Promoting diversity through language learning

learning languages for business

It’s official; the world is getting smaller – OK, maybe not in a physical sense, but in terms of outreach and ease of communication it certainly is.  People are communicating, travelling and exploring across the globe with an ease that previous generation probably never even dreamt of.  But is your business making the most of these opportunities and embracing the cultural diversity we are enjoying as a result?  With the European Day of Languages being celebrated on 26th September, now is the perfect time to start considering how your business can improve its global awareness and embrace the diversity created through international trading. 

Established in 2001, the European Day of Languages is a day dedicated to the promotion of intercultural appreciation, not just of one another’s languages but of the culture in general.  It is intended to highlight the importance of learning about other nations and help encourage a love of life-long learning. 

With so many other demands on your business, the idea of promoting language learning in your employees may not be at the top of the list.  But it can’t be denied that having a workforce with a wider linguistic repertoire is only going to help your business in the long run, especially as more businesses than ever are trading globally, and research suggests that by 2016 there will be a 20% increase in the numbers of SMBs trading overseas.  Add this to the fact that the British Chamber of Commerce is actively encouraging this growth, and it becomes radically important for business leaders to be able to manage this change. 

But language training is much more important than simply being able to discuss business matters effectively with international partners or clients (although that is a significant benefit), it also helps encourage individuals to actively think about other cultures and embrace diversity, and these are essential skills that we all need to learn, especially those in a management role.  This will not just improve international business opportunities, but will also be important in managing employees effectively as well.  In this ever shrinking world we live in, there is much more cultural diversity within the workplace, with individuals from nations all over the world taking up roles in British companies, and vice versa.  Thus as a manager, being able to speak with an employee in their mother-tongue and have an understanding of their home culture will be vital in improving relations and maximising the positive impact of a multicultural workforce. 

However, managers aren’t the only members of a team that can benefit from linguistic development; having this opportunity can be a wonderful chance for professional and personal development for employees at all levels.  For some it may offer a distinct and direct advantage in their everyday working lives, for example if they work internationally, while others may simply see it as an opportunity for long term development.  Obviously the first scenario has direct benefits for the business as it will help improve international competitiveness; however the second scenario is arguably just as important.  While it may not be directly applicable to a specific work situation, it does have potential for future utilisation, and having that reserve resource in the bank is never a bad thing.   But equally as important, it also demonstrates to employees that they are being supported in their development, showing a level of trust and investment by the company that helps promote employee engagement and ultimately improve productivity and enthusiasm at work.

If you enjoyed this post, read about the rise of arts-based learning in Enhance issue 4.