Why Every Company Should Invest In Business Language Training

Why Should You Invest In Business Language Training?

In an increasingly global world, the ability to communicate in multiple languages is becoming an imperative for the successful growth of any business. Lack of language skills can cause misunderstanding and conflict between international teams, suppliers, and clients; impacting the bottom line. Developing an organization-wide language learning strategy is key to breaking down communication barriers and building a truly global and collaborative organization. Companies of all sizes benefit from strong language and communication skills.

Only in the UK, economy is losing around £50bn a year in lost contracts due to lack of language skills in the workforce. Companies know that expanding their operations globally requires a workforce that can communicate effectively in multiple languages. As they work toward this goal, companies are looking for ways to demonstrate that an investment in language learning is an efficient  use of resources.

It is not true that all business is now done in English. Even in Europe many companies do not have English speaking staff or their English language skills are not enough to do business in it. You buy in your own language and you sell in your customers', the old saying goes. We can update the second half of this: You sell in your customers' choice of language. If customers insist on speaking their own language, you had better have people who can talk to them.

A diverse workforce is a well-rounded workforce. If your team is fairly uniform, that may mean they all think very similarly. That’s not a bad thing when it comes to getting everyone on the same page, but when facing a major problem or trying to innovate new products or services, that could spell trouble. Bilinguals bring diversity to your team, approaching problems with a different mindset, and bringing different experiences to the table. Language learners are constantly exposed to new vocabulary and cultures that present different outlooks and keep creative juices flowing.

Language learning is not just about the ease of communication, either: Knowing a language also means understanding a culture. Rapid growth of emerging markets in Asia and South America means an increase for many in contact with business partners in areas that are possibly alien to them. Sensitivity and maintaining a good relationship is vital when managing a business deal – understanding differences between your own cultural and an unfamiliar partner’s can make or break a business deal. Insensitivity or misunderstanding can have a huge impact on your reputation. Understanding and appreciating cultural differences is not just ensuring you avoid causing offence however. Attitudes towards business, the way they are run and views on management styles can vary greatly in different cultures.

So what are the main reasons to invest in foreign language training?

  • Improved overall performance, including employee productivity, communication, and customer service.
  • Increased export sales as you and your customers communicate more effectively.
  • Stronger cross-border communication and collaboration between teams and offices.
  • Reduced conflict and bias internally and externally as mutual understanding grows.
  • Employees feel valued and gain a great sense of achievement.

Investing in language skills doesn’t necessarily mean just foreign languages. English is still dominating international markets, however, over 60% of businesses in the UK have a gap in English skills. Training your international staff to speak English can also have a tremendous impact on all areas of your business.

So how do you get employees up to speed? There’s a multitude of ways that Subject Matter Experts can access training. This includes online providers who offer a variety of eLearning methods, including in app training.

As for which languages you should invest in, it depends on where you want to go. The languages most in demand are German, French, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese, with Arabic and Mandarin being the big growers. All feature in the British Council Languages for the Future report’s list of ten languages that will be of “crucial importance” for UK future prosperity – the others being Japanese, Turkish, Portuguese, Russian, and Italian.

Mandarin is become increasingly important, says Laws, who doesn’t yet have a Mandarin speaker but is considering hiring a graduate and developing his or her skills. From 2004 to 2011, the value of UK exports to China quadrupled to £12.5bn.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."