It is not new that English is the global language for business. What is new, however, is the pace of globalization, which is making cross-border commerce, acquisitions, and exchange of best practices more common, and the need for English proficiency more vital throughout organizations.
In the past, large companies such as GE have designed proprietary e-learning tools to teach so-called business English across the global enterprise. The trouble with this approach is these programs tended to be expensive to develop, difficult to assess and inflexible—unable to adapt quickly to the constant addition of new terms, idioms and acronyms that constantly crop up in business English. “It’s a huge issue,” says Rodney Nelsestuen, a research director at TowerGroup, who adds that today’s business pace is so demanding, the push for efficiencies so intense, it’s simply not acceptable to slow things down with questions in mid sentence about language.
In response, companies are increasingly turning to a scalable, online solution from GlobalEnglish, a 10-year old, privately held company that now claims 450 clients among the Global 2000, including Citigroup, HSBC, BNP Paribas, ING, Finansbank in Turkey, Banco Bradesco in Brazil, Emirates Bank in the UAE and Raiffeisenbank Russia. “BNP Paribas has told us, ‘We’re not a French bank, we’re a global bank,’” says GlobalEnglish CEO Deepak Desai. “As they make purchases of banks in Poland, Czech, Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, they need to use English. ‘Those people aren’t going to learn French,’ [BNP executives] tell us, ‘and we need to find a way to communicate and compete.’” Any bank making an acquisition or a series of acquisitions needs to be able to take best practices and push them across the enterprise, whether the employees are in Brazil or Korea, Desai argues. “You have to be able to explain it, and that has to be done in English.”