In any line of business, effective communication is essential. You need to be able to converse confidently in the language of your clients and customers – even if this isn’t your native tongue. If you have hit the language barrier within your business, you may well require professional training to rectify this shortfall.
It is simply unrealistic to assume that clients and customers will always speak English well enough to make up for your poor language skills in their own language, so it is imperative that businesses take a proactive approach and get the training they need to bridge this gap. Learning a language in later life can prove to be a major challenge, particularly for anybody who has never previously studied a foreign language before, but think of it more as ‘another’ language, not a ‘foreign’ language, and remind yourself that you already have one language under your belt!
To provide a clear example, let’s imagine your business has expanded operations into the Russian market. If some of your client-facing management and staff aren’t fluent, or nearly fluent in Russian, this will lead to real problems, particularly if your client is short of English-speaking employees. The costs of translators and professional interpreters will soon add up. A lack of language proficiency often proves a cause of real frustration leading to misunderstandings and strained relationships, not to mention tensions arising from a poor grasp of important cross-cultural issues. It is a well-known fact that projects overrun where poor language skills are in evidence.
This kind of situation arises with surprising regularity, particularly with the increasing globalisation of many modern industries. Any business that is looking to grow and establish itself in new markets needs to expand and invest in the language skills of its employees. With multilingual communication playing such a key role in the international marketplace, it has never been more important to ensure that language skills match business aspirations.
As a direct consequence, language courses specifically designed for businesses are becoming increasingly popular, as well as the number of companies who provide them. Professional language teachers with a background in business can help employees learn a language from scratch and help other employees improve their existing language skills, and very often the training will be conducted in-company thereby removing the need for the employee to travel.
Even if you rarely need to put these newfound language competencies into practice, there will always be a place for them. Customers and clients need clear communication from a company, particularly in their own language. If you can provide this, you will gain a huge advantage over those of your competitors that have not invested in language training. This can help to sway contracts when tendering for work or simply be the difference in securing a sale in a retail environment, both of which are vitally important to continued and successful expansion.
Knowing your marketplace and the overseas markets you are likely to target is obviously a starting point. You would then be well advised to conduct a language audit of your business to establish which of your employees already speak these target languages, and to what level. Of course, recruiting fluent speakers of those languages that will make a real difference to your business is an option, but it is not always possible, so many companies today invest in language training courses for their existing employees. Choose a provider using highly experienced teachers with proven business experience and you can’t go wrong.
Whatever business you’re in, it’s worth carefully considering the potential benefits of language training. It will be a valuable attribute, highly appreciated by your clients, adding value to your service and goodwill to your client relationships.
In the words of Peter Drucker, the famous management guru: “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance!” Is it time to make breaking the language barrier a top priority for your business?