Which English Skill Is the Most Important in Business?

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You might be surprised to find out what is the most useful English skill in business for you.

What Is the Most Important English Skill in Business?

According to the Harvard Business Review, English has become the global language of business.

most important English skill in business
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Think about a normal day at the office. In which situations do you use English at work?

You might …

  • present your ideas for the project in a meeting
  • listen to your supplier in a phone conversation
  • find business partners online and read the information on their website
  • chat with your team on a messenger like Skype or Slack

As English learners, we need to practice four different language skills. They are:

  • speaking
  • listening
  • reading
  • riting

When you practice English, you should spend time on all of these skills. At work and in life, you have to use these skills to do different tasks.

learning language skills

In the business world, which one of these four is the most important?

What Do You Think?

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Cambridge English did a survey about English used in business. They asked employers all over the world about English in the workplace.

The report has many interesting findings, but I found one thing especially noteworthy:

Overall, the most important language skill in business is reading.

This is what the report says:

“Employers say it is important to have proficiency in all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening). However, the most important language skill is reading (in 12 industries), followed by speaking (in eight industries).

Reading in English is essential for maintaining professional knowledge, as it’s
the language most often used in international journals, contracts and instructions. Speaking tends to be the most important skill in service industries such as Travel, Leisure and Hospitality, where social interaction is a big part of the job.

‘Today, English is the only language that provides us with the latest knowledge. It is the language of business, science, etiquette and innovations.’ “

You can read the report here:

Cambridge English (2016): English at Work

We Read in English to Get Knowledge

business english reading

It’s not surprising.

When learning English, we often focus on producing the language (speaking and writing). It’s easy to forget how important it is to take in knowledge in English.

English is the most popular language for publishing and on the Internet.

  • 44.29% of information production is in English.
  • Around 57% of the Internet content is in English.
  • 22% of books are published in English worldwide.

We learn English to get knowledge. It is the world’s most influential language today.

business English reading resources

In the future, this importance might change, as there will be more audio material online.

It can also be different for different people and situations. If you work in tourism, you might speak English more than you read.  

But for now, for most business English learners, reading is an amazing skill that you can use to learn something new and become a better business person.

What Does This Mean for You?

These facts show that receiving information in English is essential. In most business situations, reading is even more important than producing English (writing and speaking).

So, it’s interesting to know that as an English learner you have to read a lot. Employers expect you to look for and understand written information, so you need to have good reading skills at work. Over time, reading in English will improve your English in general.

Tools & Resources to Become a Better Reader


A great reading tool for English learners is LingQ:

Try LingQ now!

With this tool, you can import articles and books to read and keep track of how many words you know.

Look at this list of resources to practice reading for business in English:

The Best Reading Resources For Business English Learners

reading English books

You might also like these tips and resources to improve your reading skills in English:

Reading These 5 English Books Will Make You a Better Global Entrepreneur

The Best Books For Business English Learners

The Ultimate Guide: How to Learn Business English for Free

What About You?

Now I would like to hear from you:

Which of the four English skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing) do you use most often at work?

Tell us in the comments below!


Global business speaks English

Cambridge English (2016): English at Work

Global language network

English is the most influential language

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