Every workplace without exception relies on language as a primary means of communication. Therefore, all types of literacy are required in order for an organization to function properly. The different types of literacy range from multicultural awareness to written language to public speaking. For the purposes of this project, I examined and analyzed several different workplace environments for their usage of language and their different literacy demands. My personal workplace environment is a high-stress, hustle-and-bustle office. Phones are ringing constantly throughout the day, memos are being circulated on a near-daily basis, and most employees need to be familiar with company literature including quarterly financial reports. In addition to the rigors of interpersonal communication, which entails informal as well as formal conversations, we deal with inter-office communications with those who work at remote office locations, with offices located abroad, with clients, and with various others with which we do business such as government agencies, attorneys, and externally-hired accountants. Each level of communication demands a different type of language and a different type of literacy. For example, speaking with my office mates involves informal banter and conversations that do not demand proper grammar, whereas composing a letter to a client requesting that they pay their bills entails both formal written language and fluency in English grammar. Furthermore, our office holds regular meetings and occasional conferences; public speaking demands a specific literacy in persuasive and informative speeches. Knowing what to publish in company brochures, advertising copy, and website content also demand specific types of language.
In contrast to the language demands of my place of work, schools require a different type of literacy. Teachers are often responsible for helping their students achieve a higher level of literacy. Some teachers teach students foreign languages, which is something that I don't encounter in my place of business. Other teachers, those who do not directly teach any language, nevertheless have to deliver their lessons with certain diction. Textbooks have their own sets of language and students must learn the nuances of academic reading and writing. When students have to compose papers or essay exams, they practice a type of language far different from the one I use at my office. A research paper uses different diction, tone, and style than an office memo.
Not all organizations place high demands on employees for language and literacy but communication is inherent in any workplace, even those in which persons from various linguistic backgrounds converge. I observed language and literacy at a construction site, for instance. Employees, who were mostly male, conversed out loud using a multitude of languages. Some shifted back and forth between a native tongue and English, depending on whether they wanted to engage others in their conversation. English was the most common language spoken, especially with supervisors. However, Spanish was almost as common as English. All written communications such as safety memorandums and payroll updates were in English. While command of grammar and of other formal means of communication were unnecessary in this workplace environment, a command of "street wise" talk and of slang was highly important. Lack of participation in the type of banter common at the site meant being left out socially.
Informal communication and slang are important in my office too. The so-called "water cooler" discussions are definitely a part of everyday life in the office. During breaks, smokers congregate outside and talk about various subjects ranging from work-related issues to family-related issues to politics. In the non-smoking employee lounge, the same conversations take place, only more reserved due to the increased possibility of being overheard. Even while we work, people in the office often make casual remarks. Conversations directly related to work almost as a rule do not demand proper grammar: as in everyday speech with our friends and family members, we speak in sentence fragments and with other grammatical errors.
Of course, talking with supervisors and especially with management who we do not see on a regular basis entails a different subset of language. Neither totally formal nor totally causal, conversations between employees and upper level management involve a curious combination of formal and informal language. I need to be fluent in various types of jargon such as financial jargon, sales and marketing jargon, and product-specific jargon. Likewise, management personnel need to be fluent in the language of everyday affairs at the office. Also inherent in the communications…