While English is primarily considered to be the universal language amongst international companies, being multilingual is an extremely valuable skill in a world where technology makes it easier to work anywhere, with anyone.
Whether it is verbal or nonverbal, language is used every day by everyone. In an age where globalization is bringing the world closer together, a lot of international business is conducted in English; in fact, the British Council has predicted that by the year 2020, two billion people worldwide will be speaking English. And while English is considered primarily to be the universal language amongst multinational companies, being multilingual is extremely valuable skill in a world where technology makes it easier to work anywhere, with anyone.
In addition to multilingualism being an essential asset to both an employee and an international company, knowing another language aids cultural competency – the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. In fact, it is impossible to interact with a language and not gain a deeper understanding of the respective culture. In multinational companies, employees with insider knowledge of another language or culture are a business asset. These employees can create a better rapport with foreign clients and potential investors. Building the proper type of relationship with a foreign company or country is just as important as being able to market the product or service that is being sold. People from all over the world may be able to understand and speak English, but that does not necessarily solve for all communication issues. Knowing another person’s culture, or understanding another country’s way of speaking English, creates an inclusive and empathetic approach to ensuring a positive working relationship.
Body language falls under the category as well. Americans, as well as other western cultures, are often accustomed to their own culture’s body language, accepting that these actions would hold true throughout all cultures. A common example: eye contact. In Western cultures, it is expected, considered a sign of confidence. Go to Japan and it’s a completely different story. The Japanese find constant eye contact uncomfortable, and only seek eye contact at the beginning of a conversation. Tiny offenses such as this could mean the difference between a deal going through or falling through.
Language and communication are what keep the world connected. Without language, the world would be silent and absent of culture. The ever-increasing diversity of today’s workforce highlights the pertinence of understanding and overcoming language barriers for global companies. After all, the next member of your team could be a continent away. -Courtney Yu, Lingo Live Marketing Intern Interested in reading more? Check out Cultural competency on a multinational team.