How language shapes the way we work?

Photo of David Shankbone.

Photo of David Shankbone.

In a recent commentary, industry magnate Richard Branson said: “I am a big believer in the power of language to change the world. The way we communicate, whether verbally, digitally or physically, has a massive effect on how we work, live and learn.” He talks about his fascination with words: the way they could mean many things for many people, the way they come to exist and how they “define” our mood.

Indeed, words affect our mood — and much more: our ability to recall past events, our behaviour and our opinion, too.  They can even implant false memories! In the famous Loftus-Palmer experiment researchers have shown a group of students short films of traffic accidents. The students were then asked a question where the verb was manipulated: “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed / collided / bumped / hit / contacted each other?” The research has shown that the estimated speed of the cars was greatly affected by the verb used in the question. In the follow-up experiment, where the students were exposed to manipulated questions, those who were asked “How fast were the cars going when they smashed each other?” were much more likely to recall seeing broken glass then those whose question contained the word hit. Continue reading

Masterclass: The role of language in business

Language plays a complex and increasingly prominent role in business – but people often remain ignorant of its prominence. There might be two reasons for this ignorance. The first is that generally people assume that language is an invisible medium that has no active role in work or in the life of an organization. The second is that people undervalue the role of effective communication skills.

Pink socksA trainer colleague of mine often uses a pink and fluffy pair of socks as a visual metaphor to describe her clients’ approach to communication: something that can make people’s life more comfortable, but in essence it is unnecessary – and perhaps something that only women would own or use. The reality about the role and importance of communication in business cannot be further from this perception. In actual fact, communication is  one of the most prominent tools of completing work.

This is supported by facts, too: research reveals that soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and time management, are worth £88bn to the UK economy (and forecast to increase to £109bn in the next five years). Communication, in particular, has now become an ‘in-demand’ skill. It is essential not only for the effective functioning within a company, but for the organization’s success in today’s competitive markets.

In March I will give a  masterclass in which I will talk about the role language and communication play in business success. Through practical tasks and case studies I will expose why language and communication skills are the most important skills to possess today.

Interested? Sign up here:


Aston Aspires

Associate Lecturer: Preparing for Integrated Studies

Associate Lecturer: Preparing for Integrated Studies

Tammy Ball talks about her experiences at the Aston Aspires week.

“Last week was Reading Week at the university. Students are encouraged to use the week to their advantage by revising, reviewing, researching and……well, reading. The university also made available a range of sessions, workshops, webinars and other activities designed to “enhance your personal and professional development to give you a head start in the job market as well as your academic work”. This week was labeled Aston Aspires.

For Aston Aspires, I was asked to conduct three different sessions designed to provide real world examples from my business background and my experience as an employee, management consultant and professional life coach.

By the end of the week, I had conducted a total of six sessions and enjoyed the engagement and participation immensely!  The students who chose to attend were attentive, participative and actively seeking to learn about motivation, confidence and the type of communication skills employers really want from prospective employees.

I learned and observed many things during the six workshop sessions.
The participants were craving this type of soft skills content. How do I know? They told me and openly expressed a desire for more.  Another thing I found very intriguing was the number of students who stayed after for quick coaching sessions.

Overall the energy was positive and the content was very well received. I applaud the individuals and groups involved in the creation and design of Aston Aspires week. I have no idea how its success level will be determined or measured, but if asked my opinion, I will rate it highly and recommend this sort of offering continue.”

Guest blog post on bestcourse4me

BMEL has been featured on bestcourse4me , where we were invited to talk about Business Management and English Language.

In the blog post, Erika Darics explained why language is so important in business:

“Because even seemingly simple linguistic choices – the choice of words, the grammar of sentences – can change what we believe is true. Using a famous linguist’s analogy (Guy Cook) the language we use is similar to the glass in the window. It allows us to see the world – and reality – through it. For most it does not get in the way of our attention, we look through it and do not question its existence or influence.


Language – similarly to the windowpane – is a transparent medium. People think that its main role and function is merely to convey information about the reality. When people communicate, they tend to focus on this information, rather than how it is presented through linguistic choices. Language, the medium that transfers the content goes unnoticed. But similarly to the glass sheet between us and the world, language does exist: it can blur, distort or block out, or sugarcoat what we see as reality.

A qualification in linguistics combined WITH business will allow you to zoom in on this “windowpane” – to understand and use the power of language. The combined honors of Linguistics and Business will equip you with the knowledge to turn language into a competitive weapon in international business: you will be able to analyse and practice effective language use in a range of situations, from internal communication scenarios, such as motivational leadership, conflict management or intercultural misunderstandings, to external and corporate communication efforts, marketing, customer service and brand and reputation management.

It will also broaden your horizons in ways you didn’t know was possible. As one of my previous students commented: Looking at business through the lens of language challenges the conventional ways of viewing things. This approach has brought so much insight into the way in which companies attract customers through the use of language. It’s amazing to realise that there is a reason behind every message”

Why Every Company Needs a Good Applied Linguist

Dr OrrGuest post by Thomas Orr, BS MA MA PhD, the owner of ThomasOrrConsulting, LLC, which specializes in advanced English language and professional development training and consulting for individuals and organizations globally.

“Applied linguistics is a broad, interdisciplinary field that investigates how language is used, learned and applied in the real world to solve language-centered problems and engage in language-centered work. Its value to companies (as well as to professionals and professions) is that all of their activities require superior thought and communication to achieve impressive results. The language of thoughts, words, numbers, symbols, and images is essential for meetings and projects, for vision and strategies, and for planning and implementation. Language builds brands, generates sales, and creates new technologies. Written language is used for contracts, technical documents, and email. Spoken language is used for sales calls, presentations, and negotiations. And a healthy combination of both is used for analyses, findings, and solutions. Language builds relationships, trust, and cooperation, and is essential for leadership and management. No business can expect extraordinary success without skillful use of language by every person in the organization.

Skillful language use requires expertise in thinking, perspective, and application. It requires mature attitudes and appropriate supporting behavior. Good applied linguists can study the flow of language throughout an organization and analyze its spoken and written artifacts to see if they are successfully accomplishing their aims. They can then offer recommendations for language improvement and its required training or modification. Data on a company’s revenues and profits won’t reveal all that is important to know.

Good applied linguists can prove to be especially valuable when the language or languages of a company are not spoken proficiently by all of its leaders, employees or customers. Few other consultants can study a company’s challenges at the level of depth and breadth that a good applied linguist can and then help companies create strategies, plans, and implementations to successfully resolve their problems. Trying to solve an organization’s challenges without addressing the language at the core seldom works.”

Welcome to the BMEL website

Did you know that of all the money invested in business projects 51% is at risk due to ineffective communication? Or that effective communication is directly linked to high performance?


Communication and a critical understanding of how language works in society and in business is now essential for enterprises and business professionals to succeed in global markets.

By offering an integrated approach to culture, language and discourse studies positioned within the requirements of today’s international businesses, our new programme trains professionals who will not only have an understanding of the complexities and subtleties of communication, but will be able to utilize this knowledge in global business contexts, ranging from internal communication scenarios, such as motivational leadership, conflict management or intercultural misunderstandings, to external and corporate communication efforts, marketing, customer service and brand and reputation management.

This site is a dedicated space for existing and prospective students, and hopefully will become a meeting point for students, academics, and organisations interested in exploring what Aston BMEL graduates can offer.