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Improve your emailing skills with BERJAYA UC

“Kindly revert” or “Please reply”?
BERJAYA Language Centre’s expertise is not only shared with university or college students; it also benefits BERJAYA Group employees. Between March and May 2018, BERJAYA University College (BERJAYA Times Square, Level 11) welcomed 17 managers and executives from Berjaya Corporation Berhad (Level 12) for a ten-week course in workplace English.

"Language proficiency is a key component of any employee's communicative competence," says Ms Ong Su Sien, Head of BERJAYA Language Centre. Seeing that so much of our work consists of interacting with colleagues, superiors, staff, suppliers, outside contractors and so on, workplace English is meant to help boost work-related performance and communication. Throughout, the course aimed to turn participants into more confident, autonomous users of English, ready to perform job-related tasks in a variety of situations.

The course was initially designed to cover a wide range of topics for beginners (CEFR A2-B1, TOEFL 350 or less) but after informal initial assessment by course developer and facilitator, Associate Prof Dr Antoon Gewijde H. De Rycker (LCCI CertTEB, London, UK), it was decided to focus especially on basic grammar revision, lots of emailing practice and some speaking activities like small talk. "It was a nice heterogeneous class," Dr De Rycker told us, "with students from Compliance, Group Accounts & Budgets, Property Projects, Group Tax, Group Investment and one from Directorate. Their main challenge was not just learning new things, new habits, new useful expressions but also unlearning incorrect structures and stilted or outdated phrases".

At the end of every class, participants completed an evaluation form. What they liked most about Workplace English were the many opportunities to speak and write in English, the exercises on the tenses (for example, is it "We have applied for the refund" or "We applied for the refund"?), the four-point plan for crafting the contents of a message and also the psychology of getting people to reply to your email.

Language production can be measured in terms of three dimensions: accuracy, fluency and complexity. In business, professional and workplace communication, it is often more effective to express complex ideas in short and syntactically simple sentences, using plain English words (such as "help" rather than "assist"). As Dr De Rycker points out, "It's really a balancing act between following certain formal and sometimes obscure conventions, on the one hand, and choosing a more direct and reader-friendly style, on the other". There is in fact a trade-off between accuracy and fluency, between the time it takes you to proofread and edit, say, an email, report or memo for grammar and the time it takes you to get the message out as quickly as possible. That is why it is so important to have a repertoire of ready-made phrases to hand as these will guarantee both accuracy and fluency.

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