Multilinguism : what are its benefits at work ?
As an employer, multilingualism in the workplace is important to the success of your organization. In Belgium, we know that very well. Speaking French, Dutch and English is often considered as a must and surely not just an asset. Furthermore, with businesses expanding globally, foreign languages play an important role in building relationships. Languages are part of workplace diversity. It’s more than learning words and meaning. It’s about understanding the meaning behind the words to emotionally connect with clients and boost your business.
When you hire staff who speak different languages, it can help you attract new business or improve existing relationships. For instance, if you export goods to Spain, Brazil or China, employees who can speak in Spanish, Portuguese or Mandarin can negotiate terms and help make the sale. Competition is tough. To keep up, multilingualism is necessary for customer service where people do not speak the same language.
Multilingualism and multiculturalism go hand in hand. Intercultural skills and proficiency in a foreign language help to address the unique challenges of businesses operating in a global marketplace. Knowing the language well enough to adjust your communication from professional to sensitive can help develop relationships to increase foreign sales.
With being multilingual, understanding a culture’s inside jokes and sayings are a must. Since linguistic nuances are embedded into the communication structure of each culture, being multilingual provides a necessary backdrop of knowledge that can be applied to maintaining business relationships abroad.
One of the more interesting benefits of being multilingual in the workplace comes from emerging studies of the brain. In a March 2012 opinion piece in The New York Times, « The Benefits of Bilingualism, » Yudhijit Bhattacharjee notes that scientists believe bilingualism increases cognitive brain power and can protect against dementia and other diseases that affect the brain later in life.
Your memory is greatly improved when you are multilingual, consequently causing a more productive work day. An individual who is multilingual is able to have a better ability to remember the demands of a variety of tasks. In other words, being multilingual can translate into an improved ability to manage time as well as provide better attention to details.
Multilingualism gives you greater flexibility to move around in different positions within an organization. In companies with diverse employees and customers, you can combine your language abilities with other skills to go after the jobs you want.
Multilingual workers also may get a chance to work with a lot of people in a company they otherwise wouldn’t interact with. This gives them a chance to learn from mentors and role models who project other professional qualities and traits.