In previous posts, we’ve addressed the benefits of learning a foreign language for your business: gaining proficiency in another language can give your company an advantage in new markets, expand your professional network, and strengthen your hiring pool. Offering language learning opportunities to employees can enhance their engagement with the company and loyalty to your brand, and equip them with the tools to effectively promote your mission at home and around the world.
But as anyone who has studied a foreign language can tell you, language learning takes copious amounts of both time and dedication. Providing your team with the opportunity to learn a foreign language is a key first step, but it’ll take much more than that to reach the level of professional working proficiency that will truly benefit your company.
Use a Variety of Platforms
Your employees are busy people — and you wouldn’t have it any other way! But hectic work schedules can make it difficult to carve out time for language study. Ensuring that learning materials are available across platforms and accessible on office and personal computers, tablets, and smart phones will make it easier for your team to learn on the go. If you aren’t using a language service program that offers material across platforms, spend some time researching the best websites and mobile applications for foreign language learning. Provide your employees with a comprehensive list of both online and offline options they can use to engage with language learning materials on their commute, in-flight during business travel, from the sidelines of their kids’ soccer games, or from the couch. The more options they have at their disposal, the more likely they will be to use — and stick with — them.
Set Aside Time for Conversation Practice
Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to learning a foreign language. Of the three critical aspects to foreign language study — reading, writing, and speaking — the latter is often the most neglected, in large part because it simply can’t be done alone. Setting aside time for your team to practice speaking the target language during the work day will be useful practice for everyone, and it doesn’t have to disrupt the normal flow of business operations. Designating certain afternoon breaks as “working lunches” built around conversation practice or dedicating a portion of team meetings to speaking exclusively in the foreign language are enjoyable ways to fit language learning neatly into the daily grind. Having a language tutor or fluent member of the team present for these activities would be particularly helpful, but having the chance to assist one another in stumbling through grammatical structures can be just as enriching a challenge!
Another way to keep members of your team on track with their language learning is to create a system of incentives to motivate continued progress. Depending on your company culture, this could be anything from financial bonuses, to public recognition in the office, to treats or baked goods rewarded for reaching certain milestones in a course or learning program. Developing an informal but meaningful recognition system for continued achievement in language study can be a great exercise for your business to examine the types of incentives that drive employee performance — and provide an extra boost of motivation to help your employees master a foreign language.