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Klappen wir mal die Englisch-Lehrbücher zu und hören hin, wie Muttersprachler im Job wirklich reden. Shocking! Ian McMaster hat für uns gelauscht.
Imagine you are in a business meeting that is taking place in English. A colleague is talking, and you would like to disagree with something he is saying. You know it is rude to interrupt, but you have the feeling that he will never stop. So what do you say? You could, of course, use one of these "interruption phrases", which are typically found in business English textbooks: "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but ..."; "If I could just come in here. I think that ..."; "Excuse me for interrupting, but ...".There is certainly nothing wrong with such phrases. They are polite and they are clear. However, they are not the most common phrases used by native-speakers in such situations. Native-speakers are much more likely to interrupt and disagree simply by saying "Yes, but" or "No, but". (My experience is that the same is true in German.)

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Indeed, the business conversation of native-speakers is generally less formal and formulaic than the way it is presented in textbooks. This doesn't mean, however, that the textbook phrases are of no use. For non-native speakers they can be a big help because they provide a clear structure. They are also "safe" phrases; native-speaker language can be very idiomatic and doesn't always sound right when copied by non-native speakers.Getting in touch

For example, if a British person promises to e-mail you something, they might say, very informally, "I'll ping (klingeln) it over to you this afternoon" rather than, "I'll send it over ...". If they are promising to phone you, they might say, "I'll give you a bell (Läuten, Klingeln) tomorrow", rather than, "I'll give you a ring/call". If they are promising to phone someone else, they might say, "I'll get on the blower (Gebläse/Telefon) to her". If they are promising to post something to you, they might say, "I'll shove (schieben, stopfen)/ stick (stecken) it in the post today", rather than, "I'll put it in the post."Lack of precision

Another area where real business language differs from that in textbooks is that it is often less precise. For example, instead of saying "We need 100 items", someone might say "I reckon/think we need about a 100, give or take"; or, "We need, oh I don't know, 100, something like that, you know, that sort of figure."I'm like, she's like

One area that can cause confusion when listening to native speakers is when they are reporting directly what others have said. Instead of repeating "I said ... he said", people in Britain often use the verb "go" in the present tense - even when talking about past conversations. For example: "I go, 'that's not a very good deal', and then she goes, 'well, I could possibly get a small price reduction but I can't promise anything'." In America - and increasingly in Britain, too - it is very common to use the verb "like" when reporting direct speech: "I'm like, 'that's not a very good deal', and she's like, 'well, ...'."Being polite

The word "just" is also very important in real business conversation. American linguist Almut Köster at Birmingham University, England, looked at spoken business English in her doctoral thesis. She points out that "just" is typically used as a polite way of introducing requests. For example: "I just wanted to have a little chat about the conference next week." Note that the past tense (wanted) also makes the comment more polite, as does the expression "little chat".being awfully vulgar

Ironically, another feature of real business communication is that people are not always as polite as they appear in text books. In real life, people use language that is not only informal, but vulgar. For example, if a firm has been changing its mind a lot during negotiations, or is not sticking to the agreed terms, you might hear someone say, "They've been messing us about for weeks". Less politely, they might say, "They've been screwing/pissing us around (bescheißen; herummachen) for weeks", neither of which I would recommend you to use.Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur des Englisch-Magazins Business SpotlightMail to: i.mcmaster@spotlight-verlag.de
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 24.05.2004