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  1. #1
    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Letters in English

    I have noticed that a large portion of the questions that arise in the 'Ask a Teacher' section of the site have to do with correcting a letter that a person writes to their employer. I would say that the majority of these questions are asked from people who live in Asia.

    My question is, is there a reason why people need to write letters to their employers in English? If it is a prospective employer, won't it pose a problem in future when you don't have adequate knowledge to construct a letter? If it is a current employer, shouldn't there be someone in the management who does speak your native language?

    Perhaps it is naivity on my part, I'm not knowledgable in the field of business at all. It just strikes me as peculiar that so many people need to write to their employers in English. What language was the interview conducted in? What about the person's CV/application form? Is it because English is a lingua franca among business associates, and if so, is this even true within a country?

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    There are two things going on here: those working for international companies in which English is used as lingua franca, and class exercises in the use of formal English. The problem is to identify which is which.

  3. #3
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    Quote Originally Posted by Linguist__ View Post
    My question is, is there a reason why people need to write letters to their employers in English? If it is a prospective employer, won't it pose a problem in future when you don't have adequate knowledge to construct a letter?
    You will also have noticed the large number of requests for corrections of letters to educational institutions for admission - motivation letters I believe they are often called.
    I'm not sure of the purpose of these letters, but one of them seems surely to be to assess the level of English of the applicant.
    I rarely correct letters - they all seem to say the same thing, and become boring after the first few dozen.

  4. #4
    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    There are two things going on here: those working for international companies in which English is used as lingua franca, and class exercises in the use of formal English. The problem is to identify which is which.
    It would seem, then, there there is a niche in such companies' departments that could be filled with a translation service for employees. If I worked for a company in which there was a common language that I wasn't confident with, I wouldn't be confident in communicating with my superiors. To me, this doesn't sound like a healthy environment to work in.

    Thanks for both your replies.

  5. #5
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    Quote Originally Posted by Linguist__ View Post
    It would seem, then, there there is a niche in such companies' departments that could be filled with a translation service for employees. If I worked for a company in which there was a common language that I wasn't confident with, I wouldn't be confident in communicating with my superiors. To me, this doesn't sound like a healthy environment to work in.

    Thanks for both your replies.
    Looking at the locations of many of those letters, I entirely agree with you.

  6. #6
    ianhood is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    Anyway, if an Asian or anyone else is writing a letter to an employer who (presumably) wants someone who speaks English, isn't it "cheating" to send in a letter which has been corrected by a native speaker of English? Won't the employer be rather annoyed when he finds that the employee (if he gets the job) does not know English as well as his corrected letter suggested? Just a thought.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    Many of the letters are from people in employment who want to write to someone within the company, almost always someone further up the food chain. In such cases, it doesn't strike me as cheating. Also, there are stylistic problems sometimes - in some of these letters of motivation, there's a barrage of extreme adjectives and other gush to try to convey enthusiasm (I have always been incredibly captivated, utterly enchanted and unbelievably amazed by drainage systems and you totally brilliant university...) - and telling them to calm down a bit doesn't seem to be cheating them onto a degree course. That said, I don't often correct letters.

  8. #8
    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Letters in English

    Quote Originally Posted by ianhood View Post
    Anyway, if an Asian or anyone else is writing a letter to an employer who (presumably) wants someone who speaks English, isn't it "cheating" to send in a letter which has been corrected by a native speaker of English? Won't the employer be rather annoyed when he finds that the employee (if he gets the job) does not know English as well as his corrected letter suggested? Just a thought.
    This was one of my concerns too. Possibly a reason why it isn't 'cheating' with regards to employment is that those in managerial positions aren't native English speakers either. I've only seen a few examples in the forums of misunderstandings from letters of those who are managers, and many of them would do well by being corrected. I am fine with English being used as lingua franca in business - especially in these Asian countries where there are often several different native languages - and the inevitability of Englis being used in this way, i.e. mistakes will be made and uncorrected between the non-native speakers. What bothers me most is that many of the employees aren't confident. Most of the requests aren't a request for correction; it's a request to 'tell me how to write a letter' etc.

    I'm not comfortable calling English a 'lingua franca' in a company, when not everyone in the company can speak English. My understanding of lingua franca is a language used which allows mutual understanding between speakers who normally wouldn't understand each other.

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