Is Being Able to Speak English Enough?


Whether you are a native English speaker or speak English as a second language, gone are the days where just being able to speak English is enough. Employers are now looking for, and giving preference to, employees with excellent English writing skills.

The reality of the business world today is that most jobs require you to work globally, not just nationally. You may live in Chile but your client base may be from the United States, Thailand, France or Russia. To be able to communicate efficiently with such a diverse client base, it is only logical there be a common business language, and English it that common language.

Furthermore, in today’s technological society, clients expect any verbal communication to be followed up with a written summary or proposal in English.

Great English is a Necessity for Foreign Employers

As the owner of English Action Institute in Santiago de Chile, I can tell you that just speaking English is not enough. In the last nine years, our business has tripled because of this. Each day we work with more than 100 students whose companies hired us to teach them the English demanded to become productive employees who can help move their company to the next level.

If You Have Excellent English Skills, You are in Demand

Internationally, companies are spending millions to teach their employees the intricacies of speaking English. Being as fluent in English as possible allows them to adapt the language to the needs of the business at hand, and this is what multi-national corporations need.

Here in Chile it can cost companies hundreds to thousands of dollars a month to teach English to just one student. If multiplied by twelve months; then multiplied by 10, 20, 30, 40 or more employees yearly, it is understandable why employees who do not have a good command of English do not get hired. They are not good investments.

Master English – Get Hired Over the Skilled Candidate

Nearly every week I hear from employers who are hiring people who have strong English speaking, listening, and writing skills over those who do not.  This is regardless of whether the non-English fluent candidate is specifically trained for the position.

The business world expects to train employees as things change and new strategies are created. It does not expect to have to train employees in what are now basic skills for hiring: speaking and writing clearly in English. Teaching someone a second language is costly and time consuming. With no prior knowledge base, acquiring the language is not like learning a new technology skill to add to what you can already do. It follows that it is just more cost effective to hire capable English speaker and writer than it is to hire someone, even if he or she has a four-year degree or even a Master’s degree.

Why Good Language Skills Matter Even for Native English Employees

A friend of mine from the US recently shared a story with me about a program coordinator in an urban school district. She received an invitation from IBM to come and talk about the skills employees needed to be hired and to be successful. Three recent hires also attended the meeting. Each was a college graduate from the top of his or her class, and each was in training to learn better communication skills, even though English was their first language. Though college graduates, well versed in their discipline, not one had the strong, Basic English skills needed to be productive within the company. Frustrated, the IBM manager shared that the biggest part of his budget was for retraining new hires so they could communicate with the client base.

According to Forbes, English will maintain and grow its dominance becoming a basic skill required for application to any job. When working with such a diverse, global client base, speaking a common language assures the information is communicated clearly and efficiently.


English is the official language of the global business world, and employers want to hire people who have a solid skill base in it. If your English skills are weak, performance suffers, communication becomes unreliable, and efficiency wanes. So, to get a job and keep the job, you need to learn English and learn it well.

About the Author: Donald Carter has been the co-director and co-owner of English Action Institute in Santiago, Chile since 2009. With more than 30 teachers English Action is a leader in teaching Business English in Chile.

Is Being Able to Speak English Enough?

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