Let's avoid confusing our audiences . . .

International Discussions
Demand Standard Language

Conrad Weisert, September 2, 2010

"Can't one of you step up to the plate and give us a ballpark estimate?"

That plea was voiced at a meeting attended by representatives from several nations. The conference room was silent as the bewildered participants tried to decipher the two baseball metaphors. The American speaker needed a minute to realize what had confused his audience.

American speakers have become so accustomed to addressing American audiences that such expressions flow naturally from their conversations and even in the text of their prepared presentations. We use sports metaphors and popular culture catch phrases naturally every day.

Even when we're not physically present at an overseas conference, we may have to engage in telephone conference calls with large numbers of people we don't know. Their command of standard English may be excellent, but they don't attend American sporting events or watch American television.

Business is becoming more and more international, especially in the computing field where companies are outsourcing tasks to people halfway around the world. Scientific and military organizations are also cooperating across borders. They should stick to standard English when they communicate among themselves.

Editors of professional journals and conference proceedings should also be more alert to catching slang terms and peculiar idioms.

Here are are few others I've actually heard:

You can easily imagine others.

Return to Business and culture articles
IDI home page.

Last modified September 4, 2010