Bilingualism and Pluralingualism in Global Corporations: How Business English Training can Improve your Competitive Edge

Pascale Chauvot

18 Jul 2011

As the presence of global corporations grows around the world, so too does the importance of language training. Companies are increasingly recognising the link between language proficiency and business performance and many are actively seeking to assess and improve the Business English language skills of their employees.

Although it can be a long-term investment, acknowledging and embracing bilingualism and pluralingualism in global corporations is an opportunity cost and a means of gaining competitive advantage. The baseline is simple: without language proficiency, communication is hindered; without effective communication, business performance suffers. Business English Courses can equip multinational organisations with the communication tools they need for global success.

The ROI of Language Training

The International Research Foundation’s study on the impact of pluralingualism and bilingualism in global corporations suggests that there is a real and measurable economic return when investing in language and Business English training for employees. Given the cost of training, this should be an encouraging finding for multinational companies. The study also found that ineffective communication in the corporate environment puts organisations at a significant disadvantage. All in all, good language skills are a must in global corporations and investing in the development of these skills is profitable.

Languages, often classified under the social sciences, may appear to have a ‘soft’ exterior but their impact can be extremely hard-edged. This hits the right chord with global corporations who desire impact and value. In this respect, the challenge of language learning becomes multifaceted. While companies understand the importance of language training, they also seek evidence that it adds real value.

The International Research Foundation indicates two main areas of loss and four main areas of gain around language competencies in global corporations. Studies have shown that a loss of revenue and decreased productivity are the main adverse effects of poor language proficiency. For example, this could be in the form of language barriers causing frustration for customers, thereby potentially losing their long-term loyalty. Likewise, a discrepancy in the understood goals of a company expansion might make the process much more drawn out than necessary.

Benefits of Language Training Outweigh the Cost

Although language and Business English training can be costly initially, this is outweighed by the potential for an increased revenue stream and better productivity. In other respects, employees are likely to feel less pressure when communicating with colleagues and stakeholders if they are equipped with the right language tools. As a result, language competency will provide a greater sense of work satisfaction and increase talent retention. Employees will also be able to manage day-to-day communication better by responding more quickly and accurately to emails and conversations.

Financially, language and Business English courses make sense. How else then can companies make this investment really worthwhile? Businesses are beginning to realise that a ‘one-English for all’ strategy is no longer the answer to effective communication in the corporate world. Rather, language training should be more focused and function-specific. HR professionals need to learn language relevant to HR while financial professionals should learn language relevant to their field, and so on.

Learning the right language, therefore, is a must. Mehrabian says that communication comprises 55% body language, 38% voice and 7% words. Although we can use body language and tone of voice to convey more meaning in communication, words form the very basis of communication in business. Language, the carrier of words, is vital to the communication process.

Ineffective communication can result from using the wrong words in the wrong contexts. This can lead to delayed or misinterpreted messages and action in the business environment. Consider investing in a series of Business English or Legal English training courses depending on your context to help maximise your employees’ potential and improve your organisation’s performance and long-term bottom line.



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