20 Feb How Business Languages are Critical to a Healthy Corporate Culture
Business in the modern age is an international affair. Clients and suppliers are often spread out throughout the world. The linguistic complexities involved are magnified when the company has branch offices and subsidiaries in different countries with employees speaking a variety of languages. Smooth and effective communication can quickly become compromised.
It is for this reason that any organizational structure or corporate culture should incorporate a business language strategy. Having one in place will not only streamline communication within the company, but also make external communication with vendors and clients much more efficient.
There are many variations of effective business language strategies that companies can use. Some focus on foreign language development, others concentrate on applying a common language throughout the company such as English. The Harvard Business Review reports that English is now the global language for business. It attributes the domination of Business English to the fact that over 1.75 billion people in the world are functional in the English language. This creates a solid base for finding communicative commonality.
Which is the most suitable Business Language Strategy for your company?
Foreign Language Development
A foreign language development approach is best if your company has a global reach, but is based administratively and operationally entirely within an English speaking nation. For companies such as these, there is no problem in achieving smooth and effective communication within its organization if all of their members already have English as their native language. Rather, they must focus on having a solution for effective communication when they are engaged in contact with overseas entities. This is usually handled by identifying the mix of languages that their personnel are likely to encounter in terms of upcoming negotiations, plans for expansion and client/vendor interaction.
The Business English Approach
If a company is operating on a global scale, the common language approach can be highly effective. This would require implementing a common language for all staff within the organization with regards to communication. This requires a methodology of universal implementation within the organization. It should cover executive, administrative and support personnel.
The scale of such a program is usually larger than that of the foreign language development approach. Human resource departments should be prepared to have a multi-pronged solution for this approach. The best solutions involve first assessing who among the staff requires improvement with their Business English skills. This can be done by retaining the services of an external English school or linguistic consultant to conduct an English proficiency evaluation of current staff members. Later, a program can be implemented to vet English proficiency at the hiring level.
Once the English proficiency of the company’s staff has been determined it will quickly become evident that not everyone is on the same level. This will require having solutions in place for beginner, intermediate and advanced English speakers. In fact, it is often best to see this as a permanent program, with people continuously moving up in level of instruction as their proficiency improves.
Being the most spoken language in the world, companies using Business English as their main language of communication have the advantage to target markets despite native linguistic differences. Furthermore, it also helps retain consistency of the message delivered, leading to better understanding and efficiency. Countries with a large number of expatriates benefit largely from having English as the official language of communication and deteriorate the differences that can arise with having a multilingual workforce in the business. However, one must keep in mind the different nuances that envelop the English language based on the geographical area.
The Bottom Line on Business Languages
Whether your company is large or small — geographically concentrated or spread out — it can benefit from having a business language strategy in place. The direct benefits of having improved and more efficient communication will be coupled with those of having a stronger corporate culture and being more receptive to collateral opportunities on a cross-cultural scale. The cost of a well-run business languages strategy will always result in improved company performance. It greatly improves the value of the company’s human assets.
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