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Spelling as important as selling

While many providers offer generic courses on a variety of communication-related topics, the real issue of using good, correct English is seldom addressed. This is ironic, considering that only 9% of the South African workforce speaks English as a first language. It is no wonder one finds uncertainty and a lack of knowledge of the basic rules of English among many employees, creating a huge gap in general communication skills.

For example, does one borrow or lend? When making a request, does one say "Can you..." or "Could you...?" Which tenses should one use? How does the apostrophe ('s) work? Is it HODs or HOD's? Can I start an email with 'Hi' or 'Good day'?

These are just a few examples of typical mistakes that second language speakers of English battle with. Though these issues should have been dealt with at school level, the curriculum focuses on complex grammar and literature and does not teach learners to use English functionally and correctly. Every year, the corporate arena is flooded with promising applicants who then perform poorly in job interviews and new employees who can't write a decent email message and battle to express their ideas clearly.

Badly written advertising copy

Moreover, one often sees badly written advertising copy or billboards with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, sometimes from big companies.

Using incorrect language when communicating with clients and colleagues strongly influences their perception of you. The quality of a company's services is often associated with its employees' ability to communicate.

Yet, few companies utilise training options which improve their employees' English skills. This may cause potentially good communicators to never fully develop their potential, owing to low self-confidence and an inability to fully express themselves.

Communication-related problems such as poor customer service, telephone skills and writing skills are seldom solved by enrolling employees for generic courses. Many of these courses were designed for different markets where English is often the mother tongue of most targeted learners. The situation in South Africa is unique and companies should pay heed to this serious and significant training need.

About Riaan Grobler

Riaan Grobler is the CEO of the SA Centre for English Language Training (SACELT). For information on corporate workshops and courses, email .

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