So the new year has arrived and we are sure you have set your goals to finally master the English language. To make your goals more attainable we have conducted extensive research with top directors of some of the biggest companies that have offices in Spain (Elecnor, GLS, Hellmans and PSA) to find out what skills you should focus on. A hint, having a B2 first certificate or the C1 advanced certificate is not necessary anymore for most positions.
Attending business meetings in English
What companies are looking for most in prospective employees is the ability to understand spoken English in a business meeting. As the business world is increasingly becoming more global due to increased open trade and globalisation more foreigners are being employed in Spanish businesses and foreign companies are looking to expand into Spain. English is therefore the language of choice in international meetings. We have personally observed a number of such meetings conducted in English with foreigners and have noted that the following things usually occur:
- The foreign businessman/boss/investor will talk for about 10 or so minutes presenting numbers and using jargon that is commonly used in his home country. Throughout this spiel, those with a poor level of English or inexperience in business meetings conducted in English will either pretend to know what is happening or will understand a word out of context and follow a train of though completely unrelated to the topic being discussed. Most will be too embarrassed to interrupt to ask for information to be repeated or do not know of any polite interjections to ask for clarification.
- Some participants at the meeting will be asked a question. They will either try to change the question to suit their answer or will only understand only a part of the question and give the wrong answer. Very few will ask for clarification.
- At the end of his or her speech the expat will ask if there are any problems and probably everybody in the room will respond with, “sin problemas”.
- Once the expat leaves, all the non-english speakers will gather in a circle to form a consensus on what transpired in the meeting.
Many graduates with a B2 certificate are overly confident that their certificate will pave the way for them in all meetings. This is not the case. Business meetings that are conducted in English follow certain procedures and will use specific English vocabulary. Such vocabulary and phrases are not covered in a FCE certificate course or even a C1 course. Most academies that claim to do “business English” will only have one lesson focused on business meeting. This is despite the fact that knowing how to conduct business meetings in English is considered to be most useful skills as shown in a report by the British Council.
Maintaining international relations with customers and international subsidiaries
Writing emails to customers to maintain international relations is relatively simple. Online translators are becoming more sophisticated thus reducing the need to master writing skills in English, unless you are preparing for an exam.
However, Hellman observed a major problem occurred in their operations department. When employees from sister companies called by the telephone to report a delay in a delivery or an urgent need for assistance, employees at Hellman who were not confident with talking on the phone would either try to give the phone to a fellow staff member or would ask for an email to be sent before ending the call. This not only caused delays in the entire process but was also embarrassing for the general management.
What we teach our students are the discourse markers and vocabulary needed to not only effectively deal with international cliental or suppliers but also to be confident when talking on the phone. We also specialise each lesson depending on the industry and level management that the student is in.
Presenting company products and services
It is relatively simple to memorise a speech for a presentation. The problem occurs when after you have delivered your presentation to international audience and find yourself being asked questions in accents that you are unfamiliar with or with country specific vocabulary that you have never heard of.
A good example of this is in the Dragons’ Den series where entrepreneurs try to get investments for their ideas from some of the richest businessmen in the United Kingdom. Even natives get confused with the different accents, misunderstand questions or make a fool of themselves as you can see in the video with Jeremy Clarkson.
The other issue that occurs with presentation is when visiting companies come to your company to present information or a service. Some of these companies do not have Spanish speakers amongst them and will instead present in English. This occurred with one company that wanted to provide English lessons to BBVA in Spain and instead was told that the presentation had to be done in Spanish as some members in the management team at BBVA did not have sufficient English. Fortunately the visiting company had a Spanish speaker to present the presentation but this did reduce the effectiveness of the presentation and was embarrassing for some members of the company to admit their low level of English.
So what we aim to do is not to teach your presentation techniques in English but how to best answer the questions that follow it. We will teach you some useful tricks to turn a difficult question to your advantage, to give information without boring your audience, construct more complex sentences and mixing passive and active speech. We also help to improve your pronunciation if your accent has made it difficult to be understood or requiring you to repeat yourself.
If the issue is having to listen to a presentation and ask question, then we provide you with the necessary ways to form questions that give you the information you are looking for and the vocabulary and jargon that often occurs in business presentations in your sector.
Attending trade fairs, conferences and congresses
Trade fairs and conferences are some of the biggest opportunities to present the products and services of your company to prospective clients. If your clients are from the outside of Spain then being familiar with negotiation English will be a big advantage. Each of the various english-speaking nations not only have their own jargon that they use in the sales process but also have particular culture requirements that need to occur for business to take place.
Lucky for you we have a few experienced teachers who have worked in international sales and marketing world. They will not only teach you the grammar and expressions needed to seal the deal but also the cultural norms that go with deal with other English nations that you may not be familiar with.
Using english in your sales pitch