Language training is on the rise in the workplace, with businesses in all sectors realizing the commercial benefits of hiring people who can speak multiple languages.
In recent years, technology has made language learning more accessible than ever before, with a proliferation of apps, online courses, and digital communities dedicated to helping people become multilingual. It has never been easier to encourage your employees to pick up a new language.
Although 81% of employees have some experience of learning a foreign language, fewer than half (46%) ever use their knowledge at work. These statistics suggest that, with the right instruction, many workers could build on their previous experience and develop competency in at least one other language.
Language training also comes with other benefits, boosting workplace satisfaction and employee performance. Here’s why:
1. The business world is becoming increasingly globalized
The most obvious benefit of language training is that it provides employees with the opportunity to work with speakers of other languages. This opens up new opportunities for international deals and partnerships, along with better collaboration with international colleagues.
Learning a new language often entails learning about a new culture. Employees who can remain culturally aware during business transactions are more likely to facilitate smooth, mutually beneficial relationships. Demonstrating a willingness to learn someone else’s language is a sign of respect, and is greatly appreciated by people of all backgrounds.
Understanding the local language can also help employees understand the needs of customers in different regions, which is helpful if they are bringing products and services to a new market. Employees who become fluent in a new language can provide customer service and aftersales support to non-English speakers.
2. Language training sharpens cognitive performance
Learning a language improves memory and concentration, which can have a positive effect on an employee’s general performance at work. In order to switch between two languages, an individual needs to handle a lot of information in their working memory. In other words, they need to develop better executive functioning.
Language training can also help employees make smarter decisions. Research shows that people who are presented with choices written in a language other than their native tongue show fewer biases when making decisions. An ability to make rational choices is an asset in any line of work, especially in high-stakes environments such as hospitals and financial institutions.
3. Language training improves employee morale
Language training improves an employee’s confidence. The feeling that comes with mastering a new skill spills over into other areas of a learner’s career, and even their life as a whole.
For example, an employee might feel better able to take on new responsibilities at work, knowing that they have the ability to learn new skills. They may also feel more confident in communicating with others. Companies are increasingly hiring external translation and localization services, such as The Word Point, and multilingual employees will feel more confident working with these organizations than those who speak only English.
You can offer language training in groups, which can strengthen working relationships and promote team cohesion. A weekly language class can become a social occasion, especially if conducted during a lunch hour or on a Friday afternoon. If managers are prepared to learn alongside their team, they are likely to win the respect of those they supervise.
4. Language training improves employee loyalty
When you show your employees that you take their professional development seriously, they are more likely to remain loyal. A common cause of job dissatisfaction among employees is a lack of actual or perceived opportunities for growth.
Just 25% of workers report that their current employer offers them meaningful ways to broaden their professional horizons. By giving them the chance to expand their skill set, you increase the chance that a worker will stay with your company.
5. Learning a new language improves employees’ English skills
To learn a foreign language, you need to understand the basic rules of English spelling and grammar. Therefore, employees who pick up a second language will improve their understanding of their native language. Their spoken and written skills will improve, thus facilitating better communication throughout the organization. This could save time and money that would otherwise have been lost to misunderstandings.
6. Learning a new language can enhance creativity
Creative people enjoy seeing the world from a new perspective, solving problems, and linking up disparate ideas. Learning a new language fosters these skills. For example, there are many words in other languages that do not have a direct English equivalent.
Learning these words forces you to reframe concepts and perceive situations in a new light. For instance, “sortable” is a French word used to describe a relative or friend you can take out in public without fear they will embarrass you.
If you are trying to hold a conversation in a new language and can’t quite remember the right piece of vocabulary, you may have to use other terms to describe what you mean, which is another exercise in creativity.
Employees who are encouraged to become more creative will be in a better position to think of innovative solutions to organizational problems, experiment with new workflows, and contribute fresh ideas to projects.
7. Learning a language requires becoming comfortable with failure and receiving feedback
No one learns a language without making a lot of mistakes along the way. Therefore, it is excellent practice in the art of failing gracefully. If they are to succeed, employees will need to remain open to correction and be willing to work on their skills in response to feedback. This is a transferable skill that will serve them well in their day to day jobs.
Language training has both short and long-term benefits
Having reviewed the primary benefits of language learning in the workplace, it’s clear that employers stand to gain from investing in their workers’ linguistic capabilities. If you want to grow your business in other countries and inspire your employees, it’s time to start planning how you can integrate language training into your organization.