Learning a second language is difficult when you have limited time. Once you’ve put in your hours at work, done the dishes, and put the kids to bed, the last thing you want to do is study grammar concepts.
When I worked as a teacher at a boarding school in India, the school had a Hindi teacher available for lessons every day and paid for 50% of the classes. For expat teachers with little understanding of Indian culture, this was a valuable perk. Not only does it help you get around the country easier, but you feel more connected to the community. By making classes convenient and inexpensive, the school made it easier for employees to dedicate time to studying Hindi.
Employers can support workers who want to learn a second language through a variety of means. And employee second-language training is on the rise, according to LinkedIn, with Mandarin and Spanish leading the way. For businesses that work across cultures, having employees who speak more than one language can pay off with tangible and intangible benefits.
With the global nature of business today, it’s likely that your company will have interaction with other cultures. This might be through opening new offices or taking on overseas clients. Training employees in a second language will help integrate your business with the new culture.
Employees who have had foreign language training are less likely to experience conflict with the other culture and can smooth the transition. Knowing two languages makes you an automatic cultural ambassador.
Our Employee Engagement Report found that only a quarter of all employees feel they have sufficient growth opportunities at their current job. Helping employees learn a second language is an excellent way to demonstrate that you’re invested in their career.
Learning a second language will open up new career opportunities with translation being one of the fastest-growing fields today. One study even found that learning a second language will improve your communication skills in your first language.
While these are still up for debate, some research has found broad-ranging benefits to bilingualism. Some scientists are claiming that bilingualism has profound effects outside of being able to communicate with more people or understanding multiple cultures. In fact, a Newcastle University study showed that bilinguals literally see the world in a different way.
These include enhanced executive function, as bilinguals consistently have to block out extraneous information and switch mental gears. Another study found that bilinguals were less likely to be biased in decision-making. A study from Scotland found significant benefits in problem-solving skills among bilingual children, according to the BBC.
Organizations that want to reach across cultures and national boundaries should strongly consider supporting their employees’ efforts to learn a second language. It’s excellent professional development that can provide real, long-term benefits to both employees and employers.