Abstract : The nature of competence in English in professional settings is very often taken for granted: English is generally seen as a business language used for fulfilling business purposes regardless of the professional domain. However, some advances in managerial and ESP research suggest that the contents of competence tend to vary from one professional setting to another, each socio-professional network having its own way of considering what matters in language competence. These findings suggest in turn that competence may certainly be defined by a set of core features but, also, by a very broad set of conceptions defined by the professionals themselves.
In this paper, we present an ongoing study of how French professionals experience the concept of competence in English as a Lingua Franca in their day-to-day practice. The study is based on interviews, an online survey, and a corpus analysis. The data originate from various types of organisations (small and medium-sized companies, and large multinationals) and various specialised domains such as information technologies, human resource management, and engineering. Our results show that competence in English as a professional lingua franca is a multifaceted concept including ordinary talk, professional styles, deviation from Standard English, as well as organisational and domain-bound terminologies. Teaching in this field should therefore embrace these realities.