Intercultural Business Communication

Intercultural Business Communication

An introduction to the theory and practice of intercultural business communication for teachers, language trainers, and business people.

Format: Paperback

This book looks at the important field of intercultural business communication and explains its relevance to teachers, language trainers, and business people.

Why does communication between people from different cultures sometimes go wrong? Can we teach business people to anticipate and overcome these problems?

In this book, Robert Gibson addresses these questions. He analyses the main features of intercultural communication and looks at ways of helping prepare business people to function and communicate effectively while working in new, unfamiliar cultures.

Key features

  • Presents and explains the leading theories and key concepts of intercultural communication
  • Covers the main relevant business communication skills, such as negotiating, socializing, and giving presentations.
  • Provides advice on how to give people training in intercultural communication skills.
  • Recycles key concepts throughout the book and provides 'cultural checklists' which summarize the main ideas covered in each section.
  • Includes interactive activities designed to encourage you to relate your own personal experiences to the ideas presented in the book.
  • Suitable for new and experienced business English trainers, trainee business English teachers, and business people


Intercultural communication has become a 'hot topic' in the training of business people (both language-focused and general). Robert Gibson draws on his own experience as a training manager in a multinational company to provide an introduction to this diverse and fascinating subject.

The book is organized into five chapters:

Chapter 1: ('The intercultural challenge') looks at the 'why, what, and how' of Intercultural Communication. It provides definitions of intercultural communication, explains why it is important, discusses some of the barriers to intercultural communication, and explores some successful strategies for dealing with difference.

Chapter 2: ('Cultural dimensions') presents the work of some of the leading figures in the field, and then goes on to discuss specific areas of interest, including: non-verbal communication, power relations, communication between individuals and groups, dealing with uncertainty, and communication between men and women.

Chapter 3: ('Business communication') looks at the skills that business people need to function effectively at work and how these are affected by intercultural factors. These skills include: managing people, negotiating, socializing, giving presentations, advertising, and applying for a job.

Chapter 4: ('Cultures') includes examples from a selection of cultures that are of special interest to business people, and discusses the attitudes in different cultures towards areas such as team work, motivation, communication style, and problem solving.

Chapter 5: ('Going further') suggests ways of training people to develop intercultural skills.

There is a recommended reading section at the end of the book as well as a full bibliography and a glossary of the key terms used in the field.



PART ONE: Introduction to Business English

1 What is Business English?
What characterizes the language of business?
- Sense of purpose
- Social aspects
- Clear communication
The Business English syllabus
- Business and General English courses

2 Who wants to learn Business English?
Pre-experience learners
Low-experience learners
- Junior company members
- Learners who are moving jobs
Job-experienced learners
- Reasons for learning English
- Characteristics of the learners
Cultural differences

3 Where is Business English taught?
Types of institution
- Public and private sector educational institutions
- Adult learning centres and Chambers of Commerce
- British Council- and American-sponsored centres
- Language schools
- Training and consulting groups and individual consultants
- In-company
Some implications
- For the pre-experience learner
- For the job-experienced learner
- For the training manager

4 Resources
The Business English trainer
- Background and experience
- Personal skills
Acquiring the resources
- Skills
- Knowledge

5 Performance objectives for Business English
The need to emphasize performance
Skills training: basic principles
- The communicative approach
- Learner involvement in course design
- Input v. output
- Task-based learning
- Feedback

PART TWO: Analysing the needs of the learners

6 Describing levels of performance
Who needs to define levels of performance and why?
Performance scales
Testing and assessment
- Published tests and examinations
- Carrying out assessment yourself
The training gap

7 Job analysis
Job categories
- Managers as learners
- Technical staff as learners
- Secretaries and clerical workers as learners
Departmental differences
- Marketing and sales
- Human resources
- Finance
- Production

8 Information gathering
What do we need to know?
- Information about the learner
- Defining the learning purpose
- Information about the learning situation
Ways of gathering information
- Job-experienced learners
- Pre-experience learners
Practical problems in needs analysis
Examples of interview task sheets

9 Determining the content of the course
Breakdown of performance areas
- Meetings and discussions
- Giving information
- Telephoning
- Business correspondence
- Socializing
Language analysis
- Company documentation
- Learner output
- Training videos
The focus of training

PART THREE: Activities and materials

10 Published materials
Business English materials
- General Business English coursebook packages
- Supplementary materials
- Job-specific materials
- Reference books
- Self-access materials
Business skills training materials
- Video materials
- Business simulation games
Selection and evaluation
- Criteria for selection

11 Framework materials
What are framework materials?
- Advantages
When should framework materials be used?
Frameworks for different purposes
- Analysing
- Describing contrast and similarity
- Describing change
- Describing cause and effect
- Describing sequence
- The setting box
- For meetings and discussions
- A customer-supplier simulation
- Describing production processes
- Problem-solving
- Conversation
- Conclusion

12 Authentic materials
Definition and use
Types and sources
Selection and exploitation of authentic materials
- Text materials
- Audio and video materials
Examples of tasks and activities
1 Using authentic materials to develop speaking skills
2 Using authentic materials to practise extracting information
3 Using authentic materials to develop listening skills
4 Using authentic materials to improve learners' comprehension of presentations
5 Using authentic materials to extend letter-writing vocabulary

13 Managing activities in the classroom
One-to-one v. group training
- Dealing with individuals
- Course design and the individual learner
- Some examples of learners' work
- Role play and simulation
- Setting up the activity
- What can go wrong?
- Strategies for reducing the risks
- Giving feedback
Course design: putting it all together
- An intensive general Business English course plan
- An extensive general Business English course plan
- Specific Business English course plans

14 Current trends in Business English
Language training v. skills training
The influence of management training
Cross-cultural awareness
Growing professionalism

Suggestions for further reading
Suggestions for further viewing
Business English examinations
Performance scales
Professional associations
Business skills training materials: sources

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