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Why are languages so important in the workplace?

Read some of our recent blog posts looking at language learning in the workplace.

  • Two coworkers stood in a office looking at a tablet together.

    Evaluating the ROI of Language Learning for DEI Initiatives

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Language learning has become a pivotal component of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies in forward-thinking organizations, especially for those with international workforces or those working to unlock new markets across the globe.

    As businesses increasingly prioritize workforce development and social responsibility, integrating language training into DEI programs offers several advantages:

    • Enriching team morale and employee well-being.
    • Increasing employee engagement, loyalty and trust.
    • Delivering fresh ideas and fostering innovation.
    • Enhancing problem-solving and decision-making capabilities.
    • Strengthening customer relationships and amplifying brand reputation.
  • Two women in a pottery room talking over a laptop

    Cutting through corporate English: Clearer alternatives to business jargon

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    The corporate world can often feel like an echo chamber of confusing phrases. Terms like "blue-sky thinking" and "tiger teams" might dominate conversation in boardrooms and email chains, but what do they actually mean in practice and are they the best way to communicate?

    This blog post simplifies workplace English by offering straightforward business English alternatives to common corporate jargon. These replacements will resonate with fluent English language speakers and ease communication with non-fluent English speakers who are vital contributors to the workplace. Plus, a clearer form of communication can help foster inclusivity, improve understanding and ultimately enhance productivity.

    What is corporate jargon?

    Corporate jargon refers to the very specialized vocabulary and language used within the business world, often characterized by buzzwords, acronyms, jargon and phrases that are usually unknown to outsiders.

    Why should we avoid professional jargon?

    Jargon often acts as a barrier to clear communication, creating an environment where messages are misunderstood or misinterpreted. This misunderstanding can lead to inefficiencies, errors and frustrations among team members, particularly those who may not be fluent English speakers or are new to the corporate environment.

    Furthermore, overusing complex language can unintentionally exclude or push away parts of the workforce, undermining efforts to build an inclusive and collaborative team culture. In essence, simplifying language and avoiding unnecessary jargon can make available information more accessible to a wider audience and ensure that all team members have the necessary information to contribute effectively to their roles.

    For example, let's look at "think outside the box." It means to think in new ways, but it's said so much that it doesn't really grab attention anymore. A better way to say this might be "think creatively" or "come up with new ideas." Also, the word "synergize" really just means to work well together for better results. Saying "work together effectively" is much clearer and easier for everyone to understand, no matter if they're used to business terms or not. Using simple words helps everyone get the idea faster, making the workplace more welcoming and efficient.

    The difference between English jargon and slang

    Jargon functions as a shorthand among professionals, representing complex concepts among those in the know. Slang is less formal than jargon, often coming from cultural or societal trends and used more in casual conversations.

    An example of jargon vs slang

    An example of jargon and slang could be comparing "low-hanging fruit" to "no-brainer." "Low-hanging fruit" is a piece of jargon that refers to tasks, projects or targets that are easily achievable and do not require much effort.

    On the other hand, "no-brainer" is slang that implies something is an obvious or easy decision, often used in more informal settings. While both terms convey the idea of simplicity and ease, "low-hanging fruit" is more likely to be used in strategic meetings or project planning sessions, whereas "no-brainer" might be used in informal discussions or brainstorming sessions.

    Examples of jargon and their plain English alternatives

    Blue-sky thinking

    Avoid saying, "We need some blue-sky thinking." Instead, use, "Approach this problem with unlimited creativity."

    Helicopter view

    Avoid saying, "Give me a helicopter view of the situation." Instead, use, "Provide a broad overview of the situation."

    Get all your ducks in a row

    Avoid saying, "Before the busy season, get all your ducks in a row." Instead, use, "Ensure you're well-organized before the busy period begins."

    Thinking outside the box

    Avoid saying, "This client expects us to think outside the box." Instead, use, "The client expects unique and unconventional ideas from us."

    IGUs (Income Generating Units)

    Avoid saying, "Our goal is to increase our IGUs this quarter." Instead, use, "Our goal is to increase our student enrolments this quarter."

    Run it up the flagpole

    Avoid saying, "That's a great idea. Run it up the flagpole." Instead, use, "That's a great idea. Share it with the team for their input."

    Swim lanes

    Avoid saying, "To understand your tasks, refer to the swim lanes." Instead, use, "Refer to the job responsibility diagram to understand your tasks."

    Bleeding edge

    Avoid saying, "This new software is bleeding edge." Instead, use, "This new software represents the latest in research and technological innovation."

    Tiger team

    Avoid saying, "We'll need a tiger team to tackle this project." Instead, use, "We'll assemble a specialized task force for this project."

    While some professionals may use jargon to appear more knowledgeable, the truth is that simplicity is key. Clear and straightforward language not only levels the playing field for everyone but also cuts through possible misunderstandings.

    The case for plain business English

    In today's global business environment, where interactions occur across diverse linguistic backgrounds and languages, it's paramount to ensure that our words are as clear and simple as possible. By favoring plain English vocabulary over opaque jargon, we promote an inclusive and efficient workplace where every member, fluent or not, understands and contributes to their fullest potential.

    Continue to seek clarity in your communications. Remember that the true mark of expertise is not using complex language but making complex concepts understandable for everyone. Keep challenging yourself to simplify your language without diluting the meaning of your message. Remember, whether you're a seasoned professional or a new recruit, clear communication will always be your strongest asset.

    If you or your team are looking to improve their business English skills, check out our business English courses and blog posts for up-to-date tips.

  • a group of young business people chatting toether

    Unconscious bias in the workplace: Overcoming DEI barriers through language learning

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7.5 minutes

    Unconscious bias: it's a quiet murmur in the corridors of our workplaces that can grow into a loud echo, shaping decisions and team dynamics in ways that may go unnoticed. In our collective quest for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), recognizing and tackling these biases is not just important—it's essential.

    By embarking on this path, we create workplaces where everyone feels valued and heard. If you're an HR professional, a leader, or a diversity consultant, it’s essential to always keep this in mind in every aspect of the workplace. Today, let's explore how language learning can be a valuable ally in breaking down the barriers created by unconscious bias.