Enhance Your Team Collaboration With a Common Language

Pascale Chauvot

16 Nov 2016

The English language is the fastest growing language in history with more than 1.75 billion speakers. It is also the de facto language for team collaboration. Is choosing a common language the right approach for your organisation? Read on to discover examples of how it can be deployed. 

Common Language: How This Can Change Your Business

According to a Harvard Business Review article entitled ‘Global Business Speaks English’, the English language is the fastest growing language in history, with approximately 1.75 billion speakers.

common language

In simple terms, one in four people on the planet speak or understand English to some degree.

With the inexorable expansion of international markets, one of the main challenges confronting global organisations is how do they ensure effective internal communication?  English, as the world’s business lingua franca, is the natural choice.

Speaking English

There are 385 million native English speakers. Although several other languages have more native speakers, they lack the global reach of English.

In addition, there are a further one billion speakers in the former British Empire who also speak English, where it is a common language. Others have learnt it for academic or other purposes, including 565 million people using it on the internet. Choosing English makes sense.

There are 385 million native English speakers

Adopting a common language in the business environment reduces the difficulties of communicating internationally, both between an organisation’s globally dispersed office locations as well as with a widening Anglophone group of customers.
level of English  (1)

Organisations looking to grow through acquisitions and new market development will need to rely on a common language, almost certainly English.

Corporate Language

Choosing a common language is the first step in team collaboration. Standardising a corporate language can also reduce misunderstandings, especially if the use of slang is discouraged and a glossary of key words and terms is created.

When teams speak the same language, they are much more likely to be united in their approach to their business regardless of where they are.

The Harvard Business Review article also cites the case of Rakuten, a large Japanese online business, that recognised the benefits of adopting English as their official corporate language. Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten’s CEO, took the decision to transition his 7,100 Japanese employees to use business English.

With the need to communicate with numerous global partners, he believes that English language skills allowed for the enhanced performance of his organisation. He also cited the additional benefit of contributing to his employees’ wider world view as a result of their newly developed English language skills.


However, businesses that operate in another language must also recognise potential dangers in adopting ‘team English’.

Without the proper positioning of an English language policy, it is possible to meet with resentment and resistance from employees, especially those whose English is inadequate or for those whose use of their mother tongue is a particular source of pride. If these difficulties are not overcome, then team achievements can be less than optimal.

Without an English language policy it is possible to meet with resentment and resistance from employees

Getting the team to sign up for the benefits of English language skills, both on a personal and a professional level is critical.

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