As an employer, multilingualism in the workplace is important to the success of your organization. English may be the language of the world, but with businesses expanding globally, foreign languages play an important role in building relationships. Languages are part of workplace diversity. It's more than learning words and meaning. It's about understanding the meaning behind the words to emotionally connect with clients and boost your business.
When you hire staff who speak different languages, it can help you attract new business. For instance, if you export goods to France or China, employees who can speak in French, Mandarin or Cantonese can negotiate terms and help make the sale. Competition is tough. To keep up, whether your company is in the hospitality industry, healthcare or educational services, multilingualism is necessary for customer service where people do not speak the same language.
Multilingualism can prevent accidents, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace. There is an increasing number of foreign workers in the workplace whose first language isn't English. If you conduct workplace safety training programs in various languages, your staff will understand how to stay safe on the job. According to "Teachers College Record," a research education journal in the construction industry, foreign-born workers of Hispanic origin in the United States are 70 percent more likely to be involved in a work-related incident than American-born workers because of their limited education in English. Workplace safety programs in Spanish, for example, can prevent accidents.
Multilingualism and multiculturalism go hand in hand. Intercultural skills and proficiency in a foreign language help to address the unique challenges of businesses operating in a global marketplace. Knowing the language well enough to adjust your communication from professional to sensitive can help develop relationships to increase foreign sales. Until the education system offers international skills in their curriculum, you may consider offering intercultural skills and language training to your employees to strengthen their performance in the global workforce.
Language skills are as valuable to the workplace as technical skills because it gives your staff the power to interact with customers and make them feel welcome and comfortable with the organization and its products or services. When you allow your employees to speak in a language other than English to staff and to customers, not only do they feel valued and respected, it gives them a chance to practice their language skills.
- MIT Sloan Management Review: Building Effective Business Relationships in China
- Alliance: Culture at work: The Value of Intercultural Skills at the Workplace
- Goethe Institut: The Job Profile is Decisive – Foreign Languages in the Workplace
- Oregon: Other languages in workplace
- Teachers College Record: Addressing Multilingualism in Construction Workplace Education: Results of a Pilot Experiment