might be of use in the marketplace.
The first things that leap to mind are e-mails. In-boxes around the globe are inundated daily with huge amounts of written information – bosses, colleagues, customers and suppliers all wanting you to know something and usually to do something about it. Then there are reports submitted by overseas colleagues – so often in a different language to your own. When the executive travels there are signs, notices and written information coming at them from every angle, 24:7. So our businessman needs to learn to read English.
Then he needs to be able to write – simple answers to those mails: “please accept my apologies for the late response to your mail – I have been away on a business trip since last week. I will deal with your enquiry immediately”. Writing is also needed to fill in forms – starting with visa applications, immigration forms and all the bureaucracy involved with trips to a foreign land. Then come reports, business letters, and notes for hotel staff and new friends. Our businessman needs to be able to write English. These first two skills are often easier for people to master – they can be practiced at their own pace – time can be taken over understanding – bi-lingual dictionaries (now in electronic format too!) can help make sense of things. The second two need more confidence and practice, and this is where a good teacher really is worth the investment.
There are so many ways to practice this skill, and from it comes the fourth, speaking, which will be the real mark of progress for the learner, and the proof to his bosses (the investors) of the value of their investment! Spoken English flies around the world – you hear it on planes, at airports, and once you’ve landed in the English speaking country you hear it everywhere in all it’s shades and colours! Watch a movie, hear a song: Hollywood and Nashville have an international audience! For the businessman good listening skills will enhance his ability in negotiation and information gathering.
This is the difficult one, but once mastered the most important – especially in meetings with international partners, customers and suppliers. The only way to learn a foreign language is to speak it with a sympathetic teacher. Be prepared to make mistakes and to be corrected. As you progress, the corrections will slowly disappear, your confidence will increase. Talk about things that you love (family, holidays, sport, and music – anything but work), relax, enjoy, and learn!