Ready to Grow Your International Business? Encourage Employees to Learn a Language.

While it’s true that English remains the dominant language of international business, it is a mistake to think that Americans don’t need to invest time and effort learning another language. Multilingual technical translation along with other translation and localization services can help. But there is no doubt that investing in a culture of respect for other languages opens doors in business.

Yet, only 18% of Americans speak more than one language. Contrast this with the 56% of Europeans who speak another language besides their native language.

This dismissive attitude seriously limits the economic potential of American business, experts say. The U.S. Committee on Economic Development (CED) suggests that American businesses lose more than $2 billion a year to language or cultural misunderstandings.

With the rise of the global economy, the need for high quality multilingual technical translation to communicate effectively with foreign partners, as well as to adapt to foreign clients is becoming more urgent every day. Let’s discuss the business benefits, as well as which languages are most useful in our dynamic global economy.

The Business Benefits of Learning a Second Language

Although finding a translation service to provide you with multilingual technical translation is a must, the benefits of being able to communicate with overseas clients, suppliers, and customers in their native languages are clear—as are the costs of lacking this skill. Even learning enough of another language to offer a few words can establish trust.

Whether you want to take the lead by learning a second language yourself or you want to encourage a workplace culture that respects diversity, consider some of the reasons you have for making this a top business priority:

1. In-House Language Skills Win Clients

There’s nothing like traveling abroad to make you appreciate the comfort of being able to communicate in your native language. You know the relief you experience when you discover someone with whom you can communicate in a foreign land. Now imagine how your clients feel when they communicate in business most of the time using their second language.

When your clients have access to employees who speak more than one language, you gain a huge advantage over your competition. Besides the obvious ease of communication, knowing a language means having a deeper understanding of a culture. Knowing another language, even imperfectly, shows a willingness to reach across boundaries and welcome open conversations. This means that having in-house language skills will make it easier to establish rapport and camaraderie.

In international businesses, business growth is also directly related to the multilingual technical translation skills of your team. Communicating with a native speaker in their language means business can be done faster and more efficiently across complex markets.

2. Learning a Language Sharpens Your Cognitive Skills

Beyond the direct business benefits, learning a foreign language sharpens many cognitive skills. Even spending 15 minutes per day working on a second language strengthens your brain in the following ways:

  • Improved mental agility: A University of Edinburgh study found that learning a language boosts cognitive capacity, which includes mental benefits like improved attention spans. Surprisingly, the benefits were significant enough to measure after just one week of study.
  • Decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia: Seniors who practice foreign languages have a lower risk of developing memory problems. Bilingual seniors were shown to be better at an attention-switching task, which is an indicator of brain health, than their monolingual peers.
  • More rational decision-making: When you think in a foreign language, you make more rational, less biased decisions. Foreign language permits more distance between the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain when evaluating risks. So, learning a second language can also make you more decisive.

3. Learning a Language Broadens Your Perspective

If you are interested in being more open-minded and discovering the beauty of other cultures, then learning another language may be right for you. As you learn, you will naturally have questions about the population, culture, and belief system of those who are native speakers. Being open to these new perspectives and experiences will inevitably translate into new entrepreneurial pursuits.

What are the best languages to learn for international business?

At one time, French was the preferred language of global exchange. As China gains economic power, the Chinese government will continue to push for Mandarin. And Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. So, where should you start if you’re ready to learn a new language?

Of course, the best language to learn will depend on what industry you’re in and which countries you deal with most often. If you travel to Turkey a lot for business, then it wouldn’t hurt for you to learn Turkish. On the other hand, if you’re more likely to send account managers to meet with clients in Romania, then it makes sense to find employees who are able to keep up with the news coming out of Bucharest that might affect clients and to understand their unique challenges. Having team members who can translate these cultural differences into English can prove invaluable to the growth of your business.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that language fluency doesn’t just come from taking language courses. Learning a language sounds like a daunting task to most people. It requires the motivation and desire to do the work. So, if your goal is to encourage your employees to expand their horizons in this way, you will want to make it as easy as possible. One recommendation is to offer funding and incentives, such as time off of work, to attend class or study for exams.

There are obvious benefits for businesses that take their international status seriously. In addition to working with a multilingual technical translation service on any translation and localization projects, having employees with in-house language skills makes doing business in other parts of the world much easier.

At Alpha Omega Translations, we love working with our amazing clients to make their businesses truly stand out. Let us help you grow your global company beyond what you previously thought possible. Describe your project and we’ll be in touch with a custom quote.



Category: Translation Services

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