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Why Softening Language Matters: Tips for Online English Tutors Teaching Business English
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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Softening language is crucial for building relationships and avoiding misunderstandings in the workplace.
This article delves into the importance of softening language in business communication and provides tips for online English tutors teaching business English.
I have been teaching English in China for four years. I specialize in teaching adult ESL curriculum for business professionals at Fortune 500 companies.
With over two decades of teaching experience and a background in Conflict Analysis Management and Education, I offer my students valuable experiential learning experiences in business communication.
Through my teaching, I have developed a passion for helping my students improve their English language skills, cultural awareness, and professional communication skills.
This video is a keynote presentation from Hainan, China describing my teaching experience and practice for teaching ESLs:
What is Softening Language?
In professional and international settings, softening language is crucial for effective communication and building positive relationships with colleagues, clients, and partners.
Softening language conveys a message politely and respectfully without appearing aggressive, confrontational, or disrespectful.
Here are some reasons why using softening language is vital in these settings:
Respectful communication: Softening language helps to convey respect for the other person’s opinions and ideas, which is vital in professional and international settings where people from different cultures may have different communication styles and expectations.
Mitigating misunderstandings: Softening language helps to avoid misunderstandings by making it clear that your intention is not to offend or criticize but rather to express your perspective or request clarification.
Building rapport: Softening language helps to develop positive relationships with colleagues, clients, and partners by creating an atmosphere of trust and respect.
Managing conflict: In professional and international settings, conflict can arise quickly due to differences in culture, language, and communication styles. Softening language helps avoid unnecessary conflict by making it easier for people to understand each other and find common ground.
Examples of Softening Language
- Using “could you” or “would you” instead of “can you” or “will you.”
- Using “perhaps” or “maybe” instead of “definitely” or “certainly.”
- “I understand where you’re coming from, but…” instead of “You’re wrong because…”
- Using “I’m sorry, but” instead of “No, that’s not right.”
Softening language is essential in professional and international settings because it promotes respectful communication, mitigates misunderstandings, builds rapport, and minimizes opportunities for unnecessary conflict.
Furthermore, by softening language, we communicate effectively and establish positive relationships with colleagues, clients, and partners from different cultures and backgrounds.
Softening Language for Professional Communication
For several reasons, an adult ESL curriculum for online English tutors teaching business communication skills should include softening language and cultural nuances of the English language when working in professional settings.
Here are my top three reasons for teaching adult learners softening language:
- Softening language helps adult learners build positive relationships in professional settings.
- A solid foundation in cultural nuances and how to use softening language helps adult students navigate different situations in business communication settings.
- When working in global business settings, softening language matters for professional development, personal experiences, and everyday life.
Softening Language in Business English
Firstly, professional settings require a high level of communication skills, which include the ability to use softening language and understand cultural nuances.
Softening language helps adult learners convey their message politely and effectively, which is crucial in building positive relationships with colleagues, clients, and customers.
In addition, by understanding cultural nuances, learners avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications arising from differences in communication styles across cultures.
Adult ESL Curriculum for Global Success
Secondly, many businesses operate globally and have a diverse workforce, meaning learners must communicate effectively with people from different cultures.
Learning about cultural nuances and softening language in English helps second language learners understand the different communication styles of people from different cultures and adapt their own communication styles to be more effective.
Why Softening Language Matters
Finally, softening language and cultural nuances in professional settings increases adult learners’ confidence and competence in the workplace.
This awareness leads to better job performance, increased opportunities for career advancement, and improved job satisfaction.
Unlocking Softening Language
Incorporating softening language and cultural nuances into an adult ESL curriculum for online English tutors teaching business communication skills is essential for learners to:
- develop effective communication skills,
- build positive relationships with colleagues and clients,
- adapt to different communication styles, and
- increase their confidence and competence in the workplace.
Here are some suggestions for how to incorporate these elements into the curriculum:
Teach students the importance of using softening language in professional communication, such as using modal verbs like “could,” “would,” and “might.”
Additionally, phrases like “I was wondering if…” and “perhaps you could consider…” provide students with examples of using these phrases appropriately in various contexts and encourage them to practice using them in role-plays and other activities.
Teach students about the cultural nuances of the English language when working in professional settings.
For example, in some cultures, it is more common to use indirect language to convey a message.
In contrast, in other cultures, plain language is preferred.
Students should learn about these differences and practice using language appropriately in various situations.
Providing theme-based readers is helpful for adult English language learners to work through various scenarios and practice the different statements for softening language.
Business Communication Skills
Teach students the business communication skills they need to succeed professionally, such as writing emails, giving presentations, and participating in meetings.
Provide them with templates and examples of how to write professional emails and deliver effective presentations.
Practice these skills with them through role-plays and other activities.
It is helpful for ESL teachers to provide instructional direction with examples of the different statements for softening language in business situations.
Use authentic materials, such as news articles, business reports, and job postings, to teach adult learners about the language and culture of the professional world.
Encourage them to read and analyze these materials and use them as a basis for discussions and activities while developing relevant new vocabulary.
ESL Lesson Plans
Overall, an adult ESL curriculum for online English tutors teaching business communication skills should be designed for an integrated skills program that touches on the four domains of language development: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
With an integrated skills program for ESL lesson plans, adult learners:
- Engage in the topic because it’s meaningful and relevant to their professional goals.
- Develop the language, cultural, and professional skills they need to be successful in the workplace.
Tips for Including Softening Language in ESL Lessons
Softening language and cultural nuances of the English language should be included as critical components of adult ESL curriculum.
When teaching adults English, it is essential to include cultural nuances for how the English language is used by native speakers, particularly in professional settings.
This is because language is deeply embedded in culture.
Understanding the context in which language is used significantly improves communication and helps adult English language learners avoid misunderstandings.
Here are some cultural nuances to consider when teaching English in a professional context:
Direct vs. Indirect Communication
In some cultures, direct communication is preferred, while indirect communication is more common in others.
For example, in the United States business culture, direct communication is often preferred, with people expected to express their opinions clearly and assertively.
In contrast, indirect communication is often preferred in Chinese business culture, with people using subtle hints and non-verbal cues to convey their meaning.
Politeness and Deference
Politeness and deference are essential in many cultures, particularly in Asian cultures.
Students should learn about different ways of expressing politeness and deference, such as using honorifics (e.g., Mr., Mrs., Miss), using phrases like “please” and “thank you,” and using indirect language to make requests.
Use of Humor
Humor can be a powerful tool for building rapport and establishing relationships in the workplace, but it can also be a source of misunderstanding if misused.
Students should learn about the role of humor in different cultures and how to use it appropriately in a professional context.
Chinese culture loves using idioms. In my experience working with adult English language learners, I provide different English idioms for discussion in ESL lessons to help further understand about appropriate use of humor across cultures.
Use of Body Language
Body language conveys much information.
Different cultures have different norms and expectations for how it is used.
Students should learn about different types of body language, such as eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions, and how they are used in different cultures.
By incorporating these cultural nuances into their teaching, English language teachers help their students become more effective communicators professionally.
This leads to tremendous success in the workplace and improved relationships with colleagues and clients.
Learn how to create engaging and interactive online adult ESL classes for adult learners with best practices and strategies in this blog post:
Incorporating lessons for softening language and cultural nuances into an adult ESL curriculum is vital for teaching English.
By offering an integrated skills program, online English tutors teaching business communication skills help adult learners with professional and personal development.
With an integrated skills program, adult English language learners:
- develop effective communication skills
- build positive relationships with colleagues and clients
- adapt to different communication styles
- increase in their confidence and competence in the workplace
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Until next time,