English has emerged as the global language of trade and commerce in the past few decades, affecting many key aspects of business in the modern world. The English language first spread as the result of colonial expansion, and has become the standard for all important official communications in an increasingly large number of countries with a wide variety of native languages. In the modern world, thanks to the Internet, English continues to spread as the major medium through which both small businesses and large corporations do business.
English as a Common Business Language
England began to develop overseas colonies as early as the 12th century in Ireland, and soon expanded to the New World in the Americas, creating English-speaking colonies in what would eventually become the United States and Canada. Other key colonies in the British Empire included various parts of India, the African continent, such as South Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Hong Kong. English was the unifying language in many of these areas, and soon became the language of shipping, travel and commerce.
The European Union and the Commonwealth of Nations
There are 27 member states in the European Union (EU), and 54 in the Commonwealth of Nations. English is one of the main official languages in the EU through which all business is conducted. The Commonwealth is comprised of 52 nations which were formerly British colonies, and two which elected to join for trade reasons (Mozambique and Rwanda). English is the main language for all business transacted by the Commonwealth, which promotes free trade amongst its member states.
Doing Business Worldwide
English is a global language for doing business. In some industries, such as the airline and shipping industries, English is the official standard language. Therefore, an excellent command of English is required for key jobs, such as air traffic controller or ship captain. In addition, English has emerged as a major language for finance and the stock markets around the world. People wishing to do business globally need to have a good command of spoken English. The ability to clearly write in English is also key, as many forms of business communication, from emails to presentations and marketing to important business contracts, are written in English.
Business English for Specific Industries
In some industries, a knowledge of business terminology in English is critical for entry into and the success of a business. Workers need to have an understanding and command of detailed vocabulary dealing with specific concepts in order to be able to communicate effectively with other professionals in the business. Examples of specialized businesses requiring a knowledge of English include computing, engineering, science, technology, medicine and law.
Doing Business on the Internet
English has emerged as one of the major languages for doing business on the Internet. A website written in English can attract many customers and enable even small business owners in remote villages to sell items to people around the world. Well-written product and service descriptions in English are key for attracting new customers and keeping them up to date on any new product offerings.
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