It’s in human nature to gravitate towards the individuals or groups that we can easily find common ground with, and as a result, we often end up surrounded by people who share our interests, backgrounds, and even our physical attributes. For a lot of us, whether our affinity to others stems from shared hobbies, places of origin or religious beliefs, socializing with people who seem most likely to share our perspectives or understand our ways of doing things seems like the safest bet. Unfortunately, this tendency is often deep-rooted in biases that prevent us from branching out and living up to our full potential, even in work environments.
Globalization is having a very real impact on workplace dynamics in nearly every industry, and for companies operating within international markets, diversifying workforces can present some very real communication challenges.
Whether it be with colleagues or clients, how well we interact with other people can determine our professional success. Far too often communication hurdles arise from cultural divides, which can be intimidating, especially when a language barrier comes into the equation. If overlooked, these social barriers can plant themselves firmly in our lives and work environments, and even end up preventing us from establishing meaningful and impactful connections with others.
Language and culture are intertwined, and by interacting with a language, you’re acquainting yourself with the culture, or the many cultures that it’s rooted in. With workplace diversity increasing like never before, many companies are providing employees with language training opportunities in an attempt to break down some of these divisive barriers. We’ve laid out some ways that learning another language can help bridge cultural gaps in the workplace both internally and externally. Read on to find out more!
Speaking The Company’s Lingo
Learning a new language is an excellent way to improve internal communications, especially in organizations with international teams and growth objectives. Whether your company is opening new offices abroad, hiring international employees or outsourcing work to new territories, chances are good that you’re faced with questions concerning how to positively and effectively promote employee integration. Implementing a language learning solution can help with that by:
Welcoming employees to a new environment. Providing international employees with the tools they’ll need to integrate into a new city, culture and company is a great way to eliminate culture gaps from the start. Learning the local language will help them assimilate with others, communicate effectively and in turn, it will simplify everyday life.
Encouraging intercultural integration. Learning a new language, whether it’s the operational language around the office or the native language of a minority of colleagues, provides an opportunity for shared learning experiences and over time, improved communication skills. It will create opportunities for meaningful engagement by making it easier for international employees to converse with others and for native speakers to share their skills with learners.
Increasing cultural sensitivity. When employees begin learning a language, they will inevitably learn about a culture as well. Helping your team understand and overcome cultural differences will enable them to feel like they’re part of a single unit that’s working towards common goals. Not only does positive teamwork benefit individuals on a social level, but it can increase your organization’s productivity, too!
Talk the client’s talk
Your company can strengthen international business operations by increasing the languages you’re able to communicate in.
Effective communication is crucial to successful international working relationships, especially when the potential for a language barrier exists. Naturally, differences will arise that can make cross-cultural communications with clients and business partners difficult at times, but if your employees are able to speak their native language, you’ll open up possibilities to:
Provide your clients with top-notch service. The ability to communicate in a client’s native language will help your employees serve their needs to the highest possible standard. Even if they aren’t fluent (yet), the effort your company makes to improve communication won’t go unnoticed! Companies will appreciate that you’re willing and able to gain an understanding of their language and how their culture impacts the way they do business. Plus, it’s a great way to put you one step ahead of many of your competitors.
Ensure a smooth transition into new territories.
Knowing how to conduct business professionally and adequately when emerging into new markets is extremely important. For companies aspiring to do business in areas of the world with different linguistic backgrounds and cultures, operating on a multilingual level should be a priority. It will give your company the foundation required to understand logistics, legalities and clientele, in turn giving you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Integrate cultural awareness into your brand image. Your company’s image is more than just a name, it’s how clients and potential business partners are able to identify and advocate what you have to offer. The ability to effectively and professionally communicate with a wide range of people in their native language shows that your team makes an effort to understand and appreciate every business transaction, and whoever is on the receiving end of it.
Cassondra Dolan, Language Specialist
Cassondra is a writer, translator and language enthusiast with a passion for exploring the ways culture influences learning. Through her work with Babbel, she aims to promote language learning best practices that focus on inclusivity and diversity.