Introducing Business Presentations to Non-Native Speakers of English: Communication Strategies and Intercultural Awareness

Juan Carlos Palmer Silveira


For fourteen years, students enrolled in the Master Program in English Language for International Trade have had to cope with the use of English as a Lingua Franca in business settings. During this time, lecturers taking part in this program have paid attention to this important area of research from a discursive perspective, observing how students develop promotional presentations in the classroom, always considering that their audience is often formed by non-native speakers for whom English is not their mother tongue. In many instances, companies assume that English is a necessary tool for them in order to clinch a deal with a foreign counterpart, and that only those students who are able to use it appropriately will be able to find a good job in the future, being the global language used in order to work internationally.

A business presentation is an activity that deserves our study, as presenters have to be wise enough to get the audience’s attention from the very beginning. To do so they use a number of communication strategies, keeping in mind that they will probably be speaking in English in front of some other people who do not speak this language on a daily basis (Palmer-Silveira 2015). They have to understand that the message has to be concise and clear, maximizing their efforts to sound frank and truthful, and overcoming any problem that could arise regarding cultural differences between the person sending out the message and those receiving it.

In this paper, our aim is to analyse the way students introduce themselves and the company they work for to foreign customers, considering all those communication strategies followed, and paying special attention to the way they alter native-speaker norms. To do so we will analyse 81 presentations, all video-recorded in the last five editions of this master’s program (2013-14/2017-18). Students were video-recorded in order to later analyse the kind of multimodal elements used while introducing their presentations. Five elements have been analysed in order to study the type of multimodal resources used by students to perform these presentations. These were a) gaze; b) gestures; c) movements; d) intonation, pace and rhythm; and e) visuals.

Results will show that most students show a clear attitude towards intercultural awareness, understanding that clarity, simplicity and some basic communication strategies can help them deliver their message more appropriately to a non-native audience. That initial part of the presentation establishes the contact between sender and receivers, and the use of adequate strategies to communicate the message will help to overcome any intercultural problem.


Linguistics; BELF

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