Bilingual employees: An asset for global organisations

  • Bilingual employees
Published on 2016-12-12 at 13:00 by Veedushi
How much does the official language of the destination country affect your expat plans? And what does the communication language of multicultural organisations mean for international employees, and businesses' efficiency? Intercultural communication is one of the key elements involved in expatriation, and globalised workplaces are reforming — some faster than others — the ways they interact in order to defeat language barriers and to expose international talent.

You have signed an advantageous contract with a foreign firm, and are now looking forward to your relocation in the country where you will be based for the following months. Whereas you have researched all the very important areas — the lifestyle, accommodation options, cost of living, and leisure — it's also crucial for your welfare at work and outside work to be aware of the language used for conversation and business.

Multilingualism at work

In offices packed with international employees is inevitable that you will hear many languages and different accents — you will also notice diverse behaviours. A survey completed by Forbes and the language learning company Rosetta Stone several years ago, stressed the importance of multilingualism for global organisations and their employees. A multilingual company whose staff is respected and understood for its cultural diversity, is more efficient, competitive, and productive.

Thus, even though English is in most cases (commerce, education, science, technology) the lingua franca, multicultural markets put forward the need for companies to become more accommodating of multilingualism. But why is that? Think for example an English-only speaking director, who doesn't know how to approach and interact with employees whose English is their second language. Many people tend to lower their voices and limit their articulation in fear of making grammar and vocabulary mistakes, or because they are embarrassed of the way they sound. Look around you — are your international colleagues encouraged to unleash their potential, or do they have to overcome language barriers on a daily basis?

Benefits of bilingual employees

Languages today continue to be a powerful tool that opens the people who speak them up to new cultures, social opportunities, and maybe larger career prospects. So, if you are bi or multilingual, think of the gift that you have, and ensure that your workplace appreciates this strength of yours.

Wider employment opportunities: The knowledge of an additional language can open the doors to positions beyond your academic qualifications and experiences — sometimes even within your organisation. For example, you may be considered for translation, editing, or writing jobs, or for training new foreign staff.

Local services: It may sound an oxymoron but the more businesses become global, the more need there's for localisation of their services. So, depending on the languages you speak, you can be an allocated supervisor of a specific region, who will be the link between the headquarters and the subsidiaries.

Multitasking: There have been researches over the years applauding bi and multilingual people for their additional skills, such as multitasking and swiftness. Accurate or not so much, there's definitely a common sense behind such outcomes — switching between languages is an intense exercise for the brain that keeps it fit. Thus, it comes as no surprise that bi and multilingual are more comfortable with switching between tasks, and processing new information.

Leave your comment: How many languages do you speak? In what ways has the number of languages you speak benefited your employer and/or your career?