Top 5 Benefits of Bilingualism in the Workplace
You just landed a job that will send you around the world to hold important business meetings in Spanish-speaking countries – this is a dream come true! Doing business abroad is exhilarating and enhances your global awareness; all the while adding measurable content to your resume. Then, as you’re landing in Buenos Aires you realize that you only speak English. Now you wish you had paid attention in your high school Spanish class or had taken a language at university.
Being bilingual in the workplace gives you an advantage over your monolingual peers. Speaking Spanish will increase your competitive edge, connect you with people on a deeper level, and help you fully grasp the meaning behind what is being said in your business meetings. It is also more gratifying to communicate with people in their native language.
Watch people light up when you unsuspectingly greet them
in Spanish with ¡Buenas!
It doesn’t have to take years to learn a second language; with the right tools, you can become fluent quickly. Check out the blog ‘Learn to Speak Spanish Fast’ where our CEO of Spanish Academy discusses how traditional learning methods are flawed and how he became fluent in only 3 months.
1. Connect and Build Relationships
Let’s face it – we enjoy doing business with people we trust and respect. Successful interactions occur when both parties correctly infer what the other person is trying to convey.
You show respect to the person you are in a business meeting with by greeting them in their native language and understanding a bit about their culture. If you are conducting a business meeting in Buenos Aires and don’t yet speak Spanish, then you would need to speak through an interpreter or expect that your counterpart speaks English.
Why put the burden on everyone else to know English?
Why not learn Spanish today?!
As we all know, the world economy is dependent on global trade and communication. The ability to connect with a business partner in their native language can remove barriers and help establish long-lasting relationships. Propel your importance by being bilingual in the workplace and become the go-to person for all regional and cultural questions.
“One of the most rewarding parts of learning foreign languages is that it helped me to make connections with people overseas. It is amazing how people’s perception of Americans abroad change(s) when they speak the language of the host foreign country. For me, it immediately transformed the way people perceived me from an outsider to a friend. Even though initially my conversation skills were quite elementary, it allowed me to build trust more quickly and to establish a stronger relationship with people. In my small way, through the time and resources spent to learn foreign languages, I was showing honor to the mother countries of these languages.”
2. Improve your Competitive Edge
Colleagues from the same culture are inclined to think similarly. Being bilingual in the workplace empowers you to navigate another culture, learn new perspectives and develop strategic angles for your negotiation positions. This makes you more competitive at your job and will show your Supervisor how you “think outside the box” on another level.
A few years back, while on a business trip to Asia, our team got lost on the way to an important meeting. We found ourselves in an area where no one spoke English – and we didn’t speak the local dialect. Our team was panicked because we were going to be tardy to the meeting. I approached a police officer and asked the common phrase asked by most Americans abroad, “Do you speak English?” The response was a blank stare and so I decided to try something unconventional – “Señor, ¿habla español?” He responded with “¡Sí, Senora! Puedo ayudarte! ¿A dónde vas?” The officer and I were able to communicate in our mutual second language and our team was finally headed in the right direction!
Being able to speak Spanish availed my team in a way
no one would have ever predicted.
A while ago, a friend of mine was hired on by the US Military to help train soldiers before their tour to the Middle East. She was hired on with a significantly higher salary than her monolingual peers who were doing similar work. Why? Because she was a greater asset to the company by being bilingual in the workplace.
3. Enhance your Experience and Have Fun
Speaking a foreign language is so rewarding! You learn to speak in a varied word order, learn new sounds and letters, and expand your social media network by millions of people who speak Spanish! When you are enjoying your job by using Spanish in the workplace, then you’re at your best. This will catch the eye of that boss in the corner office who is in charge of promotions.
Language is your ticket to speak to people in their code, have more meaningful interactions, and immerse yourself in another culture.
4. Do Your Job Better
Being bilingual improves cognitive skills, memory retention, and multitasking capability. It can even fight off early cognitive decline. These skills will make you an employee worth hiring…and keeping for the long run.
Evidence suggests that being bilingual enhances the brain’s executive function which is used for remembering instructions, multitasking, focusing, and planning, which thus helps us with filtering distractions, task prioritization, impulse control, and achieving the goals we have set for ourselves.
Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium recently published a study that researched how bilingualism promotes a ‘significant delay’ in the manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease and ‘therefore strengthens the claim that bilingualism contributes to cognitive reserve and postpones the symptoms of dementia.’
5. Avoid Misunderstandings
Not all words are created equal. When you are bilingual in the workplace and understand the culture in which you are doing business, then you can understand the nuances of language and better comprehend what you are concurring to on behalf of your company.
Don’t misconstrue language the same way my friend did. She wanted to express her regret in Spanish by expressing that she was embarrassed for being late to the meeting due to traffic congestion. Instead, she apologized by saying “Estoy embarazada, pero el tráfico…” – wait, WHAT? Did she just tell everyone she’s pregnant?!
Embarazada might sound like a Spanish word for embarrassed, but quite the contrary.
To say you are embarrassed in Spanish is estoy avergonzada. There are many more words that can be misspoken – with Spanish language fluency you can evade these blunders.
Other misunderstandings can occur when interpreting numbers and decimal points. The Guatemalan company you are negotiating with just slides a Memorandum of Understanding across the table and it reads that you will pay a profit of 10,00% and the first payment will be 100.000 quetzales – Huh? Are we signing up to pay a profit of 10,000% and give them $100? No!
Around the world, decimal points and commas are used differently. For Example:
10,00% = 10%
Q100.000 = $100,000*
*For illustrative purposes only. Exchange rates need to be considered.
Avoid the embarrassment of putting your company and job in jeopardy; take time to understand the numbers of the country you are working with.
Conclusively, by being bilingual in the workplace, you can avoid making the mistake my husband made last week while abroad on a business trip – he came home with a bag of dried plums when he thought he was buying us candies!
Prepare yourself today by taking classes at Spanish Academy.
Sign up for your free class and learn Spanish online with one of our amazing teachers in Guatemala!
I began studying Spanish at age 11 and have been interested in language and culture ever since! While at University, I studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and got a B.A. in Environmental Economics with a minor in Spanish. After spending over a decade in Corporate America, I now enjoy the simpler things in life.
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