The notion about immersing ourselves in an all-English environment that would help to emerge the capability to get used to thinking and speaking in English, notably in a business setting, might get approvals from a bunch of people.
Unlike the casual study, which requires reading a pile of textbooks or wiping out the number of exercises to master specific topics, being involved in a group project consisting of people from other continents would be a challenge and a significant opportunity to learn at the same time. While being raised in an environment where English has not been highly-developed, participating in international group work does not necessarily make students from a non-English speaking country a liability.
In these critical times due to COVID-19 disease, I garnered opportunities to work with some international students, from working on a pilot project to having an internship in an early-stage startup. Although I managed all of them online, one thing for sure is that I obtained many valuable lessons close to my heart as a student majoring in English. Before deep-diving into it, to give you context, I jumped into a pilot project initiated by an international not-for-profit organization run by youth starting from the middle of 2020. Over the next two months, I signed up for an internship in a startup company co-established by two Computer Science students in the States. Honestly, I was thrilled yet intimidated when knowing I would be juggling two contrasting works which are very new to me while I still had college credits.
I started to learn how a not-for-profit organization works. Mandated as one of the program coordinators in the project, I was accessible to connect with the organization network distributed to over 20 countries. Such a vast network of people! My main responsibility lay in conducting market research, analyzing competitors, and drafting proposals. Believe it or not, it was all done by leveraging my understanding of the courses I took in the classes. Since an international team directly supervised it, all the works should have exactly been done in English. The pressure felt so real. It forced me to perform my English ability -I would say it was decent-, and widen my range of vocabulary. Also, I had to go the extra mile to know more about operational terms in the organizational business setting. When it came to a weekly touch base or monthly meeting, I was pushed to comfortably speak from casual to semi-formal conversation. Sometimes, it drained me a lot, but then I realized it was incredibly a perfect playground to showcase my in-class course understanding, perform the speaking ability, and evaluate what I was still lacking.
It was only a couple of weeks after I secured my involvement in the pilot project that I got an offer to spend a three-month internship in a startup company. Although it is a Jakarta-based company, the people are comprised of youth not only from Indonesia but also from neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. There is also a manager who went to an Australian university. Here again, as I interacted with people from diverse backgrounds in a mission to achieve the company’s certain target, English played a key role in unleashing the goal. At first, I thought my previous experience in the not-for-profit organization would ease me to position myself in the startup environment. Yup, it helped me with some issues. However, as soon as I realized the startup company has a distinctive business model and operations, I began to sense a slight difference in how people communicated -albeit they are young people in their early twenties-, or how the company operated in general. My given tasks were around sales and marketing activities. I communicated with prospects ranging from small-medium to high-stakes businesses by introducing the startup’s existence and pitching its beneficial services. I also wrote some email marketing pieces that pushed me to think of appealing content to gain customers’ attention. Maximizing channels like WhatsApp and Email, I learned to serve clear, concise, and well-written necessary information to prospects and our current business partners. As you see, I met a big challenge.
From my practical experiences at the top, I started to grasp little by little understanding the importance of English in business.
1. The least I know, English enables people inside the team on the same page to achieve wildly important goals.
English is only one out of thousands of languages as a communication tool, but over a billion people globally speak this language, according to data provided by Statista. Imagine how businesses, regardless of who established, could benefit from penetrating a new market or expanding their operations overseas as big goals if the people master English. From the human resource side, any enterprises which could see the opportunity of advantageous English skill will be eager to equip their people with sufficient English skill or perhaps to use English in their daily conversation. They also most likely welcome individuals from other sides of the world to join their team to help them achieve the missions. With that being said, businesses manage to attain their important goals by ensuring the team has been on the same frequency in the first place.
2. When a business considers going digital, English has a big influence on the business growth
It is a lesson I derived from my experience working as a sales and marketing intern. Approaching prospective business partners that had grown long before and had their branches in several locations, even overseas, might indicate diversity in their structure. I encountered some times when sending them offers or just follow-up emails; most of them will likely expect me to speak the same way they did in English business. Here I realize, when a company uses digital marketing as part of its strategy, delivering in conversational English is a must because it plays a part in business growth to reach out to larger potential customers and stakeholders.
3. English as a fast-spreading language allows people inside the organization to develop their network
For people outside the organization -as business considered as an organization too- like myself or other students interested in working for either a for-profit or a not-for-profit, English will give an added value as an individual to join. Particularly in this age when the number of people speaking English grows, it is crucial to demonstrate English adequately. The chance is relatively high to broaden connection across the globe if individuals in the organization are comfortable communicating in English.
Performing English orally and in writing in some challenging environments might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, students especially those majoring in English and taking subjects such as cross-cultural understanding, journalism, business presentation, or English for advertising, could test out English competence by joining any programs that enable to provide deliverables in any English format. It is also a good idea to sign up for programs designed in a business model setting because I believe it will further enhance students’ awareness of the importance of English itself in business.