Every business revolves around communication. Successful businesses are the result of many individuals interacting and working together towards a common goal and communication is what sets the wheels in motion and ensures everything runs smoothly.
Employees who speak multiple languages are often sought after for specific job roles in customer service or sales. But the advantages of having a bilingual employee often expand beyond the language skills required for these positions.
We summed up the four main reasons why companies who support their employees in learning a new language are, in fact, doing themselves a huge favour. Just because most of your employees don’t have to communicate in several different languages daily, it doesn’t mean that there are no benefits to them learning a new language.
Why is that, you ask?
1. Continuous Learning
Chances are your company writes this as a requirement in job descriptions. And, that’s fair enough. Everybody wants an employee who is motivated to continuously learn and improve themselves. It’s one of the hallmarks of a good employee and, in the long run, it benefits your company.
Why is language training relevant if the job does not require it? Well, according to scientists, bilingualism is a bit of a “superpower”.
In the specific case of language learning, studies show that bilingual employees often possess attributes thought to be developed in the process of learning a language: analytical thinking, conceptualising ability, working memory, and dexterity. Language learning forces the brain to make different connections and as a result, employees who speak more languages are likely to come up with more creative solutions to problems.
Researchers at the University of Chicago have conducted a study that showed people are more likely to make rational decisions in a foreign language. Acting in a more rational manner when performing a task in a foreign language might be due to the person’s emotional detachment, which favours systematic rather than automatic thinking.
A Pennsylvania State University study also showed that bilinguals could outperform monolinguals in their ability to pick out important information. That means they usually excel at prioritising tasks and tend to handle multiple work streams better.
2. Team Building
Sure, that time you went paintballing with the whole team, or that last Christmas party when everyone let loose, were great! But what do you do to maintain that tight-knit team?
In-company language courses are a great way for teams to come together and bond over something else other than work and daily tasks. They will get through the tough times and the good times, bond over the challenges and, simply have something else to talk about besides work. And that will bring them together on the job as well.
Moreover, as companies become more and more international, their communication might remain in English, but their staff has and will continue to diversify. Language training encourages cultural sensitivity and that makes for more supportive, collaborative environments and teams that communicate better overall. According to an All-party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages in the UK, employers tend to favour applicants who spent a year abroad and gained language and intercultural skills. Because these skills matter to businesses!
3. Confident communication
It’s not a surprise that improving language skills helps improve communication skills overall. But it’s more than just developing an awareness of language and its structure. The confidence seems to come from developing that new personality everyone talks about and all multilinguals have.
Linguists Aneta Pavlenko and Jean-Marc Dewaele conducted a study with over 1000 multilinguals, that confirmed they felt different when speaking their second language. The linguists identified this as the potential source of confidence. In developing this personality, individuals felt free of inhibitions and explored new ways in which they could behave.
Employees’ confidence when communicating is a major asset to any company. Better communication accounts for efficiency and increased productivity. Imagine being able to avoid endless back and forth because someone can gather and sum up essential information, give clear and concise explanations and help others understand too.
Language learning not only allows one to communicate in different languages but helps them do it better overall too.
4. Understanding your customers
Let’s face it, even if you have started locally, there is a good chance that, in the meantime, you have become an international company with clients, stakeholders or at least suppliers all over the world. It’s important to have people around you that can communicate and relate to these parties. Intercultural skills and sensitivity are best cultivated through language.
Language learning helps one develop the ability to listen. Bilinguals tend to be more empathetic and adapt to other speakers, according to a study led by Isabelle Lorge and Napoleon Katsos of the University of Cambridge. Your international clients will feel understood and gain trust that your company can offer what they need because you listen.
There’s no better way to show your team and your clients that you care. Language learning is part of personal development which hugely contributes to the success of a business in the long run. To have the best employees around you, you have to play your part in keeping them motivated and encouraging them