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Bringing business communication alive and up-to-date

Posted on: June 22, 2021

Bringing business communication alive and up-to-date

In this blog, Dr Jane Lockwood, author of ‘Developing Global Business Communication in Asia – A Business Simulated Case Study Approach’, discusses how language proficiency is not enough to provide effective business communication, and highlights the importance of context and intertextuality in its use.

After two decades of teaching business communication students in Asia, this course book Developing Global Business Communication in Asia - A Simulated Case Study Approach is dedicated to them. Hopefully it provides an alternative to traditional and republished titles that assume everyone wants to subscribe to American ways of doing and talking business. Now that we know there are more second language speakers of business communication than first language speakers of English in Asia, the focus is BELF. Good BELF speakers are not high language proficiency speaker, they are effective speakers of English. And what makes them so? Being able to accommodate to both speakers of English that are better than you as well as worse, makes for effective BELF communication. Being able to culturally adapt your communication style and expectations of your interlocutors makes for effective BELF communication. Take the example of a Singaporean BELF speaker checking on her supply chain dates coming out of India and Vietnam. In both speaking and writing, the Singaporean BELF speaker and writers needs these skills; as do the India and Vietnamese speakers and writers. This understanding is captured in the new business communication book.

We all know that technology has moved at such a pace, and virtual and remote work has accelerated over the last couple of years. This means business meetings are more likely to happen on Zoom than in the business meeting room as a physical event. Strategies and skills to ensure virtual meetings are effective however, are not taught in business communication courses in Asia.

Applied linguistic research has been active in the business workplace, but has this theory led to practical applications captured in course books? One of the areas of research has been into the intertextual nature of business exchange. For example, if I am poised to answer an angry email from my business customer, there is a lot to understand before I write. What has preceded this message in terms of documents, previous emails, phone calls etc.? What is my relationship with this customers and has our company upset him before; what is the evidence of that? Taking into account the content of what has gone before and what the relationship is, will define the purpose, tenor and length of what to write in response. Texts do not happen in isolation, they are part of a bigger context…and this needs to be understood. This implies that organizing business communication materials as “The business report”, “The business letter” and “The business meeting” as siloed and disconnected text will not result in effective teaching and learning of business communication.

This course book is highly contextualized within an authentically based case study. The situation is clearly described, the main protagonists are revealed as real personalities and professionals; and there is continuous opportunity for spoken and written texts to build off each other, ensuring intertextuality.