‘Offshore English’ invading us!
So long as English remains the common language of international
business, non-native speakers should learn how to communicate with
native speakers effectively. Although non-native speakers have not made
a concerted attempt to improve their language skills, native speakers
are experimenting with ‘Offshore English’ to reach millions of
Britons, Americans and Australians who are monolingual have no
difficulty in communication. However, if a Briton, American or
Australian wishes to do business with a non-native English speaker, he
should be ready to face many obstacles in communication. According to
Chris Fox, an international training and development consultant,
businessmen are losing substantial sums of money due to communication
problems in the English speaking world.
Chris Fox, a well-known promoter of Offshore English
A recent study says that 58 percent of non-native speakers found
native speakers difficult to understand. About 56 percent of non-native
speakers felt that they were making an effort to communicate in a
foreign language. On the other hand, about 60 percent of non-native
speakers believe that native speakers of the language use their
linguistic superiority to gain undue advantage. It is strange but true
that there are two different “Englishes” used in global business.
Risk of misunderstanding
According to Chris Fox, the version of English used by non-native
speakers can be called ‘Offshore English.’ It is English sans the words
and expressions that non-native speakers find difficult to understand.
Native speakers of English may not find it exceptional or elegant.
Sometimes, it can be jarring to the native speaker’s ear. However, Chris
Fox believes that Offshore English may reduce the risk of
misunderstanding and confusion. In fact, he promotes Offshore English as
the true lingua franca of international business.
Native speakers of English have come up with Offshore English simply
to understand non-native speakers doing business with them. Americans,
Britons and Australians are trying to understand the kind of English we
speak and write. They are also trying to break communication barriers to
reach non-native speakers in a warm atmosphere.
The standard of English in local examinations have come down to such
a low level that students pass GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level
examinations simply answering multiple choice questions. Today, students
are not encouraged to speak or write grammatically. As a result, they
pick bits and pieces of English in schools and tutories, which is just
enough to pass examinations.
Today, we have produced a generation of lawyers, doctors and other
professionals who are utterly incompetent in English. The lack of a good
knowledge of English has prevented many students from pursuing higher
studies. The invention of Offshore English shows that non-native
speakers have failed to grasp the nuances of the language. In the 1950s
and 60s, the local standard of English was on a par with the language
used in England. There was no misunderstanding or confusion when we
communicated with native speakers. Many Sri Lankan teachers migrated to
the United Kingdom, United States and Australia to teach English.
However, the scene has changed drastically today.
If a native speaker asks you, “What do you work for?” a non-native
speaker may not understand it quickly. So, Offshore English suggests
that native speakers should ask: “What’s the name of your company?” Ah!
that’s easy to understand! Some local teachers have already started
teaching Offshore English. For instance, expressions such as the
following could be heard today. “What is your age?” for “How old are
you?”; “What is your Nangi’s age?” for “How old is your younger sister?”
Most non-native speakers of English are clueless about phrasal verbs.
When a native speaker says, “I’m not getting on too well with the new
supplier,” the meaning is not clear to the non-native speaker. So, the
former will have to say, “My relationship with the new supplier is not
The very fact that native speakers are experimenting with Offshore
English shows that we have not studied English properly. All of us have
to share the blame for not doing justice to such a beautiful language.
As Oscar Wilde said, “We know the price of everything and the value of