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A Billion Voices: Rugby World Cup Day Fifteen

04th October 2019

How can we make our voices heard, as leaders and as communicators?


South Africa 49 - 3 Italy

South Africa’s on-field communication has been a feature of their improved form since Rassie Erasmus took over as coach in 2018. The appointment of Siya Kolesi, the first black captain in the 127-year history of the national team, was a masterstroke. One of the most respected figures in world rugby, Kolesi is far more than just a symbol. His leadership is acknowledged as one of the key factors in his team’s results over the past twelve months and it was clearly in evidence today. South Africa kept their discipline when Italy lost theirs and had a man sent off, and the second half became a walkover. In all the noise and stress of a high-profile match, Kolesi made his voice heard when it mattered.

How can we replicate that skill, as business leaders and as global communicators? If you’re seeking to achieve it when reaching out to South Africa, be aware that while over a quarter of its people are English speakers, the variations between the English that’s spoken and written in South Africa, Australia, the United States and the UK are significant enough to cause major problems for those who ignore them. We all respond to what we understand, and true localisation often involves converting one form of the English language into another, respecting the linguistic and cultural nuances of a target region and putting in just as much effort as if the languages were completely different.

We’ve learned from experience that the billion people across the globe who speak English certainly don’t speak with one voice. They’re distinctive. Let’s treat them that way.


South Africa has eleven official languages, and while English is spoken by 28% of the population and is a key business language, it’s only the sixth most commonly spoken language overall.


South Africa (17) 49

Tries: Kolbe (2), Mbonambi, Am, Mapimpi, Snyman, Marx

Cons: Pollard (4)

Pens: Pollard (2)

Italy (3) 3



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