「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Avoiding business jargon

By Mike Dwane


When teaching languages in Tokyo, I was taken aback by the number of students who would ask for a course in “business English.”

These were typically Japanese who were being sent abroad by their companies or who had to host business people from overseas.

I could forgive them for believing business English was a separate dialect. After all, my school advertised such courses and there was no shortage of business English textbooks to choose from in Japan.

Still, I would assure them that while there might be a specific vocabulary for finance or tech, the building blocks of the language were the same whether you were in the boardroom or the barroom.

In later years, however, as business correspondent for my newspaper, I began to have more sympathy for the idea that business people spoke a different language. As an English graduate, I was regularly horrified by the ease with which CEOs could butcher basic grammar.

Nouns (like action, transition and dialogue) often became verbs in CEO-speak. They would say “we are actioning” rather than “we are taking action” or simply “we are doing”; “we are transitioning” rather than “we are changing”; and “we dialogued” rather than “we spoke about.”

Then there are the euphemisms business leaders employ to make the reality appear more pleasant. “Downsizing” ― and more recently “right-sizing” ― means people are being fired. “Outsourcing” means jobs are being moved to cheaper locations abroad.

“Going forward” is another phrase that sounds optimistic and is much favoured by managers who really mean “forget about all the mistakes we have made until now.”

Then there are expressions that are plain nonsense, like one recently employed by one of my own managers when there was a disagreement in the office. “Let’s take this offline,” he announced, meaning all unpleasant discussion had to end.

Purists should not be too fussy and should understand that language is dynamic and evolves with the world around it. Dozens of words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary every year, some of the recent additions being “selfie” and “twerk” (after Miley Cyrus’ provocative dance move).

However brainless they may appear to some, these words at least give expression to something that had not existed previously, whereas much business English doesn’t communicate anything new, sounds pretentious or, worse, seeks to obscure the grim reality.

Any student starting out, whether they want to learn English for business or pleasure, would do well to avoid the kind of jargon that serves more to confuse than communicate.



The Japan Times ST: April 17, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版