Monday, 26 September 2011


If Business English is a service, what kind of service is it?

One of the more ubiquitous introductions to Service Design suggests that 'in Educational Services, [service] has the form of a promise to produce a new capacity for the customer to make new promises.'

When we sign a contract with someone, then, we are promising that we will enable them to make promises to others.

It almost sounds like a pyramid scheme.

And precisely because it does, it highlights the importance of something that receives commendably little attention: appearance.

If a client is willing to pay money up front for something as intangible as a promise to enable promise-making, then he will only do so if there are some kind of fiduciary inducements.

Few things are quite as likely to invoke a belief in something as appearance.

If your office staff are professional, if your offices look professional, and if you, yourself, look the part, then you are more likely to encourage your client to pledge himself to the nebulous business of learning BE and, more importantly, stick to it.

Beyond the suit and tie, the qualifications hanging on the wall, the slick web site, the shelves full of Swan, and the filter coffee in reception, one aspect of appearance that is perhaps used more than any other is the native speaker.

There are many arguments as to why the hegemony of the native speaker should be undermined, but for the client, the presence of a native speaker is like a suit and tie - it instils a belief in the pedagogical apparatus to which he is going to subscribe.

It may seem like a miserable and impoverished course of reasoning to those acquainted with the arguments and the profession, but for those looking to invest time and money in such a nebulous project as education, the presence of a native speaker helps to confer a form of validity on language learning.

It is not, as I say, the only form, but it is a very potent one.

Without such appearances, learners may lose faith in the pledges you make them and, consequently,
the whole course of BE upon which they have embarked.

Yes, this is superficial, but, as Pascal pointed out, appearances have their own validity.

In Pascal's case, he argued that if you assume the appearance of a belief in God, eventually you really will believe in Him.

It is similar with BE, albeit with a contrary option: if you do not believe in the appearance of what you are learning, you will not learn it.

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