An empirical study of business request emails in the context of Business English as a Lingua Franca

Liang Liao, Hilary Nesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports on a linguistic analysis of request emails written in English by young Business English (BE) graduates working in trading companies in China. The emails were extracted from a corpus of 307 messages (34,837 words) between these graduates and their clients around the world, mostly in countries where English is only used as a Lingua Franca. The BE graduates often dealt with multiple clients simultaneously, under considerable time constraints, and made use of templates and prefabricated phrases to speed up the writing process. The findings have interesting implications for English language teaching and the teaching of Business English as a Lingua Franca (BELF). The writers of the emails collected for this study clearly had a restricted command of English, and for this reason English language teachers might be unwilling to use authentic texts of this kind as models for their students’ writing. However, BELF usage may help to achieve business writers’ purposes more effectively than ‘textbook English’, and there may be a case for concentrating, in the Business English classroom, less on grammar and more on ways to minimise the risk of losing face.
Keywords: BELF; English as a Lingua Franca; business requests; email; Business English; English for Professional Purposes
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages10
JournalCALR Linguistics Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2017


  • BELF
  • English for Professional Purposes
  • Business English
  • email
  • Business requests
  • English as a Lingua Franca


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