Sound-bite Savvy or Back-Office Banter?

what level of business langauge do you need

What level of Business Language do you need?

Different business contexts require different levels of language proficiency. Sometimes it is difficult to know what level you are aiming for in order to be able to communicate in a particular context or situation. In order to make learning goals more understandable we have taken some typical profiles and common scenarios, and mapped them against a language learning timeframe.

Sound-Bite Savvy

You regularly travel abroad for work and conduct all your business negotiations, deals and meetings in English. Your foreign counter-parts are comfortable with this and English is accepted as the language of communication. You really don’t need to use the foreign language but would feel more comfortable if you could join in with a ‘Cheers’ at the dinner table, or a ‘See you on the golf course!’ at the end of the meeting.

For these types of situations you need to learn sound bites. This isn’t the same as making small talk, where you must facilitate a short but entire conversation with someone. This is when you learn expressions and phrases that you can pronounce like a native. Two words come out and the whole room is impressed (and considers the possibility that you might even be fluent). You know exactly what to say, at exactly the right moment, to generate confidence, trust, or a smile. This relies on not only perfecting your pronunciation of set phrases but also cultural knowledge and understanding of when these particular expressions should be used.

To achieve ‘sound bite’ level in a foreign language, A1 on the CEFR, you will need 20 hours of one-to-one classes, either face-to-face, via Skype or a mix of the two.

Professional Pleasantries

You also regularly travel abroad for work and conduct all your business negotiations, deals and meetings in English. However, you often find yourself in social situations or scenarios where pleasantries need to be exchanged mainly in the foreign language. Sometimes you are introduced to business associates that do not speak any English, including their family members or members of their staff. They look at you expectantly while you feel awkward wishing you knew what to say. This feeling is multiplied when someone speaks to you in the foreign language; you cringe, shake your head and ask ‘Do you speak English?’

For these types of situations you need to learn professional pleasantries, full sentences, questions and answers, around the topics of greetings, inquiring about health, the weather, your recent journey, where you are staying, your trip so far etc. Knowing this will put your associates at easy and will also stop you feeling like an ignorant foreigner.

To achieve ‘Professional Pleasantries’ level in a foreign language you will need 40 hours of one-to-one classes either face-to-face, via Skype or a mix of the two to go from beginner A1 to Professional Pleasantries (elementary) A2.

Back-office Banter

This is where the real business language starts. You do not need to talk to clients in the foreign language but you need to be able to communicate with your co-workers. You need a working understanding of communications in the office in the language, and having this working understanding will assist you in your next career move or promotion.

For this situation you need to be able to talk about business subjects, understand charts and graphs, write short emails and follow short telephone conversations. No one expects you to be fluent or negotiate in the language, but a working command of the language will make your working life a lot easier.

To achieve ‘Back-Office Banter’ level in a foreign language you will need 40 hours of one-to-one classes either face-to-face, via Skype or a mix of the two to go from elementary A2 to back-office banter (intermediate) B1.

Middle Management Mastery

Having a good command of the foreign language, B2 level on the CEFR framework, is essential for you to be able to do your job. You need use the foreign language on a regular if not daily basis and you speak to both clients and co-workers in the foreign language. Much of the business you do is in the foreign language and you not only travel to the country/region but have regular dealings with native speakers.

For this situation you need to be able to write short business messages and reports, read articles from business publications, understand and give your opinions in meetings. Your knowledge and understanding of the language is not only expected but required.

To achieve ‘Management Mastery’ level in a foreign language you will need 60 hours of one-to-one classes either face-to-face, via Skype or a mix of the two to go from Intermediate B1 to Management Mastery (upper-intermediate) B2.

Speaking for Success

You need to be comfortable communicating with your team, with associates, with investors, with your most valued clients in this language. You need to be sure that what you understand and what you are saying is correct. There is no room for misinterpretation. Speaking the foreign language is an integral part of your skill set.

For this situation you need to be able to communicate effectively at a managerial and professional level, participate with confidence in meetings and presentations, express yourself with a high level of fluency, react appropriately in a range of different cultural and social situations.

To achieve ‘Speaking for Success’ level in a foreign language you will need 100 hours of one-to-one classes either face-to-face, via Skype or a mix of the two to go from Upper Intermediate B2 to Management Mastery (Proficient) C1.

level test

Cactus language offers the following types of language courses:

Evening language courses: 19 different languages in 15 UK locations
Language holidays: worldwide immersion courses in the country of the language
Private tuition: tailor-made and corporate language training solutions throughout the world
TEFL: teacher training courses for both English and other languages all over the world
Online courses: for teacher training, English and French

To book any of our courses please call us on 01273 830 960 or email us. Our multilingual team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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