Have you ever thought of that question? I sure have; many times. Most people would probably argue that the topic of this article is kind of an oxymoron, since it would be practically impossible to compose a well-written business email in English, without knowing all there is to know about the English grammar.
Before we deep dive into the English language, let’s think about ourselves and our native tongues. If I were to test your grammar knowledge in your own language of origin, would your grammar knowledge be as good as the Professor of Linguistics’ (I’m reminding you…the good Professor speaks and writes in your own language as well), who has devoted all his academic career to study and research the ins and outs of that same language you use to write and/or speak? I certainly don’t think so.
So, if native writers of English don’t know everything there is to know about their own language’s grammar (and even if they do, they probably don’t always follow all the rules), why do you have to be “Mr. / Ms. Know It All”? Why do we feel so insecure and self-conscious as ESLers, (i.e. English Second Language) when clicking on “send” and launching our business emails in English, especially to native English writers/speakers? Think of it this way: Do they know how to write in your native tongue? How many words do they know to say and/or write in your language of origin? And if they do know something, you will probably be able to count all the words they know on one hand, if that.
Now, let’s talk about the English language. No one really knows how many words there are in English. According to Merriam-Webster, (How many words are there in English. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2017 from https://www.merriam-webster.com) there are about 470,000 entries, some say more. Regardless of the exact number, one fact is certain: English is a very rich language; one of the richest languages out there. When it comes to English grammar, don’t even get me started. There is so much to know, so much to learn, so many rules, so many grammar exceptions…So complicated and exhausting.
Thank God our high school days are over (maybe you miss them; I surely don’t) and we don’t need to study English in school. As adults working at global companies, can we advance our careers, get promoted, and still display average knowledge of the English grammar? Absolutely!
Having worked with so many ESLers over the years, I have never met a manager ,who has ever gotten fired for lack of English grammar knowledge. So why do most global companies advertise that they are looking for “English as mother tongue” when recruiting new hires? Wouldn’t you do the same? Of course you would. Since English is the language of business (hopefully it stays this way until I retire), and in today’s global village, most companies are doing business on an international scale, why not get people who know English well? What a genius tool to help employers screen CVs and candidates for a certain position.
I can honestly tell you that the brave ones, who apply for these “English as mother tongue” positions, don’t always display English at mother tongue levels. Now, how do I know that for a fact? Very simple – I train them. Think of it this way: If a company like Microsoft or Google, two of the big heavyweights in the high-tech industry, wanted to hire only native English speakers/writers, would they open offices in your country and employ non-Americans? Isn’t that what globalization and diversity is all about? Those companies know that in order to expand their global outreach, they will need to employ ESLers. They understand the importance of diversity and cross-cultural understanding. They promote a nondiscriminatory work environment, one that encourages employees from all backgrounds, ages, races, ethnicities, cultures and genders to feel secure in their abilities and achieve their best.
So, don’t you think they know you have grammar mistakes in English, and will continue having them, as long as you live? Of course they do, and they are ok with that. Now please don’t get me wrong. Grammar is important, and proper display of grammar knowledge when writing is important. Just don’t forget to KISS (i.e. Keep It Short and Simple) the recipient of your email and refrain from entering grammatical areas that are very challenging to ESLers. Shift your concentration to the tone of your email. Sound professional, friendly and polite. Don’t dictate; ask for permission. Don’t “shout” but write calmly, to the point, and remember that the recipient of your email comes from a different culture as well. Write with the same respect and professionalism you expect others to show to you.
Now, isn’t that more important than just getting an A+ in English Grammar?