As international markets continue to grow, buzzwords like “globalization” and “multiculturalism” have taken center-stage in the corporate conversation — and “bilingual” has become a powerful phrase to include on a résumé. Being fluent in a foreign language is touted as an important and enriching skill, and for good reason. Learning another language can broaden your worldview and understanding of international relations, enhance your travel experiences abroad, and provide the opportunity to make new friends around the globe. But what about your career? How can learning a foreign language impact your business?
Gain a Competitive Advantage in New Markets
Communication is the key to successful collaboration. For a company with international ambitions, having employees with foreign language competency can go a long way in securing overseas clients. Of course, it is logical that as a business leader from an English-speaking country, you would prioritize strong English skills when considering potential international partners. Likewise, the foreign markets you may seek to enter will look most favorably upon companies whose employees exhibit the practical language skills that will make cross-cultural communication possible.
Depending on your industry and its specific emerging markets, the most useful languages to master will vary, but foreign language skills and intercultural training will certainly help your business stand out in a competitive global environment.
Close More Deals
The ability to communicate with foreign clients in their first language exhibits a high level of dedication, interest, and compassion. That personal touch can prove essential in establishing trusting working relationships with potential clients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for translators and interpreters will nearly double in the decade leading up to 2022. Attaining fluency in a foreign language is a challenging process that often takes years of study and practice — and it may be necessary for your company to work alongside professional linguists during transactions to ensure that nothing gets lost in translation. Yet even simply putting in the effort to conduct basic interactions and greet clients in their mother tongue is a thoughtful way of demonstrating respect for their culture.
In fact, better understanding the intricacies of different cultural value systems goes hand-in-hand with the art of learning another language. When working with foreign organizations, you will often find that developing strong personal and social relationships is a critical first step in laying the groundwork for business undertakings. Embracing the opportunity to show your clients firsthand your commitment to understanding their needs and building their trust can provide a leg up when it comes to customer satisfaction. With this foundation, you will be able to improve your company’s chances of closing international deals and expanding its presence abroad.
Build Your Network
As a business leader, you know that introductions in any setting can lead to profitable professional connections. By developing a multilingual staff with a strong cultural consciousness, you can increase the sheer number of opportunities in which your staff members may meet new potential partners and form mutually beneficial relationships.
Be it in the board room, at a networking event, or even on the streets of a foreign country during personal travel, the ability of your employees to engage with innovators and executives in your field grows with each additional language in which they attain competency. And the more connections they are able to forge, the higher the chances that your business will benefit from new sales, ventures, and client pools.
Increase Employee Engagement
By providing employees with opportunities to learn a foreign language and the resources to expand their understanding of other cultures, you demonstrate your investment in them as professionals and as individuals. Offering language classes and intercultural training programs also shows your company’s commitment to rising to the competitive challenges of the growing global workforce.
Studies have shown that over 80 percent of U.S. employees view an organization’s commitment to professional development as important to their overall job satisfaction. Employees who believe that their personal and professional growth are valued by their companies are likely to feel a stronger sense of loyalty to the brand and to seek a higher level of engagement with their work. While providing your organization vast opportunities for expansion into new markets, foreign language learning in the workplace can also promote team bonding and help make your employees love coming to work for you.
Expand Your Hiring Pool
In addition to showing your current staff members that they are valued by your organization, incorporating foreign language and cultural learning opportunities into your company culture will help draw the right candidates to your applicant pool. Companies that express a tangible investment in international engagement will naturally attract applicants with strong global mindsets and a variety of multicultural experiences. These sorts of unique qualities may prove to be fundamental assets to your organization’s overarching vision, allowing the company to grow in new directions and push toward new frontiers both domestically and abroad.