English as Business Gobbledygook (EBG) | A comic strip activity

business jargon gobbledygook.jpg

If had a dollar for every time my business participants said “deep dive”, I’d probably be able to retire from teaching and open up a boutique selling bromeliads in the Andamans. This activity is inspired by a Fast Company article with the finger-wagging title, You’re using business jargon to avoid solving problems – here’s how to stop. In the article, the author articulates the following message:

Jargon … usually prevents you from seeing problems clearly, let alone deconstructing them.

 


Objective 

  • Develop an awareness of the overuse of corporate buzzwords and their potential impact.

Materials 

  • You’ll need printouts of the comic strip below. Eco-friendly options including projecting it so that the whole class reads it on the screen or sending it as a JPEG over Whatsapp or Snapchat so participants read it on their own devices or hosting it online and sharing a link.

Procedure 

  • Ask the participants if they know what buzzwords are. Give the participants an example of a buzzword you tend to use very often at work. For example, I sometimes catch myself using ‘leverage’ as a verb (quite a controversial usage).
  • Get participants to work in pairs and create a word cloud of business buzzwords they use frequently.
  • Introduce the comic strip. Use any prediction exercise to help participants to anticipate content such as “Here’s a comic strip about a gang of four super heroes – what do you think they are discussing?” OR “Here’s a comic strip where four people are discussing their brand – what kind of people are they?” OR more contextually “Which of the buzzwords from your word cloud might appear in this comic strip?”
  • Participants read the comic strip and validate predictions.
  • Ask them to review it again, underlining any buzzwords. Pair share.
  • Ask participants to identify the superhero who uses a lot of buzz words. Elicit that it’s the woman with the goggles on her head.
  • Get participants to discuss why she might be using so many buzz words and what the impact is on other people and the discussion.

Debrief

  • Ask participants to read and discuss this quote from the Fast Company article. Do they agree with the statement?  When do they use buzzwords most often?

We tend to fall back on corporate buzzwords when we feel a need to demonstrate we’re in control. Of course, we do that most often when we don’t feel in control, and jargon ends up communicating the opposite: ironically enough, its hallmark is the lack of resolution that vocabulary conveys, not its clarity.

Ted Leonhardt

Action planning 

  • Have participants discuss their responses to the following questions:
    • When might it be okay to use buzzwords in your business conversations?
    • Would you like to cut down on or eliminate the use of any buzzwords? Which ones and why?

Variation 

  • You could run a similar exercise for a group of teachers using ELT jargon and learning buzzwords.

References

The comic strip was created using Comic Master

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