English? An international language? Not often, actually.

Fabio Capello is the Italian Manager of the English international football team.  He’s very Italian. And when he started the job there was no doubt that his English wasn’t up to the job.

Now he’s been doing the job for four years, he’s a little better, but caused a furore this week by suggesting that you only need 100 words to communicate his tactics to his team.  Three possibilities exist-

  1. It’s true- because his tactics are so simple that he really does only need 100 words.
  2. It’s true- because he actually has many more words that he could use, but his team wouldn’t understand them, having a combined IQ of 45, so he chooses from a very small selection.
  3. It’s true- because he only has 100 words and while his tactics are very complex, he can’t find more words in his head so he simplifies.

What else is a guy to do?  In the real world of business across the globe, we’re often in the position of having to convey our ideas in simplified form.  It’s just good practice isn’t it?  In fact the worst performers in front of international audiences, are often those for whom English is their native tongue.  They just get up and speak naturally.  That means, large vocabulary, in the vernacular, too quickly, poorly enunciated with no real empathy for the guys that speak five languages, but don’t understand phrases like-

  • ‘Up the ante’
  • ‘Crashed and burned’
  • ‘Longtail solution’

And all of the other colloquial verbiage (crap) that we use when we’re on ‘autopilot’.  I kind of agree with Capello that it’s not the number of words that you have, but the sharpness of the message, that’s much more important.

There are tens of thousands of companies all over the world, expanding into new territories where English is the native, or the only common language of business. Whether English is our first tongue or our fifth, there are real challenges to be faced, to be understood; and to be understood is the first goal of any professional speaker.  There are 3 possibilities in using the English language as a presenter.  You may be using –

  • English- your native language- to an audience for whom English is not their first language…
  • English when it’s not your first language, to present to a business audience of native English speakers…
  • English when it’s not your first language and it’s not the audience’s first language either…

Each possibility has its own challenges for the business presenter and in my next post I’ll talk about a few ‘rules’ for each scenario.

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