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How Being Bilingual can enhance your Engagement


With the rise of globalisation many companies are now comprised of people from a wide range of nationalities. This brings many positive elements, but it also calls for a greater number of employees to be bilingual.

It naturally follows therefore that if you speak a second language, whatever your profession, you are going to have a clear advantage in the workplace. In fact, this is one skill which you can acquire to boost your career prospects at any time, whether you are a recent graduate or already have a working life of twenty years or more behind you.

You can learn a new language online or through audio programmes, however the method which will probably get you fluent fastest is through attending a language school.

Greater Engagement through Bilingualism

An engaged employee is a motivated employee and one who demonstrates higher levels of productivity. How then can your bilingualism foster this engagement within the workforce?

Cultural Awareness

If you are working or doing business with people of another nationality, speaking their language brings many benefits. Of course it helps you to communicate, but it also helps you to understand the nuances of the language and additionally it helps you master matters of cultural diversity.

If you are attending a business meeting abroad you will perform much better if you are fluent not just in the language but in the culture and customs of the country.

The same is true if you are working alongside colleagues of differing nationalities. Knowledge of multiple languages within a team will build a much stronger rapport between members and make for a better operational environment overall.

Management and Training

If you are a manager or you are responsible for training a multicultural team it can be a big advantage to speak a second language.

As a manager you are going to need to raise your team’s engagement through goal setting and incentivising them to reach pre-defined targets. You will also be responsible for carrying out appraisals and you will need to communicate to your direct reports about when they are meeting and when they are falling short of their objectives. This can be tricky enough to do when two people speak the same language, it can be almost impossible when there is a language barrier. Therefore, by learning to speak the language of your team members you are really demonstrating to them your commitment to their success.

Business managers may also have to work with teams of homeworkers, who they have very little face to face contact with, but who they communicate with daily through email and online  project management systems. Management requires innovation and these homeworkers will need a manager who can not only speak their language but you can also communicate in written form fluently as well.

A bilingual manager can also guard against cultural rifts which might unwittingly appear between team members who don’t speak the same language. Misunderstanding can easily occur within a culturally diverse organisation and a bilingual manager is able to act quickly to smooth the waters.

Making You a Better Employee

There is also evidence to suggest that speaking a second language is going to give you significant advantages in a whole range of areas and this can only be a good thing for you as an employee.

Bilingualism has been show to benefit people in the following ways:

·         Speakers of more than one language score better overall in tests in a wide range of different subject areas

·         Bilingualism increases memory function

·         Bilingual people are better multi-taskers, stronger decision makers and are usually more highly perceptive

·         Learning a second language has even been shown to improve your understanding of grammar and widen your vocabulary in your native language

Building employee engagement is largely about communication and therefore it is vital that employers and employees speak the same language. Therefore the more bilingual, or even multilingual, employees that are present within an organisation the smoother the communication will run and the better engaged the workforce will prove to be. 

One Response

  1. As a bilingual employee in a

    As a bilingual employee in a multicultural organisation, I agree that being able to speak the language and having cultural awareness is a huge part of engagement, even if you don't really use the second language professionally most of the time.

    However, I'd be interested to read the research that sits behind some of the claims.

    Most of them tallied with my own experience, but the one that stood out as least supported was: "Bilingual people are better multi-taskers, stronger decision makers and are usually more highly perceptive"


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