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Business English in International Organisations (BEIO)

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Business English in International Organisations (BEIO) was a joint research project by Terry Haggerty and Bonn Applied English Linguistics. The partnership began in early 2012 out of an interest in English in a multinational organisation, with a particular focus on non-native English speakers working in their second language. We have since carried out studies on both employees’ general experience as well as specific linguistic phenomena. Based on insights from these studies and his long experience with international communications, in 2018 Terry Haggerty founded BEIO Consulting together with BEIO’s senior researcher Friederike Sell. Below we have briefly summarised our studies to date.


To find out about employees' experiences of using English in international organisations, we conducted a large-scale survey on the preparation and effort required of them in a number of settings such as in project work or meetings.


As a follow-up to the survey, we conducted in-depth interviews with non-native English-speaking employees. We asked them about a range of settings and tasks, like conference calls or the creation and use of internal documentation. From the information they provided, we were able to identify important linguistic and contextual factors which contribute to successful professional communication in English, or, conversely, represent challenges.


Next to this, we compiled a corpus of naturally-occurring business emails, written by both native and non-native speakers of English. Analysis of these emails had a twofold aim: explore use of figurative language, and investigate which main communicative purposes (text acts) occur, including their linguistic realisations.


In another survey, we presented participants with a selection of idioms and asked for each idiom whether participants were familiar with it, if they thought it was easy to understand, and what they thought it means. In this way, we gained a deeper insight into idiom use and understanding of non-native and native English speakers.


Our findings have important implications for various aspects of organisational life such as employee and leadership communication, diversity and inclusion, performance management and knowledge management.


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